Do you allow the most exhausted, tired, fed up version of yourself to make key day-to-day choices about how you live your life?
I did—for a long time.
What happens when you live that way is you end up feeling a lot better—in the moment. Over many, many different moments. This is natural and normal. It’s so very human to want to do something that makes you feel better immediately. (To be clear, I’m not judging you if you do this; I understand it all too well). Unfortunately, all those moments add up over time, and the result usually isn’t what you really wanted at all: Your actual, big-picture life doesn’t go very well, in multiple ways.
What does your most exhausted, stressed, or sad self tend to choose in the moment?
Fast-food takeout instead of a healthier homemade meal.
Quick and easy, fatty, salty, or sugary snacks from the cabinet instead of better, fresher choices from the refrigerator.
Stopping at the coffee shop for a sugary coffee and muffin instead of having a real breakfast, even just a smoothie.
Ice cream as comfort when you’re feeling down instead of really examining and acknowledging—and starting to heal—whatever it is that makes you feel so sad, disappointed, hurt, or frustrated.
Planning an exotic vacation you can’t really afford, because you’re desperate to escape from your life and need something to look forward to instead of making changes to your life that will make you feel more like living it and less like running away. (I’m not against vacations—it’s important to take breaks—but I’m someone who has spent way too much money traveling just because I wanted or needed to get away from my home life.)
Buying a bunch of new clothes as a pick-me-up instead of finally working on that creative project you’ve talked about doing for years.
Zoning out watching Netflix for hours instead of picking up that book that’s been sitting on your coffee table. (You know you’d love it if you started reading it, but it’s just so much easier to turn your brain off instead.)
Going to the gym tomorrow instead of today.
Surfing the Internet reading things that don’t really make a difference to your life instead of finally going through that pile of receipts or overdue bills.
Complaining to whomever will listen instead of getting yourself a journal, writing down what’s troubling you about your life, and making a plan for how to change it.
Can you see where I’m going with this?
And where do these “easy” or comforting choices, made in the moment, lead us?
Weight gain, high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, low energy, general ill health—from fatty, sugary, salty convenience or fast food snacks.
Depleted finances, debt, and loss of financial freedom—from ordering lots of takeout and dining out, going on trips to escape, shopping to feel better, putting off organizing of finances.
Lower energy, decreased health, and vitality, difficulty managing stress—from skipping exercise, eating foods that sabotage health and energy.
Decreased joy, creativity, growth, and stimulation—from watching or reading mindless things the majority of the time, not trying or learning anything new.
Now, if you look at the examples of “better” choices (the “instead of” items) in my first list at the top, what would the results in your life be if you regularly made some of those choices, instead?
The key is to learn to evaluate a choice, in the very moment that you’re going to make it. Be honest with yourself.
Will the choice that you are about to make give you good results over the long term?
Will it take you where you want yourself and your life to go?
Does it get you going in a good direction? Or will you regret it later and wish you hadn’t done it?
What are the choices that you regularly make in your life, that steal your future life from you?
A lot of these “in the moment” choices that we make, that ultimately hurt us, are unconscious habits. Feel bad, and then reach for the bag of cookies. It becomes almost automatic.
Bringing in awareness can change everything and help you to make much better decisions. Once you become aware of the reason why you’re motivated to make a bad decision (you’re tired, you’re stressed, you’re sad, etc.) it becomes more of a conscious choice than an automatic habit or reaction. As you’re more aware of the negative choices you make, in the moment (before you make the choice) you can ask yourself what the result of that choice will be down the road.
For example, I know that when I make better food choices (for me that means avoiding desserts and sweet snacks and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables) my skin looks dramatically better. If I slip back into my sugary habits, I break out and my skin looks more worn and tired. That’s just one simple example, and vanity has helped me a lot in making better choices (if it works as a motivator, why not use it?).
What would you like to have more of in your life? Money? Health? Energy? Fitness? Would you like to feel better? Look better?
What are the ways you sabotage yourself? When are you most likely to make bad decisions? Developing awareness of the latter is also really important, as it will help you be aware of when you’re most vulnerable.
What are some better decisions that you could make, that would be more likely to move you toward the life you want to live? You don’t have to make giant changes to experience measurable improvement.
For example, when I am stressed, eating makes me feel better. Though I’ve largely healed that habit I’ll still do it, if I’m legitimately hungry. What I can do is make better choices about what I eat and what I choose to do in those moments. It used to be that I would park myself in front of Netflix with a huge slab of carrot cake to comfort myself. Once the cake was all gone, I’d wish I hadn’t eaten it (of course). Can you relate?
These days I’m more likely to park myself in front of the screen and enjoy some juicy wedges of a big orange, or a crisp sweet apple. It still feels comforting, minus the guilt and future regret. I also try not to let myself to get too hungry, as when I’m starving I’m most likely to make worse choices.
Try to get in the habit of making in-the-moment choices that will lead to a better future.
Once choice at a time, you’ll live yourself into the you that you want to become, and the life you want to have.
When we’re stressed out, our minds seek to feel “good” as a substitute for feeling safe. So the ice cream wins out over the vegetables every time! And yet, when we take better care of ourselves, we tend to be less stressed. Making self-care a priority, taking time to relax and calm down, limiting caffeine and alcohol, and redefining the beliefs that are causing the stress can all work wonders.
It’s really hard to make good choices when you’re vulnerable. These times you don’t care about almost anything. You just don’t think. You’re cranky and rebellious like a kid so you tend to do the opposite.