Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Not For The Faint Of Heart

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It might sound counterintuitive but when people are hopeful and motivated to make important lifestyle changes¬†at the start of a journey it will benefit them to hear how difficult this journey is going to be. What you are actually doing when you play this ‘downer’ role is exploiting the cognitive bias called anchoring. An anchor is a psychological set point around which we base our beliefs and expectations.

When starting out, the tendency is to set the anchor pretty low, to believe that changes are going to be a breeze, that there won’t be many setbacks or difficult times ahead. By setting that anchor a little higher people are prepared for the struggle and are more likely to keep going in the face of challenges since they were expecting them. The more aware of specific challenges they can be the better.

The key if you are implementing lifestyle changes or are trying to help someone else implement them is to applaud the hopeful attitude and to utilize that felt sense of motivation, but also to remember that lifestyle changes are hard, that anything worthwhile is not for the faint of heart. Be prepared for flagging motivation levels and the temptation to quit as the journey progresses.

Challenging the naive belief that some goal will be easy to attain isn’t the same thing as dissuading yourself or someone else from pursuing it. You’re just setting an anchor that’s more in touch with the reality of the situation, which will make the chances of giving up due to frustration and anxiety when setbacks invariably occur less likely.