I was working on some tight deadlines while at a cafe.
Overwhelmingly, I had the urge to break from my diet and order a bunch of junk food - sandwiches, french fries, etc.
I'm not exactly sure why that urge comes up, but I think it's quite common. You've probably experienced it, yes?
If you're trying to refine your diet, or stop binge drinking, or sleep at a reasonable hour, or quit some bad habit, or... whatever... well, how have you gotten off track in the past?
Probably when there was a "good reason" - either something more important (like a deadline) or some general exception (like a "special occasion").
This has happened to me, too. But I've found the phrase in the title, comical as it sounds, helps a person stay grounded. "Self destruction is generally counterproductive."
Here's how it works in thinking:
Impulsive thought: I should have some cake, french fries, and drink two bottles of brandy. Just right now, the deadlines [or "special occasion"] are more important than the overarching plans I've set.
Conscious thought: Wait, self destruction is generally counterproductive. I set up the rules for my life because my life will go better if I follow them. Even if there's a short term gain here - there might not be, even - it's the kind of tradeoff that doesn't make sense and works against you. I'll order a salad.
Also, on days where I'm close to breaking a hard rule, I'll absolutely sacrifice a soft objective to refrain. The end goal of how I eat is high energy levels, good general-health, good longevity, and a very lean physique. Eating a gigantic pack of peanuts would be contrary to the objective, but I'll go for it on a particularly tough day in order too not break the hard rules. Hard rules become easier to break the more often they're broken, whereas sacrificing a softer objective doesn't seem to trigger the same downward spiral chain reaction.
"Hard rules become easier to break the more often they’re broken"
Totally agree with that. Usually, just like Matthew, after I break a hard rule I feel much more inclined to break other rules.
After having had a few bad decisions (overeating, drinking too much, procrastinating), I start kicking myself and get back in state. I need to be able to have that kind of reaction as soon as I'm tempted to messed up!
As Jim Rohn said, all disciplines affect each other, and all lacks of discipline affect each other.
I have noticed that breaking one rule often leads to the breaking of the next way in a very direct manner. Where I noticed was in eating; on days when I break the rule of no fatty/salty foods (like a burger and fries) then I end up craving sweets later in the day (just one slice of cake, no?). Those two definitely seem to go hand-in-hand, at least for me.
I eat pretty well and take pretty good care of myself. But it's taken quite a while to get here - before 2006, I had a pretty standard American diet. Lots of pizza, junk food, fast food, liquor, soda, sweets, etc. I smoked cigarettes, cigars, sheesha, and other kinds of tobacco.
Since then I've refined my diet and I eat pretty well. I have more energy, feel better, look better, and God willing, I'll live a lot longer as a result. It's a gradual process though, and I'm still improving. There's a few things I use to do it:
First, I'm all about incremental improvement - I think trying to crash change your diet is unlikely to work unless you have immense amounts of willpower and self-discipline. If you do have these Herculean amounts of will and discipline, you know who you are and don't need my advice. If you're more mortal, then you'll want to pick one or two things to be refining in your diet at a time.
Second, there's two ways I quit food or habits I don't like - "hard quitting" (cold turkey) and "soft quitting" (gradually reduce my consumption and eventually eliminate it). I pick which of these routes to go based on how convenient it is to quit something outright and if there's any detox process. If there's detox (like there was with nicotine), I think it's better to just get it over with once instead of constantly feeling deprived as your body re-adjusts to its new biochemical levels. The most successful method for quitting smoking is cold turkey, isn't it? Something like 80% of successful attempts to quit smoking are cold turkey? I don't have the statistics onhand, but that's the general idea. Quitting something like sugar, bad oils, or excess salt might be easier to do incrementally, since you need to replace the consumption with something else.
Which brings us to third point - I actively introduce new good behaviors before and during the time I quit something. Now, I don't know if the following is a good strategy, but it's what I did - when I started cutting down the sweets I ate, I increased my consumption of the kinds of salty foods I already ate: Chips, french fries, nuts, etc. Later I cut the salt content back. I don't know if that's a good habit, but it's worked okay for me. I also try to actively introduce fruits and vegetables before I quit something - it's hard to go from no fiber food that's highly processed to stimulate you immediately to fruits and vegetables. Fruit tastes bland compared to ice cream. So I introduce fruits and vegetables first, get comfortable with them, then increase my consumption of them as I decrease or eliminate bad consumption.
Skills require time to attain. There's no magic pill to become stronger; we have to go to the gym consistently. If you want to learn Russian, you need to study, practice, and probably spend some time in Russia. If you want to become a better writer you can learn some good practices, but you ultimately have to produce a lot of writing before you'll be any good.
But what about habits like diet change, sleeping habits, and introversion? While we may not all be able to speak Russian, we all have the innate ability to wake up early in the morning. Our mouths will all accept healthy food. We all have the physical ability to walk up to a stranger and begin talking.
Why do these switches often take so long to flip? Why is it a gradual struggle, rather than an instant change?