Anchoring & Achievement

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-by Jaime Willis
So, this is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down…
(I’ll wait while you finish rapping the theme song to Fresh Prince of Bel Air – you’re welcome!)
Before I tell you my story, a short psychology lesson. Anchoring is a cognitive bias whereby a specific trigger event or object causes you to have a certain reaction. The most well-known example of anchoring is Pavlov’s dog. You ring a bell, then feed the dog. After repeating the ‘trigger’ – ringing the bell – the dog reacts – begins to salivate – regardless if food is there or not.
Anchoring is also used as a behavioral therapy technique to help induce change or evoke a certain emotional response. Say, for example, you are sad but want to feel happier. Have you ever played a song that reminded you of a happy memory? Or looked at a photo that made you smile? That was anchoring.
Anchoring is really useful tool for achievement. When you are slogging through the day to day, let’s face it, WORK, of achieving a goal, you may feel like you are never going to get there. But, if you can remind yourself of a time when you DID achieve a big goal, you can use that memory as an ‘anchor’ for your current goal.
As you know, I am working on a few pretty big fitness goals this year, the most public of which is my goal to run FIFTY 10k races in 2011. Wednesday, I ran my 13th 10k. Even though each 10k is an accomplishment in itself, it can sometimes be daunting to think that I have done all this work and I’m not even half-way to my goal. In fact, I’m barely 1/4th of the way there. This is the *prime* time for anchoring.
Last night, I needed to anchor myself, so I went back through some old photos to remind myself of how far I’ve come in the past six years. In 2005, I was enormous! I honestly cannot tell you how much I weighed because my scale at home didn’t go past 330, but the arrow on the scale did when I stepped on. I had reached the end of the size line in even plus size clothing stores. My next clothing stop was literally going to be the aptly named Moo-Moo. I couldn’t walk without wheezing, my legs and feet were constantly swollen, and I was miserable.
Left Image: 2005 Right Image: 2011
With my 30th birthday looming a year away, I made the decision to stop WISHING I would lose weight and to start MAKING IT HAPPEN. I chose to use gastric bypass surgery and behavioral group therapy as my primary tools to achieve my weight loss. Within 18 months of my surgery, I had lost 160+ pounds.

Left: Caribbean Cruise, 2004; Right: Santorini Greece, 2010
To be honest, I have struggled and continue to struggle to keep my weight off. By 2009, I had gained back about 60 pounds. Last year, after setting a goal of getting back to my ‘fighting’ weight, I re-lost around 40 pounds and I am not finished yet.
But when I start to get discouraged, or wonder if I will ever be able to put a check mark next to the “Reach my Goal Weight” goal, I anchor. I remind myself of how far I’ve come and how close I am to the finish line.
Six years ago, I couldn’t properly tie my shoes because I had trouble reaching my shoelaces. I used the elevators for everything. I would avoid doing something that required me to run across the room to fetch something as ‘too much work.’ I would never have considered walking, let alone running 6.2 miles, and I promise you the only exercise I would consider doing 50 times in a row involved lifting a fork into my mouth.
Left: Me and My Brother, 2003; Right: Me and My Brother, 2008
Today, I am fit, healthy, and active. I can run into just about any clothing store and pick out something to wear. I can run. I do run. More than once a week even! Being morbidly obese was one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced. If I have come this far, I know I can make it.
Anchor your way to success! See ya at the finish line!

2 thoughts on “Anchoring & Achievement

    You are an inspiration! Thank you for sharing. We never thought of you as anything but our adorable, intelligent Jaime Leigh Willis niece.
    Your achievements will not only bring you contentment with yourself, they are helping others. BTW, it's true what they say about weight aging you. YOu have turned back the clock! Lots of wins here.

  2. Your anchor is always being held down by those that love you! Therefore, you are never facing your challenges alone. You are successful already and will reach your goals.

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