Even though I know it's not good for me, why do I still do it? Exploring the mindset of giving things up

Everyone has been there in some way, shape or form. Some of us really want to give up smoking, but we just can't seem to resist when colleagues invite us outside for the mid-morning break. For others, we so desperately want to say no to the cake on offer but it's hard when it appears to be somebody's birthday, promotion or leaving do nearly every day, and even harder when our folks have bought it especially for our visit...it is our favourite after all. Others of us are determined to stick to a 'two drinks only' plan on Friday night, but somehow that turns into seven and we're not quite surehow.


The reality is that change is not black and white. It's often not as simple as saying "I really want this and therefore I'm going to completely give up that." We see benefits to making changes but we also see benefits to doing the things we currently do, or we wouldn't be doing them in the first place.


This concept is known as Ambivalence. It is, according to the dictionary, 'the state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something.' Here are some examples...

'I want to lose weight'...BUT...'I really like wine as it helps me to unwind after a stressful day.'

'I'm determined to give up cigarettes as I know they're bad for my health'...BUT...'As bad as they are for me, I know they're the one thing that helps me keep weight off.'

'I'm constantly getting ill and I'm sure it's because I eat too much sugar.'...BUT...'When I get tired in the afternoons I need something to perk me up quickly to make it to the end of the day.'

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We could go on with many more examples; my bet is you're sat there now thinking about your own. And there are a few things we should say about this thought process:

1) IT IS COMPLETELY NORMAL. No matter what the person you follow on Instagram says about #Gainz #AthleteLife #CleanEating #NoExcuses or any other 'motivational' saying, they often think about unhealthy things too, find it hard to resist them, often don't and feel really bad if they do.

2) It is useful. Ambivalence allows you to explore your choices, and make no mistake about it, change is absolutely a choice. You need to decide if there are more pros to changing than there are to staying the same, or if the drawbacks you currently experience are worth making the effort to change, even though you know it might be tough.

3. When you change, it can still be there. In fact, once you've decided to give something up, it's possible that your mindset starts to change to focus on all the things you miss about it. This is the tough time...sticking to what you've gone for or going back. If you do go back, you're not a failure, a loser or a lesser person, you just made a choice that now wasn't the right time for you to make that change, and that's ok.


So how do you start to work through ambivalence? Try this simple little too. It's known as a Decisional Balance Sheet. We like the name of course!! :-) 

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As with the example above, divide a piece of paper into four even squares and label them something like 'Good things about changing', 'Bad things about changing', 'Good things about staying the same' and 'Bad things about staying the same.' Then for the change you're considering, put all the thoughts you have about it into the box that best corresponds.

How do you analyse the results?

You can just look at the volume of answers. If there are lots in the benefits of change and drawbacks of staying the same boxes, then you might well want to go for it. Sometimes though, it's more about quality than quantity, so it's worth going back through to look at which answers you feel are most important. You can do this by numbering them 1-however many, and it may help you decide what's right for you right now.


Needless to say, it'll be a balanced decision and right for you.


Next time...we'll look at how you can stick to the changes you decide to make.