Dr. Jonathan Rhodes is an applied psychologist who co-developed Functional Imagery Training (FIT). Joanna Grover is a cognitive therapist and sought-after executive coach—the first in the U.S. to offer FIT to clients. Between the two of them, they have worked with Olympic athletes, business executives, the military, government departments, in education, and in health care.
Below, Jonathan and Joanna share 5 key insights from their new book, The Choice Point: The Scientifically Proven Method to Push Past Mental Walls and Achieve Your Goals. Listen to the audio version—read by Jonathan—in the Next Big Idea App.
1. Know your values.
A Choice Point is the moment when you recognize that your potential behavior has the opportunity to align with your values and future goals—or perhaps not. At first, Choice Points are often a quick moment when you recognize you shouldn’t be doing something, like eating another biscuit or hitting the snooze button when you promised yourself you’d go for a run. By mastering your Choice Point you can change your life by redirecting your thoughts to a desired goal.
To start, ask yourself, Are you living by your values? Values should guide your motivation, and therefore your behavior, but it’s not always easy to put them into practice. If you value health but lead an unhealthy lifestyle, you’ll feel out of balance and guilty when you indulge in fast food or skip a workout. But here’s the thing: weight gain, poor employee engagement, and climate change all have something in common. Despite having readily available solutions, we continue to make choices that move us further away from our goals. Whether it’s choosing a burger and fries over a salad, top-down management over collaboration, or leniency over rigor in addressing climate change, it all comes down to a Choice Point.
This is the moment when we decide whether our actions will bring us closer to the future we desire. Motivation is key, and how we imagine ourselves in the future matters. Through your response to Choice Points, you can make a difference in your life and in the world around you, enhancing motivation through the power of imagination. But first, you need to spend some time thinking about and defining your most important values.
2. Amplify your motivation with your senses.
To amplify your motivation and achieve your goals, multi-sensory imagery (the five senses you know plus emotion and motion) is the game-changer. By immersing in the details, you can use imagery like a dress rehearsal to make your dreams a reality. Our research using Functional Imagery Training has shown that rehearsing goals through multi-sensory imagery can increase motivation by up to five times compared to traditional methods, like motivational interviewing. Let’s put imagery into practice right now.
Take a couple of slow deep breaths in and out. When you’re ready, think of your dream goal, or write it down if that helps. Now, focus on the details of where you are when you achieve that goal. Think about the time of the year, the weather, and what you could be wearing. Imagine the temperature, the sounds, what you’re touching, and even the taste or smell of the environment. Are you moving? Are you smiling? How does it feel to achieve this goal?
“Rehearsing goals through multi-sensory imagery can increase motivation by up to five times compared to traditional methods.”
By allowing your mind to fully experience your goal through multi-sensory imagery, you can equip yourself with the skills to not only get to the starting line but also to stay motivated when times get tough.
Next, let’s work backward. Like rewinding a movie, press play on your major milestones along the way. These milestones will help you acknowledge your targets, step by step. Finally, rewind back to the present moment and ask yourself: What small thing can I do right now to help me achieve my dream goal?
By using multi-sensory imagery and focusing on your major milestones, you’re equipped with the motivation and skills to start making your dream a reality. If you struggle with imagery, no worries, imagery ability can be trained.
3. Mindset is overrated; focus on attitude.
If you believe that nothing will ever change or improve, your mindset may be holding you back. However, if you have a persistent, tenacious attitude, then you can inject energy into any situation and make progress toward your goals. It’s important to imagine your future self and see the possibilities for growth and development along your learning curve. Your attitude should guide your mindset, not the other way around, as you are constantly evolving and changing but likely won’t see or feel improvements for some time.
This is where curiosity comes in. A positive attitude fosters a curious mindset as beliefs change. Pair your curiosity with that of a friend, and you have a powerful force for evolution: willing to ask difficult questions, be vulnerable, and share an unrelenting attitude towards learning. With the right attitude, even seemingly impossible goals can be achieved, opening a world of newly imagined possibilities.
4. Get a cue to activate imagery.
Are you struggling to refocus or maintain your attention toward a goal when your motivation slips? Sounds like you need a cue, meaning a deliberate action that activates the imagery that helps drive motivation toward your dream. A cue is a conscious action, like taking a deep breath or a sip of your drink. A cue helps you stay focused and refreshes your thinking toward your desired goal.
“Cues help shift our attention towards what matters and give space for experiencing motivation.”
Here’s a simple exercise using breath as a cue: take a deep breath in and let it out slowly. As you exhale, imagine your future dream goal in vivid detail—where you are, who you’re with, the sounds, touch, smell, and emotion. Focus on the meaning of your goal and why it’s important, as well as its purpose—why it’s important to others.
Cues help shift our attention towards what matters and give space for experiencing motivation. They give us greater control over our Choice Points and empower us to take action toward our goals. Next time you need a motivational boost, recognize your cue by taking in a deep breath and activating your imagery. Your future self will thank you for it.
5. Your rules your way.
Imagine if you had three non-negotiable rules that aligned your values with the person that you want to be. What would your rules be?
Recently, we asked a CEO and their answer was simple yet powerful. They shared that their family was what they valued most in life. Their first rule was to be present with them every day, to hold their daughter’s hand when walking her to school, and to feel more connected without any distractions. Their second value was friendship, and they were committed to Tuesday morning meetings with friends to feel those connections. Their third value was health and balance (they refused to separate them), and they enjoyed going for a run or a morning swim four times a week.
To stick to these core commitments, you will need to plan for these Choice Point moments on your terms. This means being aware of these moments before they occur, playing them out through multi-sensory imagery, and exploring solutions. This will equip you with the skills to navigate your Choice Points and result in your desired behavior, keeping you the best version of yourself.
To listen to the audio version read by co-author Jonathan Rhodes, download the Next Big Idea App today: