With the New Year fast approaching, what are the resolutions you’d love to make, but worry about keeping?
Enter Marisa Peer. Marisa is the Kim Kardashian of behavioral therapists. She works with top celebrities, athletes, and moguls to help them re-train their brain for success.
You’d think her formula for doing this would be quite complex, but actually, she says that the limitations we all face come down to four things:
First, “Your mind does exactly-- specifically-- what it thinks you want it to do.” Second, “Your mind is hardwired to move you toward pleasure and away from pain.” Third, “The way you feel about everything-- all the time-- is only down to two things: pictures you make in your head and the words you say to yourself. And Fourthly: your mind loves what is familiar. It is to keep going over and over again what is familiar.”
Let’s break this down. Our first limitation is that our mind wants to protect us. It listens to what we say, and does its best to help. Sounds great, right? Not always. “Your mind is so very, very specific to the words you use, that if you say: I’d love a week off in bed. I’m overwhelmed with this stress. I just wish I could have a week off at home lounging around. Your mind goes: there you go! I’ve given you the flu.”
Marisa says that the words “I’ve chosen to do this” and “I’ve chosen to feel great about it” will change your life. She notes that this is not merely positive thinking. It is harnessing the unique and straight-forward collaboration we have with our mind and allowing it to act with its designed potential.
Her second tip is to always link pleasure to what you want when you’re communicating with your brain. Her advice?
You likely just read this and thought… um, what? But it’s true. Peer says that we must lie to our brains at times to get it to understand delayed gratification. Running a marathon is not super fun or easy. Yet, you are much more likely to finish strong if you tell your brain at mile twelve “I love this, this is amazing” than if you say “I hate this, this feels horrible.” Your brain wants to protect you from pain and negative feelings. It will tell you to stop running and go get a banana split, thinking, there you go! I fixed your problem. Now you are happy. The same is true with studying, writing a book, or cleaning your room. This is why you must lie, to encourage your brain to work in your favor when you have a long-term goal that can be hard to see through.
Her final tips are to change the pictures in your mind, and make the unfamiliar familiar.
“Muhammad Ali said: I told myself I was the greatest before I even was.” He saw himself being great, and made working hard and believing in himself familiar. We all know how that story played out. “If you want to succeed at any level, you have to make what is familiar unfamiliar, and what is unfamiliar familiar.” This means that if self-deprecation, being uncomfortable with your body, doubting your worth, or being anxious in front of others has been your “normal”, your brain has created neuro-pathways that remember these feelings.
“If ever you’ve had to read in class and you’ve got the word wrong and everyone’s laughed at you, and you think: right, that’s it, I’m never going to speak in public again, I’m never going to be the focus of attention again, of course, you forget. Ten years later you’ll be about to give a speech or chair a meeting or give a presentation, and you’ll have a panic attack, because you’re mind’s like: oh no no no, speaking in public is pain, don’t you remember?”
We have to mindfully swap them out, until what we truly want becomes what is familiar.
As she wraps up her rousing TED talk, Marisa tells us: “So if you want to have the most fantastic collaboration with yourself, you’ve got to remember these four things: tell your mind what you want, link massive pleasure to going there, and pain to not going there so you can motivate your mind-- and use very detailed word. Change the pictures, change the words, and make the familiar unfamiliar, and the unfamiliar familiar.”
What limiting beliefs have become subconsciously familiar that you would like to change? After all, as Marisa says, “First you make your beliefs, and then your beliefs make you.”