There are a couple of scenarios playing out in my life right now:
- There is currently a box full of peanut butter meltaways in the kitchen at work. All of my coworkers are eating them and raving about how good they are.
- I have to interact with a girl on a regular basis whom I cannot stand. She is rude, difficult, stubborn, fake, and disrespectful. She just made the most off-base and down-right ignorant comment I have ever heard. My instinct is to tell her how I really feel about her, call her out on all of her faults, and make her feel one inch tall, like she tries to make me feel (although it never works, FYI).
- My brain is on information overload and I’m contemplating skipping the books tonight, and cramming tomorrow instead. There is a pile of work on my desk that could wait until tomorrow as well. Hmmmm.
We are all faced with scenarios like this every day, aren’t we? We cannot always control what outside forces will affect us, but we can control how we react, which in turn determines our future circumstances. I don’t know about you, but some days I feel much more capable of responding to life’s temptations than others. How much I sleep, the weather, my workload, and the status of my relationships all play a role in the decisions I make on a daily basis. Some days I feel like my self-control has abandoned me and I just don’t have the willpower to make the decisions that support my long-term goals. The problem is when I have days like these and I make bad decisions, whether it’s eating poorly, engaging in gossip, or failing to knock off items on my to-do list, I have a hard time recovering and often take days, sometimes weeks, to get back on track. These phases set me back and are detrimental to my goals.
As a part of my journey in personal development, I’m constantly looking for tactics to help me in these weak moments, or at least to help me recover better from them. I read something recently that has been really effective and I want to share. In Baron Baptiste’s Journey Into Power, he writes that when it’s time to make a decision he asks himself, “What will this cause in me?”. Wow. When I read that sentence it was like a light bulb went off in my head. I’ve been asking myself that question every day, multiple times a day, ever since.
- If I eat the PB meltaways, WHAT WILL THIS CAUSE IN ME? stomach discomfort, guilt, sugar high, lack of energy, more bingeing.
- If I tell this girl off, WHAT WILL THIS CAUSE IN ME? guilt, negativity, bad energy.
- If I put all of my work off until tomorrow, WHAT WILL THIS CAUSE IN ME? more guilt, stress and anxiety, an increased workload, less sleep, less energy.
- If I eat my grilled chicken salad instead, WHAT WILL THIS CAUSE IN ME? satiety, energy, pride, clarity
- If I continue to show compassion to this girl instead of responding out of revenge, WHAT WILL THIS CAUSE IN ME? positive energy, pride, understanding, more sense of self-control
- If I do my work now, WHAT WILL THIS CAUSE IN ME? sense of accomplishment, relief, more free time to sleep or partake in hobbies without guilt
When you look at the consequences of both reactions, it’s easy to know which path to take. I’ll give you another quick example of how this has worked in my favor recently. A few weeks ago I ordered a box of chocolate from a fundraiser. The chocolates were delivered yesterday. As I looked at them on my desk I remembered last year when I ordered from the same fundraiser, I ate an entire sleeve of cookies in one sitting, felt completely gross, and cancelled all my plans that evening because I felt so sick, dizzy, and lethargic. As I opened the wrapper yesterday I stopped and asked myself, “what will this cause in me?” and I really thought about the consequences of having, “just one” (which never works for me). I carried the box into the break room and left it there for my coworkers to enjoy.
Last night after I left the office, I trained FOUR clients, ran my dogs, packed my food and clothes for today, finished my house chores, knocked off a yoga teacher training assignment, and got to sleep by 9 p.m. Had I eaten that box of candy, I can guarantee you I wouldn’t have done half of that. I probably would have canceled my clients and spent my evening on the couch watching tv.
The next time you’re faced with a decision, even something as small as eating a piece of your co-worker’s birthday cake, ask yourself, “what will this cause in me?”. If you are someone who can stop yourself after one piece and not suffer from sugar crashes and intense sugar cravings, by all means, EAT THE CAKE. But, if you know the decision you are about to make will have negative consequences, take a moment to consider what those consequences will cause in you before acting. I hope this tactic can be as effective for you as it has been for me!
Q: What tactics do you use to keep you from making bad decisions throughout the day?