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How to crank round your Mental Thermostat to be better, do better and have better

Jul 18, 2022

Being brave, being bold

My eldest, having finished her GCSE’s, decided this summer is for having fun- meeting new people and having adventures. She said she wants to get out there and do more stuff!

She kicked it off by going away on an NCS camp. The National Citizen Service is a not-for-profit organisation offering activity camps and community volunteering projects for young people aged 16 and 17 years old. The idea is that you meet new people, try new activities, learn new skills and get involved with the local community to make a positive difference. I think it’s a win-win for all.

When I dropped her off, I was so full of admiration for her. As I was about to go, she said to me: “I find it quite funny that I keep throwing myself into things where I don't know anybody...!"

I wondered for a moment if she was having second thoughts, but she smiled and knew she was going to stick with it. I turned to wave goodbye as she stood there by herself and watched as she approached a couple of people to strike up a conversation. Never have I been more proud. She’s had a tricky couple of years at school but hasn’t allowed this to diminish her confidence and I think to decide to go on the camp knowing she wouldn’t know anyone else, was brilliant. On the way home, I pulled over and sent her a text telling her how proud I am of her. I spent the next four hours thinking a lot about whether she’d met anyone nice, but my concerns were allayed when I received a message from her – a photo of her and the four girls who she was sharing a tent with. Everyone full of smiles. The odd text I received during that week confirmed that she was having a blast.

Comfortably uncomfortable

Challenging ourselves to get out of our comfort zone can be tough. We might be comfortably uncomfortable and know that we want different but perhaps fear the unknown. Maybe we love our life but wonder if we notch things up a gear, what that change might look like. Some people fear success and what that brings with it. A friend of mine once talked about setting up her own interior design business- she took herself off on a couple of courses to learn the skills and she got close to getting the wheels in motion but during a conversation when I asked her how it was going, it wasn’t fear of failure that was holding her back, it was fear of success- how might that affect her current family routine? Sometimes it’s a suck it and see and she took a leap of faith and went for it. The whole family stepped up and pitched in to help with the day-to-day house stuff and it’s paid dividends and been a brilliant learning curve for them all.

The thing is, we won’t even dare to go for the great things in life if we don’t believe we deserve happiness or success. Here is a really important thing to appreciate- your goals will always come down to the level of your self-image because you cannot ever outperform your self-image. What does this mean? If you have a goal, you need a self-image that is at least as good.

Think about it like this:

You cannot sneak round your self-image so, the question to ask yourself is “Is my self-image getting in my way, or enabling me?” As one participant on The Winning Edge once said: “It’s about setting goals and then giving myself permission to achieve them.” Yes! 100%

People will live down to their self-image and the opposite is also true if they create a more positive and deserving self-image. There’s a story – apparently a social experiment, which I am unable to trace its origins, however, illustrates my point. A newspaper advert was placed for a position with a full job description and a £25k salary. A week later it was re-run with just one change - a £75k salary. Which one do you suppose got the most applications? The £25k salary. The more money you offer, the less people apply - the more money the more people rule themselves out. A little voice says: “not for you”.

Turning the dial on your Mental Thermostat

If you shared all the wealth in the world equally, how long would it take for money to find itself back into the same hands? 1 year? 5 years? Richard Branson would get his back… That’s because the human brain works a bit like a mental thermostat.

On a heating thermostat we can set it to a temperature and the thermostat will regulate the temperature if it is too hot or too cold. Well, your self-image is your thermostat, and it will kick in / kick out certain behaviours. We go above and below but return to normal. An example of this is that very often ex-servicemen will go into security roles. That’s because of the uniform and they like to be regimented - it’s how they see themselves.

You might remember Michael Carroll - he was the part-time refuse collector who in 2002, won £9m on the lottery. How long did it take him to get back to his normal? Less than four years. He just wasn’t used to seeing himself as a millionaire. When you suddenly have that amount of money that you’re not used to, your Mental Thermostat has to do a lot of work to ensure you see this as your new normal.

What’s your normal?

We all have norms that we live with on a daily basis – the quality of our relationships, level of money that we’re used to, holidays, job role and what that involves, where we live etc etc. If we want different, it’s about challenging those norms and cranking our Mental Thermostat round to a new normal which we very quickly see ourselves living in order that we are comfortable with this new normal.

So, how do you move it round?

Write your goals down, visualise them, affirm them, remind yourself everyday - it’s the 15 minutes a day that cranks the thermostat round. The subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between a real and a vividly imagined event. If you spend time 15 minutes in the future the brain thinks it’s where you belong. It will then give you the ideas, creativity and resources to get you there. You are already the kind of person who has £1m, hits all your targets, leads a large team, lives in the large house on a hill etc… aren’t you?!

The best frame of mind to be in if you want to crank the thermostat round is to be positively discontent: “I like my house, my relationships, job, car etc.. but if I want to, I can make it better.”

Jim Rohn once said:

“Learn how to be happy with what you have while you pursue all that you want.”

Too many people let the good things in life stop them getting the best – they’re just too comfortable, aren’t they?! For example, salespeople can become too comfortable- they hit their targets and stop - even though their potential might far exceed the targets someone else came up with.

Here is what many people do: they settle for... What we should do is: Settle for... nothing less than my consciously chosen version of the best

The best for you… not the best in the world. The point is to consciously choose what the best thing for you is, not to just end up with it. To end up in a job you don’t enjoy, a house you don’t much like living in, in an area that no longer serves you, with a partner who doesn’t understand you and kids who don’t appreciate you. And yet that’s what happens to so many people. They don’t work on their self-image nor think about their goals and what they want out of life.

To quote Jim Rohn again (he’s a bit of mindset guru quite frankly), he said:

If you go to work on your goals, your goals will go to work on you.

If you go to work on your plan, your plan will go to work on you.

Whatever good things we build, end up building us.

My daughter has the self-image that she can push herself outside of her comfort zone, to challenge herself to try new things and that although it might feel uncomfortable at first, she keeps on going. She signed up for a camp, not knowing a single person who’d be going. She embraced the unknown because she believed she could do it and deserved to have fun. We picked her up last week and she’d had an amazing time, meeting some truly wonderful people. So many stories to tell and more fun to be had as she makes plans to meet up with them over the summer.  

Is there anything in life you’d like to change? Have you been settling for anything when in fact, if you cranked round your Mental Thermostat, there could be so much more you achieve in life.

Worth thinking about?


Do you find you coast along in life without ever daring to leave your comfort zone? Could you be better, do better, have better?

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