Mental imagery, which mentally mimics perceptual, motor and emotional experiences, is thought to enhance goal achievement. In addition, implementation intentions, which work on the basis of a�?If I encounter situation X, then I will perform behaviour Ya�?, are assumed to do the same.
Despite the best intentions, people often fail to achieve a set goal.
Simply having an action plan only concentrates on the end result, rather than how to get there.
Implementation intentions (a�?if-thena�? ideas), however, clearly set out how a person should behave if they encounter a particular situation during the course of the implementation of a plan.
At the same time, mental imagery acts as a rehearsal, whereby the person performs in his or her mind what will actually happen, before implementing the plan and its solution.
Could combining implementation intentions with mental imagery facilitate optimum goal achievement?
In order to evaluate the role of implementation intentions alongside mental imagery, a research team at the University of Montreal carried out an investigation amongst 177 students. Each student provided details of their fruit intake over the last seven days before being split into four groups.
- The first group did nothing to increase their fruit intake (control condition).
- The second group used the a�?ifa��thena�? plan for achieving maximum fruit consumption (implementation intention).
- The third group performed mental imagery techniques to increase their fruit consumption.
- The fourth group carried out both a�?ifa��thena�? plans as well as practicing mental imagery of these same plans.
It was necessary to combine implementation intention and mental imagery in order to achieve set goals.
At the end of the test period, the research team looked again at fruit consumption and found each student consumed approximately 2.64 portions of fruit per day. (One portion of fruit is equal to one apple, one banana, one glass of juice or a half cup of grapes).
Participants in the fourth group consumed the highest quantity of fruit.
The participants in the first group (the control) ate less fruit than the participants in both the second and third groups.
Whilst implementation intentions have been found to be more effective than relying on self-motivation and will power, imaging an action is equivalent to carrying it out, as this activates the same areas of the brain. Together, these work as a powerful tool to achieve set goals.
So, the upshot of this is, if you want to set a goal to eat healthier, for example, by eating more fruit, picture every step of the process. This involves mentally picturing the piece of fruit, reaching for it, smelling it, biting into and chewing.
This way you are more likely to be successful at achieving your goal.
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