How to use imagination to hardwire habits
I remember zoning out the window when I was younger just daydreaming. I was a big fan of road trips to New York. There was fries involved at rest areas.
And I had a sense of relaxation just letting my mind wander. I couldn’t read or be on a phone anyways. I would’ve thrown up my fries.
I don’t understand when adults demonize letting the mind imagine. Memory and imagination light up the same parts of our brain. (Here's an in depth study if you want to nerd out on it.)
Memory is tied to the past. And imagination is tied to the future. How wild is it that this originates from the same area?!
If you want to wake up at 5am, you can have the best ringtone, but if you’re flooded with memories about how, “This really isn’t for me. I’m not a morning person.” Then you’re screwed.
So why not leverage the image in your mind of where you want to go? It's coming from the same place. It's like choosing a salad or fried chicken. You can go either way. But the salad probably gives you more advantages and benefits.
The best time to do this is in the mornings because your brain is going from producing melatonin to serotonin. Your brainwaves are changing. And your ability to influence them is within reach (for better or worse).
Here’s how to use imagination to hardwire your habits:
1. Pick a practice you want to add into your day.
2. Catch yourself when your mind wanders to the past.
3. Ask, “What am I trying to feel?”
4. Imagine a documentary crew following you around for a day. How do you want to show up with your new practice?
Tip: That last one is important. Observing yourself from third person will elicit all sorts of cool branches for you. In this case, think about how you'll get to enjoy some quiet time, feel good about working out, or getting a bit ahead of the day. Whatever the reasons are, try to use vivid imagery to picture that. And if your brain does a good job, this thought will elicit an emotion or feeling.
That is what will move you. Once that dopamine drip kicks in, you will be off to the races.
Don’t try to make it perfect. Just add more of the desired outcomes in your brain vs negative ones from the past.
Imagination is important. Without it, we’re uncooked vegetables. Yeah you can get by. But it’s not gonna taste as good.
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