The Snap Back Effect
By Steve McCann
an ambitious man, always wanting to improve and get better at
whatever he does. When he was young his dad told him “son, you can
do anything you put your mind to”, a nugget of wisdom he has always
remembered. He is a goal-setter and has a genuine desire to rise in
his career. With the best of intentions he tries and tries and
tries to change his routines and behaviors but he just can’t, at
least not for long.
were to look in the bottom right drawer of his desk at work you
would find a collection of daily planners and electronic organizers,
all tried by Chris for a while, but now just taking up space. At
home if you look under his bed, you’ll find the piece of exercise
equipment that he purchased last year that now sits alone collecting
Chris went to a motivational seminar where it was suggested to get
up an hour early and read in your field. He thought this a valuable
strategy for his success. So he set the alarm for an hour earlier
than he normally would arise and started reading for the first ‘new’
hour of his day. After three days he was snoozing right up until
the time he would normally have to wake up. He tried putting the
alarm clock across the room so that he would have to get up and turn
if off. “I’ll be out of bed so I’ll stay up” he rationalized. This
would surely work right? Wrong. He went back to bed every time.
Chris gave up on this ‘new’ hour concept and went back to doing what
he normally did.
was a great starter but as a finisher? Not so hot. He’s living out
a pattern, a familiar one. See if you can relate: we decide that
we want to make some changes so we set some new goals, create a new
routine and start out with the best of intentions to make the new
behavior stick. Yet, it isn’t long before we stop following through
on the new behaviors, quit doing them and go back to familiar
routines. This familiar experience is very common it’s called ‘The
Snap Back Effect’.
profit from the phenomenon of ‘The Snap Back Effect’, it’s important
to understand that we all behave according to a picture or portrait
that we created about ourselves called our self-image.
the early pioneers in self-image psychology was Dr. Maxwell Maltz.
In his book Psycho-Cybernetics, Dr. Maltz gives his
explanation of The Snap Back Effect. He compares our self-image to
a rubber band. When it is in its normal shape and size, it
represents our current self-image. However, when you put the rubber
band between your thumb and index finger and stretch it as far as
you can, you are stretching the band beyond its normal limits. He
likens this to when we try to perform beyond our current self-image
through new routines and behaviors. What happens to the rubber band
after a short time is that it ‘snaps back’ to its original size
because it cannot sustain the new position. Stretched beyond its
capacity, it will always snap back. So too, when we perform at
levels above our current self-image, we cannot sustain the new
behaviors because they are inconsistent with the picture we have of
ourselves. Our self-image snaps us back to our old behaviors.
of the most frustrating obstacles to success and career
fulfillment. The reason Chris has not succeeded in his desires for
change and improvement was that he was acting from an image that he
created about himself that is inconsistent with the new behaviors he
sought. If he continues to hold the same self-picture he will keep
‘snapping back’ regardless of how detailed the plan of action is ---
unless he changes the self-picture. The good news for Chris is that
he can change this image, it’s quite simple actually.
change the picture we have of ourselves, we need to feed new
information to our subconscious mind. The subconscious is the
inside part of the brain called the limbic system. It makes up
roughly 90% of the brain. It’s where our self-image resides and
where our habits and beliefs are stored.
thought is in alignment with feeling it will act as an instruction
to the subconscious. By adding mental pictures that coincide with
this same thought/feeling combination what happens is the
subconscious will reproduce in us the mindset and discipline which
lead to the fulfillment of our desire.
self-belief is created it’s held within our self-image and becomes
the rule of our actions. So all Chris needs to do is raise his
self-image to match the new goal or habit he desires.
what he did: He clarified a few things in his life that he really
wanted to change. He decided on the ones with the biggest payoffs.
They were written down on a card with pictures of him actually
succeeding with these intentions. Each day he would pre-play these
goals as if they were already achieved. He aligned his thoughts on
each goal with the positive feelings he would have if they were
already achieved. He really got into this process. Finally, by
adding in the mental picturing or visualization he saw himself
reaching each goal. Chris invested a few minutes every day in quiet
with eyes closed engaged in this process. By combining ‘pictured
thought with feeling’ all to the same purpose Chris now possesses
the specific approach that will allow him to put his dad’s sage
advice into action.
Chris doesn’t snooze the alarm clock for an hour. He gets up an
hour earlier than he used to and he does it automatically. His time
management skills have evolved into a workable system that fits his
lifestyle perfectly. As far as the piece of exercise equipment
under his bed Chris says “It’s still there collecting dust, but hey
one thing at a time”.
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