You know what I’m talking about.
It’s that self-justification we use to rationalize intentional distractions when life doesn’t seem to be going our way. Whether we’re facing issues at work, problems in a relationship, a bad hair day, or uncooperative weather, we look for an excuse to make things better, if only for a little while.
And that’s when we turn to whatever personal form of escape does the trick — usually in the form of guilty pleasures.
Even the words — guilty pleasures — suggest clues about the good versus evil tug-of-war that eventually results in abandoning our discipline and resolve. And yet, we tell ourselves we deserve a break from our usual level of self-control, because we need to compensate or offset the negative, stressful, or demanding events of our lives.
But when does it become a line crossed too often?
When does the occasional pause from our normal degree of self-control become such a regular occurrence as to suggest we’re backsliding into old, unproductive, or even destructive habits and behaviors?
Lately, it seems we’ve all convinced ourselves we’re in great need of unlimited guilty pleasures to offset the stress and anxiety of the current negative situations and circumstances. We partake in that extra glass of wine, add dessert to every meal, and devour bad-for-us-but-hard-to-resist snacks hoping to sooth our reaction to the events unfolding around us.
And while food and drink are typically the first choice when it comes to compensating vices, there are plenty of others.
We push aside our goals, cancel appointments, ignore email, and delay or reschedule meetings in preference for binging on hypnotizing media feeds. And if it goes on long enough, some may even feel “entitled” to deliberately dodge responsibility and hard-won habits in deference to transitory diversions.
The common excuse?
Commitments to a healthy, productive, and happier life don’t matter anymore — because nothing matters anymore.
It may be a sign of the times, but it’s a dangerous mindset — and once it takes hold, it can grow like wildfire, leaving behind a trail of unfortunate results and consequences.
None of us are exempt from the problem
Thankfully, I can still recognize a wake-up call when it hits me on the head. Mine came in the form of poor sleep, reduced focus, a decline in strength and agility in my gym workouts, and a generally poor disposition replacing my usual positive mindset — all signals of misalignment.
It’s as if my usually positive internal self-talk had gone on vacation, and that inner voice I’d always counted on to guide me in the right direction had taken a sabbatical.
Something had to change — and quickly
But first, I needed to identify the source of the problem. Why did I feel like I needed an ever-growing number of unhealthy and unproductive diversions from my usually disciplined and focused lifestyle?
I already knew the answer.
In my case, giving in to unhealthy cravings had somehow become easy — even necessary. The siren song of sugar-laden sweets and gluten-packed food had seduced my better judgment.
I’d been deceiving myself into believing I could find satisfaction by filling my mouth instead of my mind — until the weight gain, irritability, stress, and anxiety finally became obvious. A custard-filled donut here, an extra glass of wine there, and uninterrupted binge sessions on Netflix had left my brain buzzing at the end of the night.
As a result, I had jeopardized my health.
Guilty pleasures? You bet.
And it was going to take a heavy and self-directed dose of tough love to reconnect with my commitment to a healthy diet and active lifestyle.
My first step was to remember why I’d made a decade-long commitment to becoming a healthier, happier human being. And after refreshing my mindset with reality-based thoughts and circumstances, I felt a stirring of inspiration — enough to redirect my behaviors on a positive course.
Admittedly, there is much work to be done.
But the choice is simple: I can continue to indulge in unhealthy behaviors, using temporary gratifications as an escape from the stress and challenges life is currently delivering. Or I can double-down on my determination to maintain the goals and outcomes I’ve chosen for myself.
Either way, I’ll have to live with the result.
And since my lapses in judgment will be much easier to correct now than later, I’ve decided to save myself a lot of future frustration and regret by returning to the behaviors and routines that had previously been instinctually-based habit.
I know the next time I’m faced with saying “no” to a temporary and unhealthy distraction will be difficult. But the second time won’t be nearly as hard — especially when I remind myself that in a month or two, I’ll again enjoy the satisfaction that comes from self-control, the first step in mastering our lives.
© 2020 Jill Reid. All Rights Reserved.
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Jill Reid is the founder of Pathway to Personal Growth and author of Real Life and Discover Your Personal Truth. Her books and articles explore life, happiness, relationships, health, and personal success strategies.