Whack-a-Mole

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.

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