Three years ago I read a book called The Tools by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels. Essentially the book is about five psychological tools they came up with to overcome certain challenges.
One example is the tool they call ‘Reversal of Denial.’ When you are trying to get yourself to do something that’s hard (like working out) you imagine the pain and discomfort you’ll feel if you do this activity as a cloud in front of you. Then yell (out loud or in your mind) ‘Bring it on!’ Walk thru the cloud and say ‘I love pain’ until you see yourself pass thru it. Then say ‘pain sets me free.’
It takes less than thirty seconds and it’s designed to turn your fear of pain into a desire for it. Basically, it helps motivate you to do the thing you know you should do.
They outline scenarios where people fall victim to pain avoidance, explain the tool and then cite examples where it helped people. The book goes on for four more tools.
I recommend this book with a caveat.
Read the book. It’s fascinating. I recommend trying out the tools to see how they feel. But if you really want to improve yourself, don’t just read the book, try to use the tools and stop. These tools are actually helpful.
But they’re not easy to remember to do all the time. In fact, in the book they talk about how the people who found success with the tools all eventually stopped using them. I know I did. I read this book, got really into it and then at some point without realizing it I forgot all about it.
So, is this book just a waste of time? Nope. It’s a blueprint.
These tools are effective, but they’re not fun or particularly memorable.
That’s why I recommend you craft your own tools. What are the things that you are more likely to remember? What will marry fun with self improvement?
Here’s a silly example of one I created:
I slouch a lot. Walking, sitting or standing with my back straight is not my default position. This constant hunching affects me physically and psychologically. So, I created a tool of my own to help me remember to stand straight up.
When I was a kid in the early 90s there was a video game called Altered Beast. I always loved that game. In every level you began as an average sized man. But as you kicked and punched your way thru the levels four purple orbs would randomly pop out. If you touched them a deep voice from nowhere would say ‘Power Up.’ And you’d get bigger and buffer. Once you got all four you became an animal (were wolf, dragon, bear, etc.).
So, now I try to envision purple orbs pop up in my way. Then I walk into them and hear the voice say ‘power up.’ I immediately stand up a little straighter and feel a little stronger.
Again, I am not telling you to copy my tool (though feel free if you want), but rather to think about constructing your own tools. It’s perfectly okay to start with one in the book and modify it. Let it evolve.
The word ‘tool’ makes it sound like a thing that is essentially not going to change, but these tools are much more malleable than that. They don’t exist outside of your own mind and the inside of your mind is not at all constrained by the laws of physics. Grow the tool, change it, mold it to something that is best for you.