You followed a passage faithfully through a lush forest, now standing at a fork in that path; one bearing leads slightly northwest, the other, tending to the southwest. Standing at this juncture, you place your hand over your eyes to block the glare of the setting sun, and strain while scanning the horizon. Ahead lays a long, grassy, seemingly endless prairie with hills on either horizon, obstructing your view from where each trails leads.
Yet, you have stood in this place before.
You know with certainty that in one direction lays a picturesque, emerald city, chock-full of light, music, and gladness. In that township is great joy and contentment. Should you opt however for road number two, what waits at its terminus is far less glorious, resembling the ruins of the firestorms of Dresden. There lies darkness and foreboding, sadness and frustration.
Although either direction assures you a safe arrival at your destination, the route to happiness is rocky, long, and hilly; it will require effort. Its alternative beckons with a flat, easy-to-navigate, and well-worn, shorter course.
Which path do you choose?
We’d all like to say that we’d choose the first. After all, look what waits at the end of either. It’s a no-brainer.
Yet, when we analyze our histories, the reality is that too often, we opt for the alternative; the smoother, shorter, easier pathway guaranteed to lead in the end to a sense of defeat and unhappiness.
Let’s examine some real-life situations, shall we?
Stick with your diet for one more hour and go to bed happy and proud, or give in and eat the bag of chips now, berating yourself all day tomorrow for tonight’s poor decision. Which do you choose?
Hold your tongue until you can figure out a more productive way to bring up your frustration to your wife, or let loose with a blast of heated epithets driving a hurtful spike in your most important relationship. Which do you do?
Put $200 away into your retirement fund, knowing it will be out of reach for the next decade, or buy a new TV even though you don’t need one. “A” or “B” please?
Jeffrey K. Zeig, psychotherapist, said one can start to unravel any habit by answering a simple question. Here’s the thing; most of us cannot do so; hence, we continue to do what we do even when it holds us back.
This most powerful query is,
“There is a feeling you get when you’re about to (insert bad habit). How would you describe it?” For example, “There is a feeling you get right before tearing open the box of donuts — even though you said you wouldn’t eat them — what is it?”
The theory as I understand is that IF – and that’s a big “if” — we can label the driving emotion, we can figure a way to salve that feeling and move forward. After all, we’re not doing these destructive behaviors due to logic, are we? We know that choosing correctly will guide us to happiness, health, and success. Who wouldn’t want that? Yet, there is truth to the well-worn cliché, our action speaks so much louder than our words; they give away our true intentions.
I’d like to tell you I know the answer.
Truth be told, if I did, I’d be living off the royalties of my multi-million selling self-help book while sipping frou-frou drinks on a tropical beach. Sadly, I don’t know what the answer is for me, let alone you. But I do know that the question is vital to our well being, and — if nothing else — it’s worth taking a moment to ask it before you make your decision.