You’ve done it before. We all have.
You resolved to do something, and you’ve been doing pretty good overall. Then you have one of those moments.
Maybe you forgot your resolution for a second; maybe you were tired and grumpy and just decided you didn’t feel like keeping it up. Either way, you have a momentary backslide.
You choose a goopy, greasy donut instead of a bowl of granola. You skip the gym in favor of an Orange is the New Black marathon. You snap at a coworker you’ve been trying to be show more patience.
And you feel awful.
In this moment, you have two choices: Hit “reset” and move on, or let it tank your whole day.
Which do you choose?
And Cordelia Replies…
I’ll be honest and tell you that this past week, I’ve been choosing the tank-your-day option. My much-needed decision to quit treating my body like poo (again) has not only been thoroughly neglected; it’s been deviously undermined at all steps. By me.
I’d miss my morning Zumba routine because I was buried with work, then figure the rest of the day was shot, so I might as well eat like crap for dinner.
Eating like crap for dinner gave me sub-par sleep that night, so the next morning, I had twice as much coffee and snacked too much to shake myself out of my grogginess. By Thursday, I’d clearly shot the whole week to hell, so I figured there was no point trying to right the ship on Friday. Might as well enjoy a weekend of gluttony and sloth and start over again on Monday…
But here’s the thing: Our habits don’t form because we perform them flawlessly, every day without fail. They form because we keep plugging away at them, on a regular basis, even when we mess up. (Especially when we mess up.)
But when the habit you’re trying to form is something that’s especially hard for you? When you’ve been struggling with it on and off for a while and feel especially terrible about that? It’s all too easy to turn a minor setback into a total snowball of negative decisions.
The Ripcord Excuse
I’ve come to think of this as the Ripcord Excuse.
Ripcords have a useful purpose. When your mission’s gone bust and the plane is going down in flames, it’s time to head for the escape hatch, pull the ripcord and abandon station. Sometimes, cutting your losses is the smartest thing you can do.
But if you keep your hand permanently on the ripcord, ready to pull it at the slightest sign of trouble or discomfort, it becomes the wrong kind of escape mechanism. It becomes any easy out for any time you make a mistake (or decide you don’t feel like trying anymore).
Believe me, I know. I hate physical Quits. There’s a reason this month’s Quit is a reboot and I still haven’t successfully given up the snooze button, three whole years after deciding I needed to. I have zero willpower when it comes to physical challenges.
If I’ve got an emotional or logical challenge in front of me, like quitting my day job even after we lost half our income unexpectedly, setbacks and obstacles don’t faze me. They actually make me perversely more determined. But if I’m trying to move my body more when it’s used to being sedentary, or get my lazy ass out of bed when I feel like sleeping in, I will happily call it quits on my Quit the instant I have the tiniest excuse to do so.
Bailing when things get tough just reinforces the belief that you never can, and never will, be able to accomplish these things. (Tweet, tweet!) I never even give myself a chance to prove myself wrong, because the instant I fail, I chuck the whole Quit into the garbage and give up.
Failure Is Inevitable. It’s How You Handle It That Matters.
So, this week, I am going into things knowing full well that I will fail.
I will punk out on my workout because I’m busy/I woke up late/I just plain don’t want to.
I will choose the healthier meal option, then gorge myself on that option because hey, the ingredients are better.
I will do all sorts of weak and dumb and shady things to avoid treating my body more kindly — then I will pick myself, shake myself off and face my next choice with fresh determination.
And I will continue doing this, each choice new again, until a better trend starts to develop.
No more hand on the ripcord. No more easy ways out.
What circumstances make you run for the ripcord? How can you learn to stay put and keep trying?
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