How often do you believe yourself when you commit to "starting tomorrow"? How many times have you bought into the myth that in the future, you will be more motivated and make better choices? How often do you find yourself in the same place week after week?
It's tempting to invest in the story we will be different and better tomorrow. We promise to be more motivated and focused, less pressed for time or stressed out tomorrow. In fact, believing tomorrow will be a fresh start gives a false sense of security and allows us to actually justify putting off changes.
The person you are today is a result of yesterday's actions, thoughts and feelings. If you don't invest in yourself today, why will tomorrow be any different?
Let's take a look at what happened with my client Natalie. She decided yesterday to start fresh "tomorrow."
After yesterday's disappointing debacle of overeating, procrastinating at work and hiding from the world all evening with Netflix and a few glasses of wine, Natalie woke up feeling less than well-rested but determined to make changes TODAY.
"OK, I hit snooze a few times more than I wanted but had a green juice, got to work on time and signed up for my favorite spin class."
"I'm even going to cancel my plans for tonight so I won’t be tempted!"
Now it's 3 p.m.
"Ugh–I feel like crap. I'm hungry and bored. Why do I feel even worse today than I did yesterday? Why is this so hard? Maybe I don't really care so much and it doesn't even matter. Nothing is going to change anyway."
Then Natalie was reminded about the after work drinks—a farewell send off to that guy in the art department she barely knows.
"I don't want to go, everyone will be eating and drinking crappy bar food. But I have to go or it will look bad. I'll just have some sparkling water, stay for an hour and go home."
Several hours and two glasses of wine later…
"I'm so hungry, I'll just have a few fries. OMG, I just ate that entire bowl of nuts. Oh screw it. I don't care. I deserve to enjoy myself."
The next morning standing in front of her closet trying to find something to wear AGAIN, Natalie just wanted to go back to bed. She thought about starting over again today but, honestly, knows herself too well. Natalie is disappointed, discouraged and totally unmotivated.
The workday ahead feels unmanageable; she's definitely not going to call that client today, workout or respond to the friend who wants to get together. Natalie continuously makes promises to herself and rarely keeps them.
She promises to look for a new job but doesn't update her resume, she vows to go to bed early yet watches TV until 1 a.m., she commits to a budget and goes overboard online shopping. Again and again and again...
Sure, not one of those is a life-changing, deal-breaker decision on its own, but they pile up day after day until Natalie has stack of broken promises to herself that's so high she can't even trust herself to skip the cocktails one night, let alone have that great life she really wants.
The good news is Natalie has a choice. We all have a choice—every day.
But nothing is going to change if you keep thinking and doing things the same way day after day with the promise of future change. Here are four ways to change the pattern, starting right now.
1. Do the most challenging things in the earlier part of the day.
The person who commits to a 7:30 p.m. spin class upon waking up is not the same person who decides whether to actually go at 7 p.m. As you go through the day's tasks, challenges and stresses you get depleted physically and mentally.
2. Don't overdo it today with the caveat that you won't tomorrow.
Indulging today and justifying it by declaring you'll do things differently tomorrow is a bad strategy. We convince ourselves it's fine to overeat, skip a workout or put off an important task today by promising tomorrow will be different. Practice moderation today and give yourself a better shot at making good choices tomorrow.
3. Be honest with yourself.
Are you really going to be able to go out and have just one glass of wine or get up on time to work out if you stay up until 1 a.m.? Take a look at your track record and be realistic.
4. Let go of the urge to people please.
Making better choices sometimes involves disappointing others. Practice pushing through the discomfort of others not being 100 percent happy with your changes and honor your needs.