Oftentimes we find ourselves able to make real and lasting change if we eliminate choice. Stop considering it optional to work out every morning, for example. Take away the choice of getting takeout food if aiming to eat healthier and more frugally. Don’t go shopping for anything but necessities. Eliminating choice is a powerful tool in our arsenal for positive change.
I’m one of those people who can’t do things in moderation (except for alcohol; half a glass of wine is plenty). I can’t eat just one cookie or watch only one episode of Fixer Upper. Nope, gimme eight cookies and marathon sessions on Netflix. Hence, for me, it’s best to take choice out or the picture when it comes to habits I desire to change. Otherwise, I take a mile when I intended to stop at an inch.
In the quest for better health, I’ve found some success by going cold turkey on certain weaknesses. Giving up candy altogether, even for just a month or two, is much easier for me than allowing myself, say, one small piece of chocolate per day. It eliminates the bad choice entirely. Though some can do moderation, that little taste of sweetness is just a gateway for me, leading to overindulgence, shame, and disappointment.
We all know die-hard exercise fans who never miss a day. I used to be one of them! Boy, I miss that. My current phase of life doesn’t lend itself to that level of workout commitment, but I hope that will change as the kids grow. (If my knee ever gets better, that’d be helpful, too.) One of the best strategies for exercise success is commitment to a regular schedule. How do you commit? Take the choice off the table. Conversely, a great way to not follow through is to say, “I’ll do it if I have time.” Whatever workout schedule you determine, you stick to it and don’t stray except due to injury.
Mr. COD and I are striving to get more connected to our local church and therefore, the people within that church. We had missed that deep sense of community at our old church, and we knew that was largely because we weren’t involved in a small group. I love being a part of a small Bible study group, but we allowed parenthood and everyday distractions to derail us from that particular goal.
As we prepared for our move to Kentucky, we knew we’d need to work harder at building friendships, so that’s been a top goal here. We’ve been with the same church since we arrived here, and last month we started up with a small group. The same old excuses pop into our minds occasionally (we’re too tired from the long day, the kids are misbehaving, we don’t feel up to being social, etc.). However, Mr. COD reminded me this week that we must not think of this group as optional. Take away the choice to not go, and make a commitment to go every week, without fail.
Every time we go, we get to know our little group of people a bit more, and we get into the Bible. The childcare situation is taken care of, as a woman from the church comes to watch all the kids each week for a small fee. It matters to us and is always something we’re glad we did, no matter how frustrating the day may have been. We’re retraining our brains to make that community group a set event every week, and it’s great.
Here are some common changes we may want to make and the choices we often allow ourselves:
- To exercise…or to skip exercising
- To eat the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables each day…or to fill up mainly on junk
- To eat out on workdays…or to bring lunch from home
- To get up the first time the alarm sounds…or to hit “snooze” fifteen times
- To waste time on social media…or find anything else to do
- To yell at our kids…or not
- To complain…or look for the good
Man, I’m guilty of making every single one of these bad choices! It’s so disappointing when you realize how little self-control you have. But I need to believe that I can change these bad habits for good! Eliminate the choice to do the thing I don’t want to do: that’s one of my strategies. As Mrs. Frugalwoods often explains, putting frugality on autopilot is a key to their frugal lifestyle. Just as the FW family eliminated the choice to spend extravagantly, so we can all eliminate the choices we don’t want to make.
This means that perhaps the true challenge of creating lasting change isn’t in the process. It’s in the decision to get rid of the choices we don’t want to make.
So, what changes are you all working towards this fall? Let’s cheer each other on!