Mental contrasting is a visualization technique to help people get what they want. 🙂 It was developed by Gabriele Oettingen, a psychology professor at New York University. This technique has strong empirical support. 🙂 Over the last decade in studies conducted by Gabriele and other researchers, mental contrasting has been shown to increase attendance and academic performance for low-income school children in the U.S. and Germany. In other studies, people who practiced mental contrasting increased their fruit and vegetable consumption by 30%. Maintaining a healthy diet is very important. Some people like to preserve fruit and vegetables because they ‘can‘.
Mental contrasting begins with creative visualization, thinking positively about the future and imagining the ideal outcome. 😀 But daydreaming alone won’t get us very far in reality. What we also have to do is mentally contrast where we want to be and where we currently stand. For example, maybe we want to increase our monthly retirement contributions by $300. We have to embrace our current reality and accept that we need to work hard to reach our goal. By focusing on this gap between where we are and where we want to be, we create a necessity to take action.
Here’s how to implement the mental contrasting technique.
- Think about an ideal outcome for yourself in the future.
- Determine the main internal obstacles that will probably get in the way of your desired outcome.
- Formulate a if-then plan for what you’ll do to overcome those obstacles.
- Follow through with the plan and don’t give up.
Exercising mental contrasting with implementation intentions means that we believe we can achieve our goals and also realize that we have to put in effort to make it happen. When determining potential obstacles in step 2 it’s important to focus on internal factors like laziness, procrastination, or other personal habits. External obstacles like what our boss does, or how the stock market performs are not things we can control the outcomes of. Strong motivation has to come from within. If we are not willing to improve, then no one can help us. On the other hand, if we are determined to improve, then no one can stop us. 😉
Mental contrasting clarifies what we want and reminds us how good it will feel once we obtain it. By methodically combining positive and negative thoughts about our own future we can plan in advance for what we can do when our own personality flaws get in the way.
Random Useless Fact
Some people believe that their religion promises them 72 virgins when they die and go to heaven.
This whole article and entire technique can be summed up with a one-liner from Charlie Munger: “Think forwards and backwards…figure out what you don’t want and avoid it and you’ll get what you do want.”
(Note: Munger stated this in the early 1990’s, when he was 60 years old. He was utilizing “mental contrasting” decades before any university psychology team “discovered” it.)
That’s a great way to explain it. Thanks Anon. 🙂
This is exactly what I did about 4 months since then my income has seemed to increase on its own. I work harder than before and things are seeming to work. Great article
Some people wait for their turn to get lucky. Others make their own luck. 🙂
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