These three interviews with Steve Levinson — in which we explore the real secret of why it is so difficult to follow through on our good intentions — were conducted in 2009 when I was working on a book about insomnia. I knew from my research that many, if not most, of our sleep problems are caused by poor lifestyle choices. I also knew how hard it was for people to make these lifestyle changes. When I stumbled upon Steve’s work about following through on our good intentions, I knew he was on to something that I’d not seen in all my research.
So we talked. Steve’s research and insight into this issue is enlightening and hopeful for anyone who has ever struggled with successfully implementing a good intention. His stories are humorous and memorable, and his dedication to helping us achieve our goals is inspiring. I learned a lot, put it to use, and found his analysis and prescription right on.
Steve Levinson, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist with more than three decades of experience. He is also an inventor, teacher and consultant who combines his talents as a psychologist and innovator with a passion for helping individuals and organizations follow through.
Steve says it’s not our fault that we have trouble following through on our good intentions, because our brain is not wired to follow through. Whew, and I thought it was just me! He asked this question, “If we want so badly to change, why are we so bad at it?” — and then decided to look for the answer. We talk about the issues with following through on our good intentions.
We focus on intentions. First it is important to understand the setup of the mind — Steve takes us on tour that finally makes sense of what the problem really is. He says instead of thinking that poor follow through is a personal failure, we need to face the truth about the faulty wiring in our brains. When you really get what he is talking about, it all makes perfect sense. We also talk about how to create intentions that take this wiring into account. And Steve shares his cheetah story — you don’t want to miss this one!
We look at how to use our Primitive Guidance System to help us sustain our intentions. How to create conditions that make us feel like doing what it is we should do. And we discuss the fact that what the mind is terrible at is being able to remind itself of what it’s already done, what we have learned and accomplished. Key take-away in this interview for me is that “An intention is a promise to yourself” and continually breaking this promise undermines our ability to feel good about ourselves. But — we can change this by doing the things that Steve talks about in this interview.
Steve mentions a tool called the MotivAider that he developed. I know there are other options for creating the kind of reminder system Steve talks about, but in case you are interested in looking at the MotivAider, I’ve put a link below. What I like about this tool is that it is really easy to use — set it once and forget it. It will vibrate quietly every 10 minutes or whatever I’ve set it to, and then automatically count down to the next 10 minutes. So every 10 minutes I am reminded of my Cue for my good intention. This really helps keep me focused and instills that cue pretty rapidly.