Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Sweet Peace #12: The power of foreshadowing failure


Manzanita in spring snow

 Over the past week, I’ve spent about 12 hours driving to and from Santa Barbara, mostly in the company of Andrew Huberman through his neuroscience-related podcast Huberman Lab. I’m definitely in over my head but he does a great job of presenting the information clearly without going too far into the weeds. I appreciate his approach of tying everything back to real world issues.

Dr. Andrew Huberman is a professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology at Stanford School of Medicine and the almost two-hour podcast that has stimulated many more hours of contemplation is Episode #55 The Science of Setting & Achieving Goals. 

Huberman’s lens is neurobiology and the sea of chemicals running through and running our bodies much more than I ever imagined. Much of what we read in personal development and management literature has been studied to see what’s actually going on at the biological level. A great deal of time the biology and the behavioral recommendations are in sync; however, occasionally they’re not. And that’s where it gets interesting.

Failure, for example. Most of the motivational literature focuses on visualizing success and fiercely avoiding even the thought of failure. However, biochemically, that focus isn't holding up. While visualizing success appears to have value at the beginning of a project, what turns out to be more successful in reaching our goals is contemplating failure. Fear being a stronger force than attraction, knowing the downside of not doing something seems to be a better stimulator of brain chemicals than visualization of a possible positive outcome.

I decided to try this approach even though I don’t have a clear image of what “living Sweet Peace” actually means. However, I can visualize some pretty negative results of not taking my health seriously. Early on I wrote that my idea of Sweet Peace was a calm and grateful state of emotional and physical balance where food is an important element of health but not a source of emotional support. It included the recognition that sugar in our culture has become kudzu, growing out of control, crowding out healthy foods. I can quit feeding the kudzu.

With Huberman’s suggestions in mind, I wrote the following possible results of failing to continue on this journey, all focused on a future, failed state of me …

  • Me in a wheelchair
  • Me sitting in front of a TV in a pink muumuu holding a limp piece of pizza
  • Me injecting myself with insulin
  • Me needing knee and hip replacements
  • Me not posting my 52 weeks of Sweet Peace and feeling like a cop out 
  • Me drinking wine out of a coffee mug while watching daytime Jeopardy reruns
  • Me not being able to open cans or jars
  • Me not being able to get into my kayak.

Now, of course, I have no idea if continuing with this project will prevent any of those things; however, I am finding them to be pretty powerful motivators as I sit here writing episode #12, trying to figure out how to put all of this new thinking into a doable plan.