I find that a lot of people stay stuck and don’t move forward with their dreams because of fear, so that’s often where I start my work with people. If you want to move forward, it’s important to identify what is holding you back. The simplest and most effective way to do this is by making an if/then list. When a challenge surfaces in my life, I focus on how to fix the problem instead of worrying about it happening. Worry is a useless emotion that just fuels anxiety.


Grab a piece of paper and fold it vertically in half. On the left side, list your worries and what you fear will happen. On the right side, brainstorm solutions. For example, Suzy, a client of mine who was trying to lose weight, wrote down that she was worried about going to happy hour with her friends because having a few drinks added unnecessary calories and made it harder to skip appetizers. Her solution was to tell her friends that she wasn’t in the mood for alcohol and she would order sparkling water instead. Having a plan in place, Suzy smoothly made it through the evening, stuck to her goals, and had fun.

You can, and should, use if/then planning any time you are heading into a potentially challenging situation. It’s a technique you can employ anytime and is extremely useful for bolstering your resolve in times of temptation and helping you stick to your goals. Just grab a pen and paper and fill in the statement “If X happens, then I will do Y.” You might write something like this: “If I have a party to go to where there may be cupcakes or other tempting treats, then I will eat a healthy snack ahead of time and take a healthy food item to the party.” Surprisingly, this simple exercise can radically improve your success rate in losing weight and changing just about any other habit, according to a New York University review of 94 studies that investigated the technique.


You can do if/then planning as a visualization exercise anytime you are feeling worried, concerned or fearful about something. In the example above, I would have told Suzy to sit quietly with her eyes closed and see herself at happy hour ordering the alternative drink, socializing with her friends, and having fun. I’d ask her to hear ice clinking in the glasses, to see the appetizers being passed around and being so focused on scintillating conversation that she doesn’t even notice the food.

Now it’s your turn: If you have something on your mind and you’re not sure how you’re going to get through it, think it through carefully. Be creative and flesh it out completely. Visualize everything that could go wrong and all the solutions you can come up with. Make sure to see yourself successfully getting through the situation.

Think about the day in front of you. What plans do you have? What obstacles or challenges might you encounter? How can you apply the “if this happens, then I will do this” way of thinking throughout your day today?

And here’s a bonus tip. As I’ve written about in some other posts, I love using affirmations to inspire and motivate. Here’s what I tell my clients to repeat to themselves whenever they are facing challenges and obstacles: “I handle whatever comes in my direction with simplicity and ease.”

Check out his website, or click here to buy Joel Harper’s book, Mind Your Body: 4 Weeks to a Leaner, Healthier Life.

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