Don’t think about a purple giraffe!

Andrew Taylor - Spud Fit | May 26, 2021


We spend a lot of time, effort and energy on avoiding behaviours and actions that are not conducive to our goals. 

  • Don’t eat doughnuts
  • Don’t forget to drink water
  • Don’t stay up late
  • Don’t sleep in
  • Don’t be late to meetings
  • Don’t forget that important errand

I often ask my coaching clients “whatever you do, don’t think of a purple giraffe!” and of course a purple giraffe is instantly the only thing they can picture! 

A novice quarterback might look down the field and see six defenders all filling in the space where he wants to throw the ball. He might also see a couple more defenders rushing at him with violent intentions and still more defenders in his face trying to block the pass. He looks back down the field and sure enough he passes it straight to the defender he was most worried about and the ball is intercepted.

A good quarterback in the same situation would look down the field and see his teammate running to space. The space is small, but it’s definitely there. He would see a window of maybe one metre squared where he can safely throw the ball. He doesn’t think about all the different defenders who are trying to hurt him or block the throw or intercept the pass because he knows if he can hit that target, his teammate will catch it. In a matter of one or two seconds, he’s able to react appropriately to the controlled chaos around him and put the ball exactly where it needs to be. He can do this because he keeps his job simple and his focus narrow – find the target and hit it. 

When the defenders start occupying too much space in the quarterback’s head, they win the game. When doughnuts start occupying too much space in our heads, we’ll eventually eat one (or six). Instead, let’s keep our job simple and our focus narrow – make healthy choices. 

Your job is to choose potatoes (or other healthy Mega Foods) and move on. You don’t need to trouble yourself with what not to do because the choice to eat a potato is in itself a choice not to eat a doughnut. Once the potatoes have been eaten, your job is done. Move on and focus on the next positive action you can take.

Just don’t think about the purple giraffe!

Spud up!


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