It’s hard to be disciplined all the time.
It’s hard to be self-motivated.
It’s even harder to stay the course when you are surrounded by temptation.
Here’s my advice: Don’t try to be perfect all the time.
Adopt the philosophy of “more times than not.”
What does “more times than not” even mean? Basically, it means fairly frequently, or more than or at least half the time. How does this differ from “often?” Merriam-Webster explains that “often” means roughly 50-60% of the time, whereas “more often than not” means 75-95% of the time, and is closer in meaning to “almost always.”
Yup. I know. You’re eye-rolling me right now. It sounds like semantics, but it is much more. Trust me, it works. You need a simple, yet easily rememberable and repeatable catch phrase. This is the perfect mantra to adopt when you are trying to make any change. If you recognize you have a behavior you no longer wish to display, and simply decide that you are NEVER again going to do said behavior, you are setting yourself up for failure. Although the cold-turkey method works for some, the vast majority of people benefit from small changes over time. The brain has a reward center that needs to have “wins.” To make sure it is activated, you must set achievable and realistic goals.
“More times than not, I have folded my laundry AND immediately put it away.”
“More times than not, I have cooked dinner after grocery shopping and NOT ordered pizza.”
“More times than not, I have filled up my gas tank BEFORE the gas light comes on.”
When assessing the largest change I need to make in my life, it is the addiction to my phone. I need to “more times than not” do anything else BESIDES use my phone. Anna Gragert provides a more specific example that resonates with phone-obsessed people.
Take a moment to think about how much technology influences your life. How often do you reach for your phone? Are you ever woken up by your phone’s pings and vibrations? Is your computer always on?
For a long time, I would wake up and reach for my phone or computer. I would anxiously check my messages before I had even washed my face or brushed my teeth. Technology prevents us from living in the moment, in the here and now. It prevents us from taking care of ourselves first, especially if you are programmed to instantly respond to the sound of a phone call or text message.
Before I go to bed, I turn my laptop off and put my phone on silent (I am working up to putting it on airplane mode). If I wake up in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep, I avoid all scrolling through social media or checking email. Instead, I will listen to a talk down meditation.
In the morning, I wake up and I make myself do whatever else I need to do to feel ready to face the day BEFORE checking my phone.
Yes, it is hard at first. Yes, avoiding my phone does make me uneasy sometimes. But, practice makes perfect. The “more times than not” we practice our good actions, the more likely we are to create a new, sustainable, positive behavior.
(Crystal Reynolds is an owner of 43 Degrees North Athletic Club.)