Behavior Change Needs a Relief Valve
When you’re working hard to change your behaviors and change your life it’s easy to get discouraged and allow yourself to get off track. One of the best ways you can help yourself is to reward yourself for good behavior and allow yourself some indulgences.
I like to look at indulgences as a pressure relief valve of sorts. When you’re struggling to change your life, you’re often making potentially extreme shifts in your behavior—like a cigarette smoker going cold turkey. Even if you’re trying to progress through small, incremental changes, you’re working against years of ingrained habits, and that’s a hard thing.
Though it applies to any significant life change, the two areas of life that come to mind first for me are getting out of debt and losing weight. When my wife and I were working our way out of debt, we budgeted blow money for ourselves as a way to have some fun and relieve stress during the long months of cutting our spending and getting on a strict budget. Our allotted blow money was, and still is, an intentional part of our budget.
When I’m in weight-loss mode I track my calories every day, but I allow myself a once-per-week splurge day. I indulge myself and eat anything I want—as long as I’ve behaved myself all week and reached my minimum weight-loss goal. When I hit hard days where my cravings almost get the best of me, I remind myself that I’ll be able to indulge in a few days if I can just delay my gratification a little while longer.
When you’re in the middle of behavior change, it’s important to set yourself up for success. One of the ways you can do that is to reward yourself, but you’ve got to choose your indulgences wisely.
6 Tips for Choosing Good Indulgences
- Make your indulgence something you look forward to. Though you may not be able to completely replace what you’re getting rid of in your life, make your indulgence a true indulgence, not a pale substitute.
- Your indulgence should be practiced with moderation. Make sure that your indulgence doesn’t set you back in some way. For instance, if you allow yourself $100 in blow money each month, then that’s a $100 you can’t put toward debt. Choose your indulgence carefully. It should go without saying that an alcoholic shouldn’t make a glass of whiskey their indulgence. Find a healthy replacement!
- Remember, your indulgence is both a release and a reward. An indulgence is meant to help relieve the pressure inherent in changing your life, but you can’t let it happen just because it’s on your schedule or because you’re in the mood. Make sure you earn your indulgence.
- An indulgence is an exception, not the rule. Your indulgence isn’t a reward if it happens every day. Make the indulgence both special and relatively infrequent—about once a week at the most.
- Indulgences should be planned. If your indulgence is blow money, it has to be part of the budget. If your indulgence is something similar to a diet splurge day, it must be something that happens only at certain times under certain conditions.
- Behave yourself at all times. An indulgence is never an excuse for immoral, dangerous, unhealthy, or unethical behavior.
How do you reward yourself for good behavior? Share your favorite indulgences in the comments. Keep it family-friendly! 🙂
Also published on Medium.
I’m Jeff M. Miller, and I help ordinary people who are stuck in a rut change their behaviors so they can be extraordinary. I’m an entrepreneur who retired from my full-time job in my early 40s to work from home. I’m a financial counselor, life coach, graphic designer, and passionate believer in helping others improve their lives a little more each day.
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