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December 2007

By Steve McCann

Chris is an ambitious man, always wanting to improve and get better at whatever he does. When he was young his dad told him “son, you can do anything you put your mind to”, a nugget of wisdom he has always remembered. He is a goal-setter and has a genuine desire to rise in his career. With the best of intentions he tries and tries and tries to change his routines and behaviors but he just can’t ……for long anyway.

If you were to look in the bottom right drawer of his desk at work you would find a collection of daily planners and electronic organizers, all tried by Chris for a while… but now just taking up space.

At home if you look under his bed, you’ll find the piece of exercise equipment that he purchased last year that now sits alone collecting dust.

One time Chris went to a motivational seminar where it was suggested to get up an hour early and read in your field. He thought this a valuable strategy for his success. So he set the alarm for an hour earlier than he normally would arise and started reading for the first ‘new’ hour of his day. After three days he was snoozing right up until the time he would normally have to wake up. He tried putting the alarm clock across the room so that he would have to get up and turn if off. “I’ll be out of bed so I’ll stay up” he rationalized. This would surely work right? Wrong. He went back to bed every time. Chris gave up on this ‘new’ hour concept and went back to doing what he normally did.

Chris was a great starter but as a finisher? Not so hot. He’s living out a pattern, a familiar one. See if you can relate: we decide that we want to make some changes so we set some new goals, create a new routine and start out with the best of intentions to make the new behavior stick. Yet, it isn’t long before we stop following through on the new behaviors, quit doing them and go back to familiar routines. This familiar experience is very common it’s called ‘The Snap Back Effect’. To profit from the phenomenon of ‘The Snap Back Effect’, it’s important to understand that we all behave according to a picture or portrait that we created about ourselves called our self-image. One of the early pioneers in self-image psychology was Dr. Maxwell Maltz. In his book Psycho-Cybernetics, Dr. Maltz gives his explanation of The Snap Back Effect. He compares our self-image to a rubber band. When it is in its normal shape and size, it represents our current self-image. However, when you put the rubber band between your thumb and index finger and stretch it as far as you can, you are stretching the band beyond its normal limits. He likens this to when we try to perform beyond our current self-image through new routines and behaviors. What happens to the rubber band after a short time is that it ‘snaps back’ to its original size because it cannot sustain the new position. Stretched beyond its capacity, it will always snap back. So too, when we perform at levels above our current self-image, we cannot sustain the new behaviors because they are inconsistent with the picture we have of ourselves. Our self-image snaps us back to our old behaviors.

It’s one of the most frustrating obstacles to success and career fulfillment.

The reason Chris has not succeeded in his desires for change and improvement was that he was acting from an image that he created about himself that is inconsistent with the new behaviors he sought. If he continues to hold the same self-picture he will keep ‘snapping back’ regardless of how detailed the plan of action is —- unless he changes the self-picture. The good news for Chris is that he can change this image, it’s quite simple actually.

To change the picture we have of ourselves, we need to feed new information to our subconscious mind. The subconscious is the inside part of the brain called the limbic system. It makes up roughly 90% of the brain. It’s where our self-image resides and where our habits and beliefs are stored.

Whenever thought is in alignment with feeling it will act as an instruction to the subconscious. By adding mental pictures that coincide with this same thought/feeling combination what happens is the subconscious will reproduce in us the mindset and discipline which lead to the fulfillment of our desire.

Once a self-belief is created it’s held within our self-image and becomes the rule of our actions. So all Chris needs to do is raise his self-image to match the new goal or habit he desires.
Here’s what he did:

He clarified a few things in his life that he really wanted to change. He decided on the ones with the biggest payoffs. They were written down on a card with pictures of him actually succeeding with these intentions. Each day he would pre-play these goals as if they were already achieved. He aligned his thoughts on each goal with the positive feelings he would have if they were already achieved. He really got into this process. Finally, by adding in the mental picturing or visualization he saw himself reaching each goal. Chris invested a few minutes every day in quiet with eyes closed engaged in this process. By combining ‘pictured thought with feeling’ all to the same purpose Chris now possesses the specific approach that will allow him to put his dad’s sage advice into action.

Today, Chris doesn’t snooze the alarm clock for an hour. He gets up an hour earlier than he used to and he does it automatically. His time management skills have evolved into a workable system that fits his lifestyle perfectly. As far as the piece of exercise equipment under his bed Chris says “It’s still there collecting dust, but hey one thing at a time”. ##

About the Author

Steve McCann is a speaker, trainer and author. His new book “The Snap Back Effect” is due in book stores in December 2007. He is founder of McCann Research Corporation, a unique company committed to helping people make behavior change simple. For more information on his book or speaking programs please visit

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