The Weird Study That Shows How to Stay Motivated When You’re Failing To See Progress in Your Health Goals
Would you believe me if I told you that how you THINK about yourself and your health, reflects the state of your current health?
In other words, if you think you’re lazy, you become lazy.
If you think you’re incapable of being a “success” story, then you really are incapable.
If you tell yourself “you’re always late” then you really do become always late.
There’s a really interesting study to back this up.
A team of researchers led by Robert Rosenthal went into an elementary school and gave school kids intelligence tests.
The researchers then told teachers in each of the classrooms which students the data had identified as academic superstars, who were the ones with highest potential for greatness and achievement.
So they actually TOLD the teachers, “Hey, Jack, Jill, Sally and Ron are the smartest kids in the class.”
The researchers then asked the teachers not to mention the results of the study to the students, and to not treat them any more or less preferentially.
At the end of the year, the students were tested again, and sure enough, these mains students tested off the charts for intellectual skills.
Here’s the crazy part:
When these “top students” were originally tested at the beginning of the experiment, they were actually found to have extremely ordinary levels of intelligence.
Yup, they were 100% normal.
No special intelligence.
No special gifts.
The researchers actually randomly picked the kids and lied to the teachers about their “gifted” abilities.
But after the study, the kids had in fact turned into academic kings and queens – top performers and high achievers.
Uhh, so what was going on here?
The Power of the Pygmalion Effect
Although the teachers had said nothing directly to these kids, two very important things happened:
Essentially, the belief that the teachers had in these “gifted” kids was transmitted non-verbally, which then became a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy.
Kid gets told he/she’s smart or gifted.
Kid becomes smart and gifted.
This is known in psychology as the Pygmalion effect – where our belief in another person’s potential makes that potential a reality.
The expectations we have for other people (and ourselves) really do become realities.
How to Use This To Achieve Your Health Goals
Our expectations about ourselves become our reality.
Let me repeat that:
What you TELL yourself becomes your reality.
When I work with some of my students and clients, I frequently see a LOT of negative self talk (internal talk) that holds people back.
We say things like:
“I’ve failed before, so what makes me think this will be any different?”
“I’m totally crunched for time, there’s no way I can squeeze this in.”
“I’m not the kind of person who can cook at home every day or eat clean 6 days a week.”
… And you know what happens?
100% of the time, that’s exactly what happens.
We describe ourselves as lazy, and we become lazy.
We describe ourselves as lacking time, and we magically see all our free time vaporize (helloooo American Idol!).
This phenomenon is readily apparent in kids:
Kids that are told they are good-for-nothing pieces of dirt tend not to go anywhere in life. The vast majority, anyways – and that’s because they begin internalizing what they’re told.
Kids that are told they can achieve anything in life, and that they’re special or gifted, end up achieving quite a lot – because that deep internal belief is internalized in everything they do.
In fact, Steve Jobs said this was one principle that drove him his entire life while creating Apple – he said his parents told him when he was young that he was special and he could achieve anything – and that belief carried him to build one of the most successful companies in history.
Here’s What You Need to Do Today
So you need to start DESCRIBING yourself as the kind of person who can create new habits, who can adhere to them, who is going to become a case study.
This is part of why healthy habits are so hard to maintain – they are deeply interwoven in our personality, in our character archetypes. Both how we perceive ourselves (capable, or incapable), as well as how others perceive us (Oh she’s so smart! She’ll definitely succeed).
So if you want to stop being so late this year (like me!) stop describing yourself as someone who is always late.
Simple for today: Begin DESCRIBING yourself as the kind of person you want to become.
You are capable of changing tiny habits to stop your chronic pain.
You are capable of changing what you eat to lose 30, or 50 or 100 pounds.
You have the time and discipline.
This is coming back to the “inner game” of health, and although it’s less tangible than me giving you a diet guide or exercises for your chronic pain, this is no less powerful.
Mantras are an age-old adaptation of this – how you describe yourself becomes who you are.
Leave a comment below – what is one new way you’re going to describe yourself and what you’re capable of?