MentalTools: The Time Corridor

To reach goals, often requires changing behavior. Behavior change is 1) being aware of the choices rather than being on autopilot, 2) and making better choices than the ones we make (often better framing and measuring the costs and benefits). 3) Usually giving up something along the way. Just as you can’t park a car in a full garage, you can’t move in your own life until there is space to move.

One of the visualization exercises that helps me make better decisions I call the Time Corridor. It’s a variation of Timelining projected forward and Timeline Therapy.

Claudia in a corridor

Like Claudia . Imagine being in one or those airport or funhouse parrallel mirror and getting the neverending images of you…or the back of your head.

Imagine that each reflection of you is a projection of who you are looking back at yourself at different points in time ahead of where you are right now. Say 1 minute, 10 minutes, 1 hr, 1day, 1 week, 1 month, 1year, 10 years. Take some decision in your life you are facing, ask the mirror choir one by one what they think looking back on you today. Strike up a conversation with those future yous to get to know them better.

Question: “Should I drink that soda?”

  • 10minute: Totally! I wanna pony too!
  • 1 day: which soda?
  • 1 year: what soda? no probably not, or at least maybe diet the diet version, at least I didn’t make a big impact on my life, but I do remember that concert we went t.
  • 10 years: You expect me to remember that crap? beside soda is evuhl

Everything counts in large amounts, and this is where you can gain leverage in your decisions. Okay, then measure the costs:

  • 10 minutes: 150 calories :$1
  • 1 day: 2 sodas 300 calories :$2
  • 1 week: 14 sodas, 2100 empty calories, $14, 2 days of caffeine jitters, 2 days of caffiene withdrawal headaches .
  • 1 year : 728 sodas, 109200 empty calories, $728, potentially 25 pounds of fat, $200o in dental work.

Then see what *else* you could do with the time and money if you opted not to do that.

  • 1 week: 14 cans of soda or one new dinner/movie out on the town every week.
  • 1 year: a downpayment on a new car, a computer, a month trip abroad?

Now put the costs and alternatives in one hand of each projection then ask ” which would you rather have?”.   Swallow the bullet and recognize that just as you probably don’t remember the sitcom or website you viewed last night, you won’t really dwell on the choice, and will be building discipline as a side benefit. This approach can be used for all sorts of questions: jobs, move, relationships.

It’s also useful for coping. There are no unreaslistic goals just unrealistic timeframes. At the moment it’s useful as I prepare for a month trip I have a large amount of commitments to wrap up, projecting forward a month I recognize that it’s all doable within that time period. That window of closure makes the sacrifices like not seeing my girlfriend, movies, dancing for 2 weeks worth it.

Btw, most 12 step programs and therapies are simply about graduated substitutions. Deep seated beaviors like addiction are impossible to wean without leverage, and thus suitable alternatives, and the process of creating them be fun. While I was hooked heavily on soda in high school (unlimited drinks for pizza delivery), one suitable replacement was making my own at home. Some simple variations are selzter water + 20 calories of agave + lemon + vanilla, all the fizz low calories and 100% natural. And home made ginger ale.

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