I had a friend years ago that would continuously beat herself up for decisions she willingly, consciously (okay, maybe sometimes they weren’t totally conscious) made, to “live it up and cut loose.” It got to the point where I’d ask her before she made these decisions, “okay, have at it, but are you going to be able to look at this with no regrets come Monday? If so, rock it. If not, perhaps it’s not the right decision for you.”
To that very point: this weekend, and any and every other weekend or weekday for that matter, I want to give you permission to say yes or no to whatever presents itself to you with free reign, using two gut check rules first:
- Will I feel good about this tomorrow?
- Will this opportunity present itself to me again or is this a “once in a lifetime?”
Now, once you’ve asked yourself question 1, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do something just because you realize that you won’t feel good about it tomorrow. Case in point, I drank a bottle of champagne on my birthday chased with Fireball whisky knowing full well I would NOT feel good about it the next day. However, asking ourselves this first question allows us to begin changing our habits by becoming cognizant of our behavior. And, over time, realizing what is and is not working for us.
Far too often we just “do” or “act” out of habit. It’s St. Paddy’s Day so I’m going to go get wasted and chase it down with a Panini and a cupcake (or wait, is that just my old patterns?) because it’s what we’ve always done. But here’s the thing, most of us don’t want to just be who we’ve always been. We’ve got goals, dreams, things we want to change and kick ass at. And, let me tell you what I know, if you do what you’ve always done you will BE who you’ve always been, seeing the results (or lack thereof) you have always had (or not had).
As for question 2, ask yourself this question when evaluating the decision, options, choices, etc. in front of you after asking yourself question 1, and here’s why: very often we look at an indulgence or an opportunity to overdo it with our “everyone is doing it” blinders on. When we think or feel that “everyone else is doing this, I should be allowed to, too,” we’re not really acting in accordance with our own wants and needs. Again, we are acting habitually and without being totally present.A great gal pal and I sat down for coffee a few months ago and she was explaining to me how she felt she had finally gotten her relationship with food under control and had found some thinking patterns that helped her. One of them resonated with me so loudly and has become a piece of advice I pass on to others, she said: “I tell myself that the food isn’t ‘calling to me,’ I’m consciously making the choice to go to it. When I realize that, I realize I have the power and it takes the power away from whatever thing it was I wanted to unnecessarily consume.”
Now you can switch out “food” with just about any other vice, but the point is, when you realize you have the power to choose, it’s just that: powerful. And that's what you become: more empowered. No longer do you just have to act the way you have in the past or “cave” to some impulse. However, there’s a part two, to this point: when you ask yourself whether or not the opportunity or indulgence in front of you is a “once in a lifetime” or, if it’s something that will be around again, it makes you realize you don’t always need to give in to whatever urge you are feeling.Let me give you another real life example. I came home last night after working a jam packed 18 hour day. I was ravenous. But it was also midnight and I know how counterproductive to my overall goals, chowing down at that hour would be. I walked in the house resolved that I wasn’t going to eat at that hour. And then… there they were: two golden, chocolate chip cookies plump with great, big chocolate chunks gazing longingly at me from the kitchen counter. Almost immediately I went to tear open that Ziploc baggy like a rabid animal. But, somewhere in the recesses of my brain, I remembered a little mantra I use sometimes when I’m lacking discipline: “will (insert indulgence here: chocolate chip cookies in this case) be around tomorrow? Will I have the opportunity in this lifetime to enjoy them again?”
When I deploy this little trick it reminds me that all the tasty treats and vices I crave so dearly, are not just going to up and vanish and never be available to me again. Once again, this allows me to take power of the situation. Basically the thought goes like this: “hey Shelley! Donuts are still in fact, going to be around for the next 50 years, don’t sweat it, you’ll get to have one at some point!”
Realizing whatever it is that you want at that moment isn’t going to vanish from the face of the earth forever, it makes you much more aware and you can actually decide whether it’s really a time you want to indulge that craving or if you’re in full throttle impulse/reactive mode.
All this said, I have been a hedonist almost all of my life. I do what I want to (for the most part), when I want to, with whom I want to. And I can honestly say, I haven’t really ever felt bad about that. It’s my life, I’m living it the way I want to and that works for me. Sometimes I haven’t loved all the decisions I’ve made, but hey they’re mine and I willingly made them. So, I am mighty fine with chalking it up and moving on.
However, as I work with more and more people, what I’m coming to realize is that the “going off the rails and doing whatever I want” types of weekends/moments, are not something very many of us can live with guilt free. And actually, most people feel like shit the very next day (whether physically, emotionally or worst of all, on both fronts) and wish they hadn’t gone as far as they had in their revelry.
So, if you happen to be one of these folks, I will leave you with this: ask yourself those two questions this weekend when setting your parameters for your debauchery. Once you’ve made conscious choices (versus operating on autopilot), then I say go for it – whether that’s falling face first in to Irish Car Bombs and corned beef all day or treating yourself to a hike outdoors and an early bed time.