Does anyone remember in July when I confidently announced that I had set a goal not to eat out for the entire month? No? Well, that makes sense because that goal was wildly unsuccessful and, naturally, I never spoke of it again. And why was it unsuccessful? Because let me tell you, y’all.. What I needed to do was add something.
What Do You Mean “Add Something”?
I know. It sounds simple but vague at the same time. Let me explain.
What you probably do remember is when I made my goal to walk for 30 minutes a day for 30 days straight. I wrote this post about it. It was so successful that I extended it to 100 days and, while I’m not posting about it, I am walking consistently for my mental and physical health.
So why couldn’t I abstain from eating out for a month for my physical and financial health?
It’s just that. “Abstain”. I was trying not to do something which is so much harder than trying to do something. And why is that?
Ugh, willpower. What an unpleasant, complicated concept. It makes me think of 90s diet culture and mean girls who will jump at any opportunity to tell you that they are better than you because they have willpower, they know how to deprive themselves. Come on. We all had that “friend” at some point in our lives…
On the flip side, willpower also makes me think about all those mid-200s think pieces about how willpower is a finite resource. How ego depletion is all too real and if we force ourselves to be “good” for too long, we’ll just snap and swing too far in the other direction, wildly indulging all our short-term impulses.
Recently, there has been some discussion debunking the ego depletion theory. This discussion suggests, instead, that we are exhausted by tasks that do not interest us and we should use our lack of willpower as a decision making-tool.
Personally, I kind of feel like all of the discussion around willpower can be toxic, regardless of the approach you take. If you’re not careful, I mean. In July, every time I had to pick up a meal because I hadn’t thought I’d be out for dinner and didn’t think to bring food (or even simply chose to order food while out for drinks with friends), I beat myself up a bit. For not having any willpower, for not being able to stick to my goal.
And That’s Where “Add Something” Comes In
So, we can’t rely on “willpower” to just not do something. It may or may not exist and, either way, every time you “give in”, you’re going to be hard on yourself. Because we are. Hard on ourselves, I mean, when we feel like we aren’t working towards our goals. After all, this goal is something we have identified as something we want. Something we feel like will be good for us.
Instead, give yourself something to do. Add something. Something you can strive towards and actually achieve. Like instead of saying “I will stop drinking pop”, saying “I will drink 3 litres of water a day”… how much room are you going to have for pop after drinking all that water?
Or another example – my “no eating out” goal. I might have been more successful if I had said “I want to try a new recipe every week this month” or “I want to hang out with my friends in parks instead of restaurants” or “I want to create a homemade version of (my favourite snack)” or “I want to create a really great stash of backup options in my office/car”. And so on – all I needed to do was determine why exactly I didn’t want to eat out, what exactly was getting in my way in July, and which exactly of these little additions was going to work for me.
Even once I explain it, I think the idea of “Add Something” sounds very simple. But it works for me. I used to describe myself on dating profiles as “relentlessly positive” and… yeah. That’s what this is all about. I would much rather add something to my day and feel enriched than simply take something away and miss it.
So, along those lines… this November, I want to spend less money outside of my house. So instead of going to restaurants to write during NaNoWriMo, I want to try writing in one new coffee shop a week. That isn’t going to leave me a lot of time for restaurants… money saved!
What new thing do you want to add this month?