Sept 27: Forget Good vs Bad

Nearing the end of this round of Damn Focused Nights, and I have a question for you:

Do you feel there are 'good things' and 'bad things' you spend your time on?

Whether it's during your DFN time, or at other times throughout the day, do you feel good about some choices and guilty about others?

Guilt can be a truly debilitating feeling, that swells and grows and ultimately holds us back from where we want to go, and it's something alot of us struggle with.

Enter health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, and her book The Willpower Instinct.

In it, she offers a few simple and powerful ways to rethink our approaches to goal setting, and the good vs bad values we project onto our choices. 

According to her research, when we beat ourselves up inside for 'bad' choices like procrastinating, we are going about it all wrong.

Firstly, she says, berating yourself for being “bad,” is only more likely to keep you from acting in the way you actually want to act. Guilt is a stressor, firstly, and stress weakens your willpower.

Secondly, by labeling our behaviours as “good” or “bad,” we end up moralizing our choices.

“When you do something good, you feel good about yourself,” writes McGonigal. “This means you’re more likely to trust your impulses—which often means giving yourself permission to do something bad.”

 “If you tell yourself that you’re ‘good’ when you exercise and ‘bad’ when you don’t, then you’re more likely to skip the gym tomorrow if you work out today. Tell yourself you’re ‘good’ for working on an important project and ‘bad’ for procrastinating, and you’re more likely to slack off in the afternoon if you made progress in the morning.

Simply put: Whenever we have conflicting desires, being good gives us permission to be a little bit bad.”


What could we do instead?


Try this: forget good vs bad.

Any time you catch your inner voice judging a habit or behavior as 'bad', you actually increase the likelihood that you will repeat that behaviour again.

Let’s take away the ‘bad’ and cut out the guilt.

Focus instead on how committed you are to your goal, to the life you want. Remember your why behind it.

Ask this: Will _________ get me further, or closer to what I want?

This simple shift in mindset cuts right through the BS.

Suddenly the short term enjoyment of that Netflix binge--while still fun--loses a bit of it's sparkle. The temptations are still there, but they are a little less appealing.

We feel a certain shift in attitude away from the enjoyment of breaking the rules, and fully realize that no one is being fooled except ourselves. 

This shift has taken the joy out of being bad and replaces it with a centered knowledge that we are taking care of what is important to us, and are shaping our own futures. It's not about good or bad anymore, but it's about coming back to choices that align with our priorities.

And at the end of the day, choosing from a place of alignment and fulfillment is so much more satisfying and empowering than a temptation we feel guilt about later.

Keep this question with you tonight, tomorrow, and try it when you bump up against choices you usually feel are good/bad or would cause you guilt.

See what kind of impact it has on your choices.


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Jessa Alston-O'ConnorComment