Beware the “Exception”


In life, every experience offers us a chance to learn. Even if a life experience appears to get in the way of following your chosen goals or pushes you off your desired life path, you can learn from these life experiences in order to move forward positively. In my own life, I realized that there are multiple factors that can interfere with a desired life outcome. I have learned that if I do not pay attention, I am “doomed” to repeat the same “mistake” or situation.

For me, one observable pattern that contributed to being pushed off my desired path is that of the first “exception” to a specific rule or new habit that I am trying to establish.

For example, when I started working on the goal of attaining an optimal body weight, I established a personal rule to stop eating after 8 PM. The habit of not eating after 8 PM is beneficial since one typically consumes all of the calories one needs before 8 PM. I noticed that any food that I consumed after 8 PM was just to fulfill a craving. For me, I typically crave for salty and fatty foods that contribute to elevated blood pressure as well as empty body fat building calories.

It would seem that not snacking after 8 PM would be easy to follow. Intellectually, I know that I am not truly hungry and that any snacking would get in the way of my health goals of attaining and maintaining an healthy body weight.

This easy to follow healthy habit was sabotaged by the first “exception”. The first exception happened on a challenging day where things did not appear to go as planned. I was experiencing stress due to a death in my spouse’s family. One of my children was feeling bullied by a girl at school. When I turned on the news, my feelings of unease were bolstered by stories of calamity and disaster worldwide. On this day, I choose to “treat myself” and started the first exception to my snacking rule. In my brain, I justified my behavior by telling myself that I have been working hard and I deserve some tasty snacks after the kids went to sleep. I also deserve to watch some TV, have a beer and munch on some tasty buttered popcorn. Before I knew it, I had reverted to a non-productive habit every night after the kids went to bed. I eased into the comfortable habit of snacking and watching TV instead of productive habits or activities such as writing, paying the bills, folding the laundry or attending do household responsibilities.

I understand that this is a rather tame example. However, this type of pattern exists in more significant habit change such as quitting smoking, getting away from substance abuse, or any other addictive habit pattern. An exception can break the rule. Once the rule is broken we can go back to old patterns of behavior.

The next time that you consider establishing a new habit, remember the dangers of taking that first step off the path. It is easier to just stay on the path than straying off your desired path and getting lost.

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2 Comments to “Beware the “Exception””

  1. We’re “twiners.” I too have the post 8pm munchies for salty and sugary foods. And yes, it is a slippery slope. I agree with your recommendations. Just need to shut it down and stay disciplined. Great post.

    • Thank you David. I was thinking of following up with a blog about rewarding ourselves. I feel that if we know the specific time and place where having a “cookie” is appropriate, we can curtain our cookie use.

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