When it comes to personal change, we often talk about “crucial moments.” The concept of a crucial moment centers around the idea that not all of the moments we have in life are equally challenging. There are a handful of moments that are much more important than the others. These might be the times when we are the most tempted, when we are the most vulnerable to make bad decisions.
For example, if you are trying to lose weight, walking into a delicious all-you-can-eat buffet is much more a crucial moment than when you are sitting in a spirited work meeting and food is the last thing on your mind. Or for someone trying to quit smoking, driving home after a tiring and stressful day at work might be a much more tempting time to smoke a cigarette than any other time of the day.
I recently was speaking with a man (let’s call him John) who had lost 80lbs only to gain it all back. We were discussing his weight loss efforts.
I asked John, “What are some of your most crucial moments?”
He responded, “Well, oftentimes I get so busy at work that I don’t realize until its 3pm or later that I haven’t had lunch. By that time, I’m so starved that I eat way too much.”
Crucial moment? You betcha. Can you imagine being in this situation? Imagine how you might feel when you realize you have waited too long and now you are desperate for food. Would you feel frustrated, angry at yourself, helpless?
For John and for any other normal human being, if your body is starving for food, it becomes incredibly difficult to make a good choice. Resisting temptation is much harder and the chances are that you will overeat only to feel more helpless about your weight.
I gave John some suggestions on what tactics he might use when confronting this crucial moment but the number one piece of advice was to ask him to focus on a different crucial moment than the 3pm lunch situation:
“When is the moment when you are in the best position to make sure you eat a sensible lunch at noon?”
Perhaps it’s at 7 am when you have a little bit of time to make yourself a sack lunch. Maybe it’s the day before when you can make a lunch appointment at a restaurant with a good salad option. Maybe it’s at 11:30 am when you have a break in the action to turn off your phone and get up to get lunch.
Only John knows his routine enough to know what might work, but any of these possible answers and others like it represent choices that are significantly easier to make than the choices left for John at 3 pm when he is starving.
So a key to mastering crucial moments is to focus on the less obvious moments that will help you avoid the more difficult moments. If you find yourself consistently facing really tough crucial moments, ask yourself, “Is there an easier choice that I can make to avoid this tough choice?” Work backwards until you find moments in time where you have an idea to try something different.
For me, being in a restaurant is always a really tough crucial moment. So I make sure that I suggest healthy options when I’m eating out with friends or I pack my lunch so its much easier to decline an invitation to eat out.
Instead of waiting to decide to exercise when the alarm clock goes off at 6am, make the easier choice the day before when you agree to run with a friend who will be waiting for you at the corner of the street.
Instead of wrestling the temptation to not eat all the food on your plate, make the easier choice to buy smaller plates to use at mealtime.
Feeling like you are making progress is such an important factor in successful change, the more that you can focus on making easier decisions that lead to avoiding tough choices, the more likely you will avoid the treacherous feelings of despair and helplessness.
We teach that one must master crucial moments if they want to enjoy sustainable, lasting change, and one of the best ways to do that is to focus on how to avoid facing the moments when you are unfairly outmatched.
Vince is a digital media industry executive/entrepreneur and the founder of several successful companies. He is the founder and CEO of Change Anything. Follow Vince on Twitter.
Image credit: http://drivefs2010.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/odds.png