2021 Decisions: Success or Failure
The Covid-19 quarantined lifestyle has had its challenges! I have been proactive in areas such as cleaning and organizing, spending time with loved ones, and learning to play online Mahjong. However, I have slipped into some comfort- zone patterns of behavior that are not serving me well, and it is these activities I would like to address.
Behaviors are driven by the decisions we make, and decisions determine our successes and failures. There are big decision categories such as what type of person we marry, will I develop my spiritual life, or what vocation will I pursue. Then there are daily categories: will I eat healthy foods; will I exercise; will I foster and develop strong friendships; will I monitor what goes into my mind. How we answer these questions will guide our decisions and our decisions will drive our successes, failures, and future.
The decision is the seat of power and the place where Christ awaits to give us strength when we are weak (2 Corinthians 12:9). Utilizing our freedom to make good decisions is key to living a satisfying life. Are you conscious of the decisions you make each day? The purpose of making decisions is to drive preferred goals and to secure positive outcomes. What are you choosing? Are you accepting ownership of yourself and making choices to live your best life?
Let’s try this exercise. Name a personal target area for growth or area of behavior you want to change in 2021. Now, name two people you know who are succeeding in this area and name two who are failing. If you study each person, you will see common actions each are taking, or not taking, resulting in a positive or negative result.
The rut of behaviors I find myself in because of quarantine is watching too much TV and eating too many snacks…while watching TV. During the day I eat in a healthy manner and exercise regularly. In the evening, I give myself permission to eat a treat. To me, TV and treats represents the finish of a busy day and a respite from the pressure to perform. This is not a bad thing if handled properly. My problem arises in the amount of time I watch TV. During the shutdowns, my screen watching has increased dramatically, and so have the amount of treats I consume.
What is your challenge? What area do you wish to change? Do you drink more than you would like? What about excessive shopping online? Have you stopped initiating activities to build friendships, grow your mind, create something, serve or mentor others? Do you need to learn a new skill, study your Bible more, or clean out your closets?
Give serious thought to an area you would like to change. Begin to observe your thought patterns associated with your challenge. What rituals will you put into place to help you avoid slipping back into the same bad habits?
I rate my behaviors on a scale from 1 to 10. Wanting to watch TV and eat snacks is an 8 for me. This is high. But I also know the cost of my unsupervised behaviors will cause me to waste time, gain weight, and lose sleep. I need to actively come up with ideas I can use to substitute my actions. I must find tools to put in my toolbox I can use the next time I want to sit on the couch and binge.
When I look introspectively, I realize I enjoy rest time and pleasurable snacks. Knowing this about myself, I can take steps to determine other ways to meet these same needs, which will also accomplish my goal to remain healthy.
These are the three alternative behaviors I have chosen when I want to watch TV:
Turn the TV off and leave the media room at a pre-determined time.
Choose two nights a week to forgo watching TV and work on a creative project instead.
Cultivate a habit of writing in a journal at the end of each day, which requires cutting TV time off at a reasonable hour.
Here are my three alternative behaviors for snacking too much in the evening:
Plan to drink decaf tea after enjoying one treat. The tea represents a soft finish and fills the stomach.
Sit on the floor and do sit-ups, or some form of exercise, as a distraction and to create new energy.
Embrace the discomfort of saying no to overeating. (This is a big one because you are allowing yourself to be uncomfortable. Change can cause discomfort, which is often why we resist it. Ask God to make Himself strong on your behalf and to combat the desire to eat. Over time, the neurological wiring in the brain will alter and the uncomfortable urges will dissipate. Celebrate the discomfort knowing that you are experiencing your body making a positive shift.)
Fill your toolbox when you are not in the middle of your challenging activity if you want to experience success. This way, when temptation arises, you are prepared. Without a pre-planned roadmap, the pressure becomes too strong, and you will slip back into the never-ending cycle of repeat failure. If you need extra support, rally a friend, spouse, or professional counselor to encourage you. Help can come in many forms, and our likelihood of success is greater when we are in the presence of people that care for us.
Cheers to you and to making decisions that will drive you to experience a happy and healthy 2021!
Patti Hatton, MA, LPC