It was my freshman year of high school. I was sitting in the classroom when in walks this good-looking guy in a black leather jacket. He was a guest speaker the school brought in to deter us from using drugs. He told us his story of how using marijuana had led him down a path of drug use. In time he got hooked on heroin and eventually ended up in jail. I recall him talking about how hard it was to get off drugs and the struggle he endured to clean up his life. It sounded absolutely horrific. His story scared me. I remember thinking…what if I tried drugs and I liked it? That would create a HUGE problem. I could only think of one outcome...even if they seemed fun at the time…and that outcome was pain. I could potentially get hooked, possibly screw up my life, and/or I would have to go through the pain of having to quit at some point. None of those options sounded good to me. So why even open the door to that possibility? I made a conscious decision at that very moment that I would NEVER even try a drug. EVER. The guy had done his job and the school had accomplished its mission.
What’s interesting though is this one decision taught me an unexpected and valuable lesson. I learned that making something non-negotiable saved me from a great deal of stress. I never had to figure out what to do, never was in a position to be swayed or pressured, and never had to talk myself into or out of anything.
One of the biggest obstacles people face when it comes to sticking with a plan to achieve their desired outcome is allowing themselves to be swayed. How many times do we know what to do but we just don’t do it? How often do our good intentions get thrown by the wayside for one reason or another? In Arrow Tip #52 we learned that nothing is a straight shot and that there will be times we have to make course corrections. But if you can implement this post's Arrow Tip appropriately then you will reduce the likelihood of being swayed in times when you could have easily stayed the course.
I don’t like entering The Battlefield of the Mind. This is what I’ve named the place in my head where I start negotiating about whether I should or shouldn’t do something. I almost always lose the battle.
Let’s apply this to a subject most of us can relate to…weight loss goals.
Setting: I’m at work and somebody treated the office to pizza today. I brought my healthy lunch but free pizza sounds much more appetizing at the moment. Here’s how this dialogue goes:
Me: Wow! Free pizza. I really want a piece of that.
Other Me: No…I'm not eating that, it’s not on my plan.
Me: But it’s free. It would be a shame not to at least have one piece. It's a special occasion.
Other Me: No. I brought my lunch and I really want to stick with my plan for eating better.
Random Co-worker: Hey did you see the free pizza?
Me: Yea, not sure I’m going to have any. I’m trying to eat better.
Random Co-worker: You can’t pass this up! There’s always tomorrow!
Me: Well, that’s true. I could have just a slice or two. I can start again tomorrow.
(True but I've made it that much easier to stay off course for the remainder of today and that much harder to get back on track tomorrow.)
Should I? Shouldn't I? Could I? Yes, I could. This scenario is a common one regardless of the goal or subject matter. When we’re trying to change something, it usually involves making new choices. Change typically requires more energy than staying in the same habits. That’s why I prefer to stay away from the Battlefield of the Mind. Not only does it frequently end up with me deviating from my plan, but it consumes a lot of mental energy battling with myself.
When I really want to stick to a plan and not be in danger of being swayed by myself or others then I do what I did as a 15-year-old kid. I decide AHEAD OF TIME that I have no options available to me other than my intended outcome. This takes away ALL the stress. I don’t have to sit there and figure out what would be best, how I can make this work, or how I can still get what I want even though I’m deviating from the best course of action. It’s a HUGE relief honestly.
Save yourself the headache and the hangover of this kind of thinking. Stay away from this battlefield. When you make it clear ahead of time that there are no other options, this is just how it’s going to be….end of story….then when the moment of choice comes there really is no choice to be made. You emerge as the victor without ever having to fight in the battle.
When you have a plan you want to stick to, make your choice AHEAD OF TIME and make it a non-negotiable.
2. In a situation where you might be swayed to deviate from your plan when you could easily stay the course, refuse to enter The Battlefield of the Mind. There is no battling necessary because there's only one option available. The one you firmly put in place BEFORE.
*Remember: YOU ARE UNSTOPPABLE.