A Mental Trick to Make Any Task Less Intimidating

All you have to do is picture yourself on the other side

Laura Vanderkam
Forge
Published in
4 min readFeb 19, 2021

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Illustration by Dora Godfrey for Forge

A few years ago, one of my children became obsessed with roller coasters. He watched video after video to study them from afar. He designed his own in computer games. There was just one problem: He was terrified of actually riding one.

Eventually, he identified the “Sooper Dooper Looper” at Hersheypark as a potential option: It wasn’t too tall or too fast, and had only one inversion. But when we actually went to the park, he started to lose his nerve. I knew he would regret it if he didn’t ride the roller coaster after all that, so I reminded him that in two minutes, the ride would be over. Even if he hated it, it was only two minutes (1:45, to be exact). I told him to picture himself on the other side of those two minutes.

So he did, and then he rode the coaster. And when it was over, he was really glad he’d tried it. I, meanwhile, was glad that a trick I use often had worked once again. This skill of picturing our future selves is fundamental for discipline — but it’s also important for happiness, which is just as important.

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Laura Vanderkam
Forge
Writer for

Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management books including Off the Clock and 168 Hours. She blogs at LauraVanderkam.com.