Welcome to this month’s Q&A episode with This Naked Mind’s head coach, Scott Pinyard. Today, Scott discusses one of the most powerful thought processes that impacts our overall health. In this episode, Scott gives you the answer to the top 2 most frequently asked coaching questions. Scott discusses journaling, the power of visualization, and how to manage cognitive dissonance related to drinking.

Episode Links:
Daily Stoic by George Tanner

Download EP:161 Transcript


We’ve been talking a lot about expectations this month, and I just wanted to tell a story up top of how expectations played into my journey. How a certain expectation really caused me a lot of pain, and suffering, and angst that I didn’t need to have. So, back when I was drinking I became convinced that I had liver disease. I just expected it. I went online and I looked up, “How long do you have to drink to have liver disease, and what does this mean? How old am I, and what’s going on?” I do all of this research and then all of a sudden I’m like, “Yep, that’s it. I have it.” Now mind you, what was missing from that entire span was me actually going to a doctor, and getting blood work done, and having a doctor help me interpret those results.

Confirmation Bias

When I did this, when I set this expectation in my mind, I set a series of events and process that I had to deal with for a long time. So, I started worrying about liver disease, and then every little pain in my right side I was like, “There it is.” I reinforced this expectation, but what really got me was when I started going online and looking at what the signs and symptoms were. I was too scared to go to a doctor, and why would I need to anyway, because I know I have it? I’m just gonna go look online for symptoms of it, and I’m going to confirm what I already know. This is something called confirmation bias. All humans are susceptible to it. It happens in all different realms of human life. A great example is politics. You think about, “All right, I view the world this way. This is where I’m gonna get my news from. This website is telling me what I already know. It’s confirming the biases that I have.”

Selective Research

I would Google this stuff, and I would look and I would see, “All right, so these are the symptoms,” and guess what was happening as I was reading the symptoms? I was saying, “Nope, not that one. Ope, I have that one.” Maybe if I didn’t have one, I’d noticed a few days later that I’d start to have one. I set myself up to expect that I had this problem. Set myself up to expect these things that I was reading on the websites. Not only that, but I would look at the information I would find online and I would ignore the stuff that says, “Well, not everyone gets it.” I’d ignore that, or I would ignore the stories of the people who went on and drank for much longer than I did, and ended up okay. I would ignore that. My only focus was on the things that I thought were telling me what I already expected to be the case.

Power of Expectations

What did this do to me? It caused massive anxiety. I have had so many sleepless nights, and so much internal turmoil because of this. It was just this massive, gigantic waste of human time and human thought. It turns out, I actually quit drinking and do get a blood test, and lo and behold, I don’t have liver disease but I convinced myself that I did. So, this is the power of expectation. We can do this to ourselves on so many different levels, and I have a few questions here I want to answer. I pulled some from our question bank that match up with what we’ve been discussing, so I’m gonna go ahead and dive right in. First question is this. When working to become alcohol free or staying alcohol free, does it make a difference if you focus on the negativity of using alcohol, or the positivity of not using alcohol? Here’s an example.

What’s Your Focus?

The negativity of using alcohol would be, “If I drink, I’ll be hungover, and I don’t want to be hungover. If I drink, I’ll spend a bunch of money, and I don’t want to spend a bunch of money,” versus the positivity of being alcohol free which is, “If I don’t drink, I’ll be so much more aware. If I don’t drink, I’ll be saving money.” So, the question really is, which one should we use? Should we focus solely on the positive, or solely on the negative? The reality is, humans are motivated by both running toward pleasure, and running away from pain. So, the answer is actually to use both, but not to use either as a cudgel. A big thing that we really try to focus on at This Naked Mind, is positivity and optimism. So, our default is to have you focus on that vision. What is your vision of being alcohol free? What does your life look like? More so, what does a typical day look like? What does a vacation look like? What does a romantic dinner out look like? How do your relationships improve? How does your work performance improve?

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Power of Visualization

We want you to visualize and visualize clearly because your brain will start to see what this life is gonna be like, and you’ll start to feel what this life is gonna be like. That’s gonna make a massive difference when you’re faced with a challenge to drink. Now, the other side of the coin is effective, and particularly how much of one or the other is really up to your own personal style. The other side of the coin of saying, “Man, I really am struggling today. I could really use a beer, but man, I’m just gonna have that headache in the morning.” That’s also okay.

To have that sort of motivation of associating alcohol with pain, of associating alcohol with adversity or something you don’t want to go through, is completely okay.

So, the answer to this question is actually both, but I mean really both when I say that. My preference is to have people focus more on the positive, focus more on that vision, focus more on where you’re going as opposed to where you’ve been. Focus more on that end point than the turns you don’t want to take along the way.

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Special music thank you to the Kevin MacLeod Funkorama (incompetech.com)
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