Stick With It (Even Though its Christmas)
"I've saved so much this year and paid off some of my debt. I wanted to keep that up through Christmas but Mom would love that painting...it's just this once."
"I know I've been eating so well and losing weight, but it's a holiday party and those desserts look excellent...it's just this once."
"I said I wouldn't spend money on myself this Christmas, but these are such good sales. Just this once, I'll buy myself a present."
So many of us find ourselves making statements like this to ourselves during the holiday season. We know our goals and we're usually faithful to them, but we give ourselves special leeway over the holidays. Unfortunately, these decisions can come back to haunt us later. Too many holiday desserts and we've undone the weight loss we achieved over the rest of the year. Too many extravagant gifts or presents for ourselves and we find our credit card debt up and our financial work undone. if the problem gets too bad over the holidays, we also lose motivation for continuing in our discipline for the rest of the year. What's the point, if we're going to ruin it all in a month?
The problem is that this season is special. We see it everywhere we go and we experience it when we make plans that are outside our normal routines and see people we don't usually see. Because we see its specialness, though, we have trouble bringing our everyday habits (even if they're deeply ingrained) into this time. Our usual routines support our habits, but this season is extraordinary and so our habits go unsupported. Since we need that support to continue in habits that require discipline, we tend to let those slide during the holidays.
Instead of depending on our normal routines to ingrain our habits enough that they carry through this season, we should develop new routines. These should support our habits even when some of our other routines disappear. One good routine is to have a set of questions we ask ourselves whenever we feel tempted or whenever we hear the words "just this once" float through our minds. Each of us will have questions that motivate us or help us reach our goals, but the ones listed below have helped many people
- Is it really just this once? If I let myself do it once, will I feel like I can do it whenever I want? Will "just this once" break my habit entirely?
- If I look back on this in a month or two, what will I think of my decision to break my habit?
- If I had known this was coming, would I have planned to do it or to avoid it?
- How will I feel about myself if I break this habit, even if I really only do it once?
- How much does this decision influence my ultimate goals?
- Is this really an either/or situation? Is there any way I can do something special and still maintain my good habit?
After you choose the questions that work for you, you'll want to incorporate them into your standard routine. Start by noticing what tempts you. What do you want to do, just once, just because it's almost Christmas and this season is special? The human mind works in such a way that thinking about a situation ahead of time will help us notice when it actually arrives. Because we can have the justifying "just this once" conversations and not even notice it, it's important that we prepare ourselves to notice.
When you do notice yourself being tempted, make sure to ask yourself the appointed questions. If you're afraid you won't remember them, write them down and take a trip to the bathroom when you're tempted. Pull out your note and ask away. If you can keep them in your head, take a little walk and think for a minute when you want something "just this once."
Asking the questions makes us stop and think, and thinking about a decision before we make it is often the difference between a good habit that is upheld and one that is broken. We CAN continue to have good habits during the holidays, and with a plan like this, we WILL.