A lot of people have mentioned that it is harder this time around.

"The romance has worn off..."
"It's harder to get to bed on time..."
"Last month I found it easier to plow through, but now I find I am wanting to stay up later."

When the the initial excitement wears off, we will have to rely on our operating system: when X happens / I say and do Y / because, Z. For example: when I get offered a doughnut I say hell yes, because I'm an adult and I feel like it, kthanks.  

Sometimes if we are focusing on what we want to do, we don't take the time necessary to plan out a clear directive on how we will respond to the things we don't want to do. But we need to protect ourselves against the things we may only "want" or "feel like" doing in the moment during a lapse of judgement. Maybe you're coming down off a cup of coffee, maybe you just had a tough relationship talk - you're absent minded and low on willpower, those are the moments where you need to have a go-to answer you can pull out in your sleep.

What's Your External Operating System?

Say It's 7:00PM, and you're excited by the feeling of waking up and getting back in your routine: meditating, reading, going to the gym, a great cup of coffee.

Then a friend calls, last minute, and asks: "Hey, you want to come hang out for one drink and catch up?"

If you don't have your answer prepared, you'd probably think about it and say "I'd kinda be a bad friend if I didn't..."

Then that hanging guilt you are feeling, which will not go away until you say yes, has fully clouded the potential future positive feelings from tomorrow. You start thinking.. Feeling good in the morning is by no means guaranteed anyway.. so why force it and bother. Hang with your friend, invest in the relationship and maybe you can even sneak out after just one drink! You would be a hero if you pull both off. Then try again tomorrow?

It all seems to make a lot of sense.

But it is actually all illogical and irrational. Because it's built on a flawed first assumption: that you need to feel guilty when a friend, last minute, reaches out and asks if you're free. In no world should we feel guilty if someone asks us to do something on the spot, with no prior commitment, and we have made plans. (Yes, making plans with yourself, for yourself is still plans!) 

You can change the entire outcome with two things: 

  1. A clear response that will be there to protect the clear choice you've already made (for example, to be in bed by 9pm): "Sorry I can't this evening because I have a meeting in the morning"
    1. I've found this to be incredibly effective: Meetings are running/ruining all of our lives. They give us an illusion of being official, and so they go unquestioned. Use that to your advantage. Saying you have a meeting is also doubly ambiguous (who with and what for) so people usually don't pry, knowing that they would have to ask more than one 'innocent' question to know enough about it in their snooping efforts to use it against you.
  2. You're a good friend - you're allowed to offer another solution. 
    1. This is not about a life of repression. It's about living a life of re-prioritization.

 

Where it Starts: Your Internal Operating System

For me, I changed my operating system recently around eating cookies. I loved them. All kinds. I became a connoisseur. It had been a habitual behaviour that literally lasted for years (since high-school). But I dropped it all within a week - and it wasn't painful. And it wasn't a struggle:

I told myself that "I don't order cookies. And if I needed more, it was because I'm committed to doing ketosis, and because I feel like garbage when I let my glycogen levels swing" - damn has it been effective. It gave me:

  • A super clear directive on what I do / do not do
  • A reason for that decision 
  • An emotional reminder about how not acting on the directive makes me feel (this neutralizes seeking short term gratification) 

Saying I "shouldn't" order cookies two major flaws:

  1. It leaves the door wide open for complexity: because "should" invites analysis, and allows us to weasel our way into the irrational logic that we saw in the earlier example.
  2.  It's not tied at all into a decisive positive action to protect what you actually want.

So below, pick a problem you're having. Then choose a decisive response, why you will/will not do that and an emotional guard rail that confirms your choice. Pick one, try it and report back to the group.

Try This: Re-Write a Piece of Your Operating System

Take a minute to fill this out just below, and rehearse it in your mind - it could make an enormous difference in how you approach a situation that comes up often.

-Photo Credit: Julian Deschutter

Name *
Name
Where do you want to make a change?
Make it a decisive action:
Why do you act decisively like this?
Good or bad, what will nailing it or straying cause you to feel?
I want more of this: