"The marginal cost of doing something wrong 'just this once' always seems alluringly low. It suckers you in, and you don't look at where the path is ultimately headed and at the full costs that the choice entails."
Clayton M. Christensen
Now that we're a week into January, many of you might be grappling with the idea of whether or not you really can keep your New Year's resolutions. You might have already said those three little words that can change everything: "Just this once."
The thing with "just this once" is it's rarely "once." It all too often leads to "just this one more time" and "just in this [fill in the blank] kind of situation." Then, before you know it, "just this once" is "all the time." Which is why, if you really don't want to do something, you should avoid a one-time allowance.; you should steer clear of giving yourself a free pass.
I personally don't make New Year's resolutions (too much on top of my 29 Before 30 and my 2013 Jar), but one of my ongoing resolutions is to stay positive. It's something I strive for on a daily basis, but it's not always easy. Let's say I have a really tough day (and I've had quite a few lately!) and I decide that, just this once, I'm going to allow myself to wallow in negativity. (Note: A bit of negative thinking isn't a bad thing, but the wallowing, the jumping from negative thought to negative thought incessantly is never a good thing.) I might tell myself, "Just this once, stop trying to see the good in things. Just allow yourself to be as negative as you feel like being."
Sounds harmless enough, right? Wrong. From experience, I know that if I let myself start down a negative path, I don't know where it will lead. I might be able to veer back to a more positive mindset -- or I might not, finding myself wallowing for god knows how long. And even if I do redirect my attention to the positive, what about the next time I feel just as bad as I did on my bad day? What happens if I have a day (as I'm bound to) that's even worse?
Allowing myself to "just this once" wallow in negative thinking might sound like a small, singular choice, but it has the potential to have a big impact. This is exactly why I think it's so important for those striving to live a positive and present life to think about the impact that "just this once" can have on resolutions, goals, or even everyday mindsets.
There are plenty of people (moderators) that can do something once or twice and then get themselves right back on track. I am not one of those people. I'm the kind of person (an abstainer) that has to abstain if I really want to stay on track. Once I decide to do something, I go for it 100%. And when it comes to a negative choice, mindset, or activity, 100% is not what you want to be aiming for.
Whether you're good a moderating your behavior or not, it's always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to starting off on the right foot with a new resolution, goal, etc. (as many of us are probably doing here in this new year). Like me, you might not have a specific resolution for this new year, but I bet you have a goal you'd like to achieve in the next twelve months or so. Here are a few ways you can avoid the slippery slope of "just this once" and stay on track.
1. Don't give yourself an option. The second you give yourself a option -- a "just this once" free pass -- you spot the chance to choose a different path, to veer off course. Don't even look down that path. Decide that you're not going to do something (or you are going to do something) and don't give yourself the option to do (or not do) it. No matter what the situation or what beautifully crafted excuse you come up with, don't allow yourself to be swayed from doing what you need to do by even giving yourself an option to stray.
2. Find a source of support. When it comes to staying on track with a resolution or goal, one of the best things you can do is find a source of support. Your support could be a single person, a group, or even an online resource -- whatever works best for you is what will keep you working. The key is to have something or someone you can turn to when that "just this once" starts to seem a little too tempting. The more support you have, the better. So reach out to loved ones, scan the internet, and find the resources to will keep you on course.
3. Create a reward system. Who doesn't like rewards? I know I sure do! Whenever you bypass the "just this once" option and choose to do what you know you should do, reward yourself. Give yourself a sticker, a pat on the back, a hundred bucks. The way you reward yourself is up to you, but putting a system in place (however informal) is a must for inspiring you to make the right choice when you're staring in the brilliant glare of those three little words: just this once.
4. Look at the long-term. This one (and this whole post, in fact) is inspired by the quote above. The reason we allow ourselves to be lured by "just this once" is because we don't often think about the long-term consequences. In the moment, "just this once" seems like no big deal. But if you want to stay on track, you've got to take yourself out of the moment (just for a bit!) and consider what will happen if you give in. Looking at the big picture, the long-term impact, will help you remember why one time just isn't worth it.
5. Keep a pros / cons list. Create a list of the pros and cons of sticking to your resolution or goal and carry it with you. When you feel tempted to give in to a one-time indulgence, take out your list and remind yourself why you set this goal in the first place. Seeing the benefits of staying on track (in writing) is a great way to avoid the temptation of "just this once," and reviewing that list of cons can be just as powerful. For added strength, look at the list even when you're not in a tempting situation to keep it fresh in your mind.
Staying away from "just this once" is a difficult task (especially when it comes to something internal, like negative thinking), but over time I've realized this: the more I remind myself that "one time" doesn't usually equal "one time," the less likely I am to give in to a single lapse in judgement. Though I have on occasion indulged in "just this once" and I know it's possible to recover from it, I've discovered that it's much, much easier not to slip-up in the first place. Use the tips above to stay on track with your 2013 goals and resolutions and rise above the temptation of "just this once."