Determined to lose weight, quit smoking or hit your goals?
‘Don’t be a perfectionist!’ exclaims Jared Alden, for the third time during our encounter at his office in Dubai Healthcare City. Originally from Boston, the 49-year-old psychotherapist has a stern warning for anyone looking to succeed in 2012. ‘I can tell you now, the perfect way to fail every time is to be a perfectionist. It’s essentially guaranteed,’ he says. ‘But if you’re willing and prepared to make some big mistakes, you’re going to be highly successful. Whether it’s moving ahead with your business or developing your theories in science, it is part of the learning theory to get it wrong.’
We want to know what to expect from a session with Alden, who works with people from all walks of life and helps them use positive visualisation to improve everything from their relationships and family life to management style and career progression. He gives the example of someone who wants to exercise more. ‘Very often, starting off with the statement “I’m going to exercise on Tuesdays and Thursdays” is a good place, and so we’ll see how you react to that. You might come up with very logical arguments, such as “I can’t do that because I travel too much”, so you might have to reformat it to “I’m going to exercise whether I’m at home or in a hotel room – I will have a simple routine that I can do anywhere, and I will do it every Tuesday and Thursday.”’
Alden explains that once you have a practical and logical statement, it’s time to look at your emotional reaction to it. ‘You might say, “Okay, but I don’t want to do that,” or “Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t,” and here you need to engage your emotions. Most of us try to solve our emotions with logic, but that’s something that doesn’t work. If you pay attention to your emotions, you’ll get an emotional answer – and this is what you want. So it could be that you are too tough on yourself and you don’t actually allow any relaxation in your life, and this is just one more thing you’re adding to your list. You may already be juggling car-pooling with the kids, a 60-hour working week, travelling for work and sending emails at night, and now you’re going to add this on?’
It’s not always easy to correctly identify the emotion you’re feeling without stopping to think through the situation (for example, it’s common to confuse hurt with anger), but Alden believes it should be easy enough if you allow yourself to pause for a moment. ‘Fear or sadness are the most common feelings. Our bodies are designed to protect us, and fear and sadness are warning signs that force us to pay attention to the important things. Often you’re taking on too much and your body wants a break. So give yourself one.
‘Pay attention to your own feedback. If you’ve tried something and it isn’t working, it’s as though your emotions are saying “this is too big” or “not right” or “wrong direction”. The solution? Try something else, and don’t be disheartened, because the best way to succeed eventually is to keep making mistakes.’
Positive visualisation sessions from Dhs690 for 60 minutes. German Neuroscience Centre, Dubai Healthcare City, www.gnc-dubai.com (04 429 8578).
Help yourself at home
Need a few tips to change your mindset? Pay attention to Jared Alden’s advice…
The checklist. ‘Always remember those three essential things, every time. What’s the logic? What’s the emotion? And what’s the behaviour?’
Use the right tool for the right job. ‘Whenever you get “lost”, it’s probably because you’re trying to use the wrong tool for the wrong job. Don’t try to solve something logically if it’s an emotional issue. That’s why a lot of us don’t do well on diets, for example, because we’re not addressing the emotional aspect of it.’
Don’t get bogged down by a low moment. ‘When we’re happy, we can’t imagine what it’s like to feel sad, and when we’re sad, we can’t imagine what it’s like to be happy. Use your brain: tell yourself it’s okay, this is just a stage, and there will be another happier stage.’