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Mental Contrasting

Mental Contrasting

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Mental Contrasting infographic
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Mental contrasting is an active visualization practice that allows for improving the achievement of goals. It also allows an assessment of possible obstacles and disadvantages.

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  • Improves productivity
  • Strengthens motivation 
  • Improves problem-solving skills
  • Strengthens planning and anticipation skills
  • May improve resilience
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Required Equipment


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How to Do It

It's a four-step exercise:

  1. What do you want to achieve? Answer this question, so that you can set a goal and work towards it.
  2. Reaching the goal. Imagine that you have already reached that goal and visualize yourself enjoying that achievement. Think about how good it will be for you.
  3. Here is the contrast. Finally, think about all the things that could be an obstacle. Everything that could prevent you from achieving that goal.
  4. Plan how you will overcome the obstacles in the item above.

After these steps, you will have more clarity about what actions to take.

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Why it works

  • Visualizing your goals without disconnecting from reality (with its obstacles), promotes action and motivation.
  • Thinking of the obstacles helps you create better plans for achieving your goals. 
  • Imagining what might happen in the future stimulates your ability to solve problems. It helps create new strategies, evaluate different routes, and make more informed decisions.
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Time Commitment

10-20 minutes

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Suggested Frequency


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Time of Day


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Possible Side Effects

None known.

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  • You can use this exercise for any kind of goal. It can be long, medium, or short term. 
  • After the exercise, do something! Remember that visualization alone is not enough.
  • It helps to avoid polarized thought and makes you more flexible.
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Supporting Studies and Articles

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  1. Mental contrasting as a behavior change technique: a systematic review protocol paper of effects, mediators and moderators on health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5123225/
  2. Mental contrasting and goal commitment: the mediating role of energization. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19213924
  3. Mind wandering via mental contrasting as a tool for behavior change. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00562/full
  4. The power of prospection: mental contrasting and behavior change. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/spc3.12271
  5. Promoting the Self-Regulation of Stress in Health Care Providers: An Internet-Based Intervention. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00838/full
  6. Perceived product creativity and mental contrasting: Desired future on consumers’ product replacement decisions. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/mar.21156
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 Happiness  Productivity  Sharpness  Motivation
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