Updated: Nov 2, 2021
I've recently read that firsts make people feel hopeful and motivated - the first day of the week, first day of the month, or the beginning of a new season or chapter in your life. Anyone feeling extra motivated today?
Maybe not? Perhaps you're feeling tired from the weekend, or guilty/sluggish from too much Halloween candy. If that’s you today, it's more important than ever to stick to your healthy routines or rituals like your morning yoga practice or salad with lunch. As James Clear writes in Atomic Habits, it's ok to miss one day (ie. of exercising or eating healthy), but not two: "missing once is an accident. Missing twice is the start of a new habit" (1). Don't wait to feel perfectly motivated or energized to go for a run, or cook a healthy dinner - do it no matter how you’re feeling.
Waiting to be in the perfect state to accomplish something can lead to all-or-nothing thinking: “thinking that if you can’t do something perfectly, then you shouldn’t do it at all” (1). An example of this thought process: I ate too much candy on the weekend, my perfect day of healthy eating is ruined so I may as well just continue to eat candy today. Sound familiar? I see this thought process often with my clients, especially after weekends where there were parties or dinners out. Instead, admit you ate too much candy, you don’t feel your best, but quickly move on, and get back to your healthy ritual or routine. “This is a distinguishing factor between winners and losers. Anyone can have a bad performance, a bad workout or a bad day at work. But when successful people fail, they rebound quickly” (1).
Another topic Clear writes about is self-restraint. He argues that disciplined people don't have better self-control than others, they simply avoid tempting situations. Clear writes, "Our prototypical model of self-control is angel on one side and devil on the other, and they battle it out...We tend to think of people with strong willpower as people who are able to fight this battle effectively. Actually, the people who are really good at self-control never have these battles in the first place."
Think about this concept and your leftover Halloween candy. Instead of relying on your self-control or willpower (which also diminishes as the day goes on), simply avoid the temptation all together. Put the candy in a hard-to-reach area of your home that you don’t see daily (mine is now stuffed behind other items on my food shelf in the back storage room of our basement). Do it now, hide that candy!
Take this idea a step further and place fresh fruits and vegetables at eye level in your fridge. Now, the next time you’re hungry, the apples will be the first thing you see and will be your next snack vs. a Snickers or Peanut M&Ms (my faves). I love this concept because it can be applied to anything that tempts you - it's all about removing the temptation to avoid having to practice self-restraint.
One last motivating or inspiring thought to leave you with thanks to James Clear - for the rest of the day, every time you say, “I have to XYZ today,” replace the word “have” with “get.” For example, I “get” to take my son to power skating tonight vs. I “have” to take him. It’s amazing how changing one little word can create a big shift in attitude. Perhaps you'll find that you go into your daily tasks feeling a little more positive and grateful.
Need an idea for dinner tonight? On my lunch break I prepped my Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash. We’re having it with a pre-roasted PC Free From chicken that I added to my grocery order yesterday. I find having one aspect of the meal done (chicken cooked), or one part of the meal prepped (squash roasted, quinoa cooked) makes that dreaded dinner hour not so bad. Happy Cooking!
1. Clear, James. Atomic Habits. New York, Peguin Random House, 2018.