Worst Case Scenario

Caught red-handed!
My inner child.  Cute, cuddly, and cooing, right?  Wrong.  That little brat is more likely to wail, scream, scratch and bite then give me a hug.  He doesn't care if I need to work. He wants to fidget and watch youtube videos. But how do we get anything done?  By making the needs of our inner adult seem very, very important.

Just like we discussed yesterday, there's something about the future that makes it seem really UNimportant.  The importance of future events pales next to the pull of things happening right now.  When this happens - when the future seems distant - our inner child wins out.  We give in to the distractions and temptations that are here, now, at the expense of our long-term goals.

To combat this, we're going to make the future feel more real, more pressing, and really, really scary.

Worst Case Scenario

Task: Visualize the worst possible thing that might happen if you don't get your work done.

Info: The idea here is to imagine the worst possible outcome of not working.  Really go dark and scary for this visualization task.  Here's what I might imagine as I try to motivate myself to work toward my Ph.D:  As I continue to put off important experiments, the days tick past, one-by-one.  I do the very minimum each day and don't think carefully about how to schedule my time to keep myself busy and make progress.  Experiments take two or three times as long as necessary.  Because I never make time for work, I barely make progress day-to-day, month-to-month, and, eventually, year-to-year.  Before I know it, I'm in my 15th year of my Ph.D. program with no papers and no hope of getting a job.  Finally, my committee decides my lack of progress is unacceptable, but instead of giving me a Ph.D. out of pity, I am kicked out of the program with nothing to show.  Yikes.

Goal: Make the negative outcomes that might result from procrastination feel as immediate and real as possible.

For some, this scare-tactic may be demotivating: the seriousness of the situation makes them freeze.  To avoid this, pair this challenge with previous Daily Mind Games to keep things fun and moving forward.  After today's "Worst Case Scenario", go right into "High Contrast" and imagine the positive outcomes that will come from working hard.  Then, "Divide and Conquer" and complete one task that seems "Too Easy".  Rinse and repeat until you're awesome!


Heidi Smith Luedtke said...

Sounds like you're using tricks to motivate "the elephant" so "the rider" doesn't have to work so hard to control him. This analogy was explained in the book Switch: How to Change when Change is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath. I think it's a really useful way to understand the importance of engaging with oneself emotionally, rather than thinking that will power is enough to motivate performance. Clearly it isn't enough to keep our wandering minds off of youtube and twitter. Well, not *my* wandering mind anyway.

vpanzano said...

Thanks Heidi! I like the elephant/rider analogy, but my homunculus is definitely a monkey ;) that being said, I think the "two agent" perspective is useful when we're trying to understand and modify our thinking. So, pick any spirit animal you like!

However, I would argue that today's challenge makes the "rider" pull on the reigns harder, while yesterday's high contrast challenge is like a carrot dangling in front of the "elephant". I wonder if these negative vs. positive motivators often work on these two sides of our minds in the same way: positive = elephant, negative = rider. What do you think?

Also, thanks for the book recommendation... Perhaps I'll base a Week of Change on the book :)

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