Terrific, I’ve captured your undivided attention for a moment. Most people think that cheating in any of its forms is bad, and they’re not entirely wrong. There are things that you absolutely can’t cheat on, like tests, resumes, and taxes. But, stay with me on this one, there are a few things where cheating a little can make the difference between sticking with a goal and giving up.
When people make goals, it’s usually very much an “all or nothing” type of situation. If you can’t do something 100%, then you’ve failed and it makes more sense to give up than to continue on imperfectly. This type of mindset is essentially a plan for failure.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Goals, like anything else, need to be flexible to accommodate the days when you are struggling. Because, let’s face it, there will be days where situations spiral out of control and you need to be kind to yourself. Forcing yourself to do things when you are really not feeling it will not only make goals and resolutions harder, it can actually reinforce why you really don’t like goals in the first place.
Introducing Strategic Cheating
This is where strategic cheating can make all the difference. If your goal is to drink eight glasses of water a day and it’s 10 pm and you’re short three – drink one and call it good. You’re still further ahead than if you hadn’t tried at all. And … you won’t be up all night peeing.
If your goal was to write for an hour a day but you find yourself really distracted and anxious, set your timer for 15 minutes instead. If you finish the 15 minutes and still can’t silence those inner demons, know that you got more done than if you hadn’t done anything at all.
The examples can go on and on but the point is to stop bullying yourself and instead come up with ideas of what you can do instead. Rewarding these small successes sets you up much better than always feeling like you’ve failed and can turn negative thinking about goals into positive thinking.
Consider the goals you’ve set and all the ways they might go wrong. For most goals, it comes down to not having time, but for some it might be more abstract. For each of your goals, come up with a cheat that will help you still make progress and give you a needed lift. Couldn’t find a block of time to exercise? Cheat by sneaking in 5 minutes of cardio dance or doing 20 squats and 20 pushups. Trying to keep calories under control but are really stressing? Have premade yummy snack kits, like celery and peanut butter or boiled eggs, that taste good but won’t send your count spiraling out of control. Stress and anxiety breaking the systems you’ve carefully put in place? Have a “rescue me” stress kit with a few favorite things that help you find your center.
That one time I attempted a hormone reset…
The older I get, the more I realize that what I eat has a huge impact on my overall well-being. That said, I’m also a huge emotional eater and tend to graze my way through the day if I’m stressed or if something is bothering me. A few months ago I came across an eating plan that was supposed to reset my hormones and it sounded like exactly what I needed. If I could regain control of my stress levels through the eating or not eating of specific foods, then I’d be that much more in control of my snacking habits.
But, the reset required a whole lot of adapting the meals I was already making for my family and coming up with suitable substitutions. Part of me was eager to do the plan perfectly, it’s my personality to fixate on making things perfect and it really bothers me if I’m not doing things “right.”
The funny thing with “right” is that it’s completely subjective. With this reset, I had to choose whether I’d make myself crazy trying to find the perfect food choices, or settle for good enough. In the end, it was healthier for me to settle for good enough as the stress of trying to do the plan perfectly didn’t make sense for me and my family. I still learned plenty about the foods that help me have more energy and less stress, so I count my imperfect “cheating” experience as an absolute win.
Discussion question: What’s an area of your life where you allow yourself to strategically cheat from time to time?