I am the type of person who thrives on goals. I am a constant work in process, creating New Year’s resolutions and self-improvement projects for myself.
Lately I have been struggling with the actual execution of my plans. I just haven’t been able to get things done on my list. It seems making positive changes is hard.
Late last week I read a post by Gretchin Rubin from The Happiness Project. In her post, Want to Be Free From French Fries? Or Why Abstaining May Be Easier Than You Think., Rubin talks about two different types of personalities – abstainers and moderators. Abstainers find that it is easier to give up a habit completely (go cold turkey) than to ease yourself out of the habit the way moderators do.
The post talks about Rubin’s sister and her quest to give up French Fries, but the idea behind it can easily be applied to any area of your life – getting rid of debt, losing weight, or decluttering your house. Rubin argues that for many it can be easier to give something up completely than to try to scale back on a bad habit.
I can definitely understand that concept. I did far better on my goal of giving up soda when I did my 30 Days of No Soda Challenge, then what I’ve been trying to do ever since – which is limit myself to just 1 or 2 cans of soda a day. It’s harder for me to regulate my pop consumption when I am faced with the temptation so frequently.
But I don’t believe I’m an abstainer when it comes to every area of my life. I was able to get out of debt by making a series of small changes to the way we do everything from eating to heating our home. If I had been an abstainer and had to totally eliminate so many of the things that I truly enjoy (like hobbies or dining out), I would never have been able to reach my goal of being debt-free except the house.
The idea that the little things you do add up to big changes drew me to another post called The Power of Habit Investments at Zen Habits. In this post, author Leo Babuta stresses the idea that if you do something small repeatedly, the benefits accrue greatly over time. He uses examples like managing money, getting in physical shape, and learning to play a music instrument. He gives some solid advice for avoiding negative habits and tips for building more positive changes in your life.
Babuta focuses on moderation as a means to creating positive change, something I can understand and appreciate, too.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason why I’ve been having trouble accomplishing my goals is that I haven’t been using methods that work best for me.
I’ve been treating so many of my goals with an “all-or-nothing” mindset, when in reality, I should also consider the “bit-by-bit” approach.
So if you’re struggling with your goals, here’s my advice:
Treat each of your goals with the method that will be most successful for you.
If abstaining from something helps you in one area of your life do that. If moderation works best in another area of your life, try that instead. If the method you chose isn’t working, try the opposite.
In my case, if I truly want to drink less soda, I know from my past experience that I will have to completely abstain from it. I will need to stop cracking open a can of pop every afternoon because I want a little fizzy pick-me-up.
But when it comes to tracking our spending and getting back on budget, moderation is what has worked best for me. I am willing to cut costs in many areas of my life, but I do not want to give up all of my creature comforts. So I save more money by doing things like eating out a little bit less or using a little less laundry detergent than the bottle recommends. I tackle my cleaning projects one drawer or one closet at a time.
How do you know which method to choose? Only you will know the right method. For me, I felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders when I resolved to give up soda, rather than cut back. And I felt inspired by the idea of trimming little grocery budget busters, using less electricity, and negotiating lower rates on my bills.
The best part about change is that it’s always ready for you to make. If something isn’t working for you, try another way. And if that doesn’t work, find another way.
Just don’t give up.