Are you in denial?


January is often a month for depriving ourselves.

After the excesses of the festive season, many of us decide to cut out things - alcohol, for ‘dry January’ being a popular one.

This is a choice. And for many it will be a test of will power. The month may be spent listening to that incessant debate between your virtuous voice and your indulgent one:

‘You can’t have that because you are not drinking/eating/doing that in January. And if you give way on that, who knows where it will lead? You are so undisciplined!’

‘Oh why not? It’s so horrible this month, I need a little comfort’ etc..

One definition of ‘deprivation’ is ‘the lack or denial of something considered to be a necessity’.

The key word here is ‘considered’. If we are lucky enough to live in a developed country and have our daily needs provided for (by no means a given in the UK, despite being one of the richest countries in the world), then we get to choose what we will not eat, drink or do. But we can also choose our attitude towards it and we can define what a necessity is.

Many people would react to that by saying ‘That’s not true –I cannot control how I feel’. But in fact you can. Because if you put ‘think’ before ‘feel’ and decide your thoughts and approach to whatever it is you are doing, it influences how you feel about it.

To give an example, if you have been trying dry January, you maybe feeling: ‘I really miss the ritual of that nice glass of wine. There is a gap in my life and my evenings especially. And I feel anti-social when I go out and meet people.’ And those feelings can lead straight to action –either giving in, or feeling bad.

If instead, you catch that moment when you are about to descend into negativity –and listing all the reasons why you should feel deprived –and ask yourself a positive question ‘What is good about this?’, ‘What am I gaining from this?’ or ‘How do I feel better?’, you can move your thoughts onto a more positive track. And you get the space to decide what you want to do, rather than being swept along by your feelings on this one.

So returning to the example, the inner conversation might go something like this:

‘I really miss that nice glass of wine... Hang on a second. Do I? Is that what I miss, or is it the social ritual, the symbolic reward? Do I miss the fuzzy head the next day? Not really! The burden on my wallet after Christmas? Nope! And if I thought about it, I can enjoy doing stuff with friends without having to drink.’

The other way to look at this is that you get to choose. And that is something for which we need to be grateful. Zooming out and seeing your own situation as part of a much bigger picture can be a good way to appreciate this.

Finally, we are social beings so it’s worth finding an ‘accountability partner’–as they are known in the US -for any plans you have and want to stick to. There is something about telling someone else you will do something which really increases your sense of commitment to it.

As coaches we at Result CIC understand this well. And of course the other way to figure out how to achieve what you want would be to consider using a coach.


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