One thing that bothers me more than leaving kitchen cabinet doors ajar (why??) is the question of why we don’t do what we say we want to do.

We say we want to be healthier… but still eat the bag of Hot Cheetos.
We say we want to get up earlier… but still snooze the alarm.
We say we want to have an organized closet… but still have bandage skirts from college and a shocking number of old Halloween costumes taking up precious space. 

There’s no easy answer, and you need a combination of habit building, intentional goal-setting, and pure grit to make real changes. 

BUT using some mental tricks can help you on your way. Here are four methods I use on myself to make better decisions:

  1. Think of a future version of yourself. Consider what ‘future you’ will wish you had done. This is especially helpful for concrete tasks and health-related habits. If I’m debating going to bed or staying out late, I know Future Elizabeth will be so proud (and have fewer dark circles under her eyes) when I make the choice that serves her best.
  2. Think of a younger version of you (or someone else). This is well-suited for more abstract situations, like when you’re trying to be kinder or more patient and could use more empathy. When I’m frustrated with myself, imagining 8-year-old Elizabeth enables me to show self-compassion, and this mindset works well when I’m frustrated with others, too. We were all once carefree kids, and our unique struggles and circumstances made us who we are today. Give yourself and others a break.
  3. Think of yourself as a client. This is a natural fit if you struggle to do for yourself what you willfully do for others. Schedule time in the calendar to ensure you get priority projects done and give yourself the same level of respect you extend to someone else.
  4. Think of someone you love, perhaps a child. Here’s a way of imagining external accountability that’s closer to home. When using this strategy, I always imagine my nephew. If I’m debating an unhealthy eating choice for example, I ask, would I let him eat a pound of cookie dough? Most days (we’re only human), it’s a no.

We don’t always do what we say we want. But along with the deeper work of building habits that support your goals, a few persuasive techniques don’t hurt. 

To being better without being a machine,