In this post we hope to show you the value of a technique called “mental contrasting”. We want to explain that concept, to cite evidence that mental contrasting really helps people change their habits to healthier and more productive ones, and to tell you what you need to know in order to use it yourself.
In an earlier post we discussed Gabrielle Oettingen’s method of “mental contrasting” as a way to keep yourself practicing resilience skills. If you want to build these skills and turn them into habits you have to practice. But it is hard to change habits, and we all have trouble getting ourselves to persist in habit-changing practices until we reach our goals.
Mental contrasting has a very credible basis to claim that it is an important technique to help us persist in needed practices.
An article written by Oettingen appeared in the October 24th New York Times, and has been in our “to do” folder ever since. This week, we had a good opportunity to digest its content.
If you find a better summary of mental contrasting and its uses, please let us know. This one is excellent. It identifies research done on mental contrasting, showing that it helps “college students wanting a date, hip-replacement patients hoping to get back on their feet, graduate students looking for a job, (and) schoolchildren wishing to get good grades.” In addition, the study we cited earlier was on helping women lose weight. It helps.
So it’s clear that this is a technique that is both effective and widely applicable. It has helped people reach a variety of goals; in addition, the studies were done in both the United States and Germany. So the methods work in a variety of contexts.
The final test is: Do they work for you?
Would you like to try it for one of your goals? Here is Oettingen’s description of how to do that:
“…Think of a wish. For a few minutes, imagine the wish coming true, letting your mind wander and drift where it will. Then shift gears. Spend a few more minutes imagining the obstacles that stand in the way of realizing your wish.”
It’s as simple as that. If you try it, let us know how it works for you. We will share the results with a lot of other people.