In a fascinating experiment, researchers gave rewards cards to two groups of patrons of a coffee shop. You know, where you get a punch for every order, and when your card is filled up, you get a free cup of coffee.
One group got a card that required 10 punches to be completed.
The other group got a card that needed 12 punches - but 2 were already punched. So they also needed to purchase 10 more coffees to get their free one.
Which group do you think got their free cuppa sooner, and more reliably?
It was the group that had the pre-punched card. On average, they purchased two more cups of coffee than their counterparts in the group starting from zero.
Why? Because psychologically, they felt they were already one-sixth of the way to their goal. They had momentum. The closer they felt they got to their goal, the stronger the pull.
So what's the moral of this story?
Don't think of the distance between you and your goal as the only number that matters. If you have 35 pounds to lose, but you've already lost 45, think of your weight card as 56% punched.
Not only are you now more than halfway to your goal, but you're also benefiting from the concept of "sunk costs" - the resources (energy, time, money, and motivation) you're already thrown at the project of getting to your goal weight.
What if you're just starting out? Think of a couple of good habits that you currently have. Imagine where you'd be if you didn't have them. And in your imagination, start from there. Pre-punch that card!