Picture yourself as a boat on a river (if you’re not singing about tangerine trees and marshmallow skies now, have a word with yourself).
In your boat there are two people. The first one is a sensible, well organised, analytical version of you. This person makes plans, draws up time tables, sets alarms and ticks things off on to-do lists. They are probably well pressed, neat and tidy and carrying a clipboard. Mine seems to be a skinny guy in a grey suit with thick rimmed glasses and a bow tie.
The other person in the boat is totally different. Stroppy, emotional and has ADHD. They are easily distracted by shiny things, bright colours and candy floss. When the novelty of something wears off they chuck it overboard. This person is a bit of an Emo, has purple hair and a nose ring. They don’t do ironing and probably hasn’t brushed their hair in a while. (Hmm, this sounds a little bit too much like actual me to be honest, except I don’t have a nose ring…anymore.)
I’m sure you’d like to think that Spectacles is rowing the boat, wouldn’t you? I wish that was the case. Nose-ring has control of the oars and there is nothing can be done about it. Specs tries to give her directions and sometimes it works, but mostly she goes headlong into whatever she feels like while Specs rolls his eyes and pretends that’s what he meant to happen.
It’s not just me that runs their boat this way, you do too.
That’s why even when you know you need to eat healthily you decide it’s been a hard day and you deserve a treat. Before you know it you’re tracking the pizza delivery driver to find out how far away your order is.
You’ve got your to-do list in front of you, and boy is it long, but Friends is on telly and you’ve only seen this episode 35 times so you’ll sit and watch that instead. You can mop the bathroom floor tomorrow, or the next day, or in October.
This is your thinking brain and your feeling brain. Your conscious mind and your unconscious mind. We try and control things with our thinking, conscious mind but they are not really in control. In order to make any changes stick at all, we need the feeling, unconscious mind to be pulling in the right direction.
Your feeling brain, unsurprisingly, likes to feel good. You need to convince it that what you want feels good. Better than ice cream levels of good. Alas, it’s near on impossible to do this through logical thought alone.
A good start is to stop and notice who is in control at any given moment. Once you acknowledge that your feeling brain is rowing you towards a waterfall your thinking brain can stop and negotiate with them, is it really for the greater good? Can you change course? Can you at least acknowledge that it wasn’t part of the plan, rather than convincing yourself was checkpoint 12 all along?