Have you ever played the game whack-a-mole? It’s the frustrating state of striving to keep all the moles in their holes by using a hammer to push them back down. I was doing well in a variety of areas. I was disciplined with my diet and considered small deviations “cheats”. I was going to yoga 2-3 times a week and trying to work in some modest runs on top of the yoga. Things were going well at work too. I wasn’t procrastinating and the work was getting done efficiently. With all of this good going on, I was somehow spending a lot of money without having anything substantial to show for it.
Once someone explained it to me, it all started to make more sense. Self-regulation is like a muscle that grows and gets tired. If stressed or fatigued it is even more difficult to regulate behavior. I’m trying to outsmart myself so that acquiescence is less probable (Baumeister & Heatherton, 1996).
Here are my strategies:
- Stop surfing the Internet at night- no late night purchases.
- Stop going to stores “to look”.
- Reframe the diet as eating what I want rather than denying myself.
- See yoga as a luxury, not something I have to do.
- Re-imagine saving money so that the delayed gratification is more desirable. (I usually just imagine a large amount of money in the bank. This does nothing for me. Instead I need to find a mental image of what I could do with the money if I didn’t spend it now. I think the professionals call this “transcendence”.)
- Most importantly – watch out for the mole. He might pop up someplace unexpected.