You think about it often, stopping something, starting something or doing things differently. It all seems great for a moment and then poof, the thought or motivation just disappears into thin air. When you want something badly and just can’t seem to put yourself in a position to get it or one we all recognize, you are telling yourself not to do something while you are doing it. (The fridge late in the evening comes to mind).

You see or listen to someone’s inspiring message, you pay to go to a Tony Robbins seminar, or someone else’s. You listen to motivation recordings or watch endless Ted talks on how to be motivate, rich or happy but as soon as the show is over, you find your newly found verve just seems to slip away into nowhere.

The main thing that stymies us is not understanding that part of ourselves that prevents change.  Research has shown a few things about this, we don’t seem (at any age) to be able to imagine things being radically different from how they are today based on how we feel about things. Regardless of experiences that show we actually do change what we like or dislike, for some reason we are inherently unable to see that change going forward.  For example it is hard, if not impossible, for people of all ages to imagine they will like something they dislike today, or vice versa. Even if it has happened for them in the past, they are disconnected from the possibility in the future.

This extends to reward believe it or not. In hypnosis (especially progressive hypnosis) I always add include the component of the future, seeing it, feeling it and connecting it to yourself today.  This is necessary because we genuinely have a problem relating to our future self in a realistic way. Hal Hirshfield undertook a study using FMRI scans and found that the neural patterns seen when they described themselves 10 years in the future were markedly different from those seen when they described their current selves (but similar to those seen when they talked about actors).

Motivational speakers, financial gurus and spiritual advisors have all, for years, been telling you that if you want something, see yourself in it, with it, enjoying it or using it.  The reason for this is an understanding of this change prevention that goes on, what they tend to miss, is that most using these ideas, imagine themselves right here, right now. That moves into the zone of smaller manifestations. For example if you were to imagine you achieved something that would take a few years to effect or complete, you will in fact not look quite the same. You may do your hair differently, dress differently and like different things, gained or lost a few pounds, married or become single. So many factors that are unknown make it a bit tricky to imagine just what your life might look like, which also makes it hard to imagine what rewards will look like when you put something into motion today.

Part of Hal’s study showed that there were people who could envision themselves older, say 20 years older. They found these people planned for their future well and allocated a certain amount of resources for that older self. The many that did not do that, could only work toward short term or immediate goals. This is what stymies you when it comes to changing habits. Learning to see yourself or more importantly feel connected to the person you are going to be well into the future, will help you with follow through. How can you quit smoking if you can only see the short term issue of withdrawal? How can you change eating strategies when you can’t imagine being happy in your future? How can you heal physical or emotional trauma if you can’t imagine what your life will be like without them?  To this end Hal’s team showed those who couldn’t envision themselves in 20 years’ time aged CGI photos of themselves then repeated the testing and found that they had much better results. In follow ups these people had managed to make significant changes to behaviours that had previously prevented them from getting ahead. Some had moved into therapy and others had employed hypnosis while still more went on to create an ongoing strategy that included their old age and not just today, tomorrow or next week.

They key to doing what you want is to be able to plan for the change you are seeking, being happy, less anxious. It starts with I would like… and ends with a strategy to bring that about.