When I delivered a keynote earlier this year at the first annual CAHU Women’s Leadership Summit, I covered a list of self sabotaging behaviors that can get in your way, and hold you back. The list included
Self imposed barriers
Defeating behaviors and routines
I’ve since concluded that these are all related to what I now consider the #1 worst self sabotaging habit. In a word, it’s RATIONALIZATION.
Hands down, I do believe the act of rationalizing will have the absolute worst impact on anyone’s momentum and success. Just take another look at that definition. It’s absolutely spot on and crystal clear.
If you regularly engage in this seemingly comforting behavior, chances are you are holding yourself back by getting in your own way. And it’s a fairly universal application - we can rationalize about dang near any and everything. Spending, eating, exercising, cussing, gossiping, work, chores, disciplining our kids, shopping, gambling, ETC. The list is endless. And I’m sure you get the point. Now, I’m not trying to spoil anyone’s fun and freedom. We can do - or not do - whatever we want, particularly in America. But as we all know, every decision we make has consequences. In other words, every decision you make will take you closer to a goal, or lead you further away.
For example, if I want to drop a size or two ahead of an upcoming vacation, every single decision I make will either support or thwart that goal. If I decide to indulge in the sweet treats at the office to celebrate that month’s birthdays, it’s a small departure from my goal. I can rationalize it - it’s small, it’s one cupcake, it won’t matter to the big picture. Later that week, I might skip a workout because the bed is just too cozy to get out of on these colder mornings. And next it might be a few fries someone ordered at the holiday party. True story. And they were so yummy. Hey… as I like to say in clients’ open enrollments when I bring donuts: There’s also your emotional wellbeing, and that matters too. Bacon donuts can be oh-so-soothing, can’t they?
Ha! But I digress. The point is, we can really hinder our progress toward any goal or aspiration by rationalizing our little day to day decisions, and it’s so sad. We are wired to indulge our desires. So, while some of us have willpower and self discipline to conquer any rationalization, others - including myself - are not naturally inclined to deny ourselves and thereby struggle to stay on track. It’s something I have to work on very deliberately, but so worth it - as anyone who’s ever fought their way to achievement will tell you. Think of all those Dave Ramsey followers who have put in the sacrifices to make that “We’re debt free” proclamation. They did not get there by rationalizing too many goodies at the grocery store, or just one more pedicure, or dinner delivery. They got there by staying focused, determined and by NOT rationalizing what may seem like trivial inconsequetial choices, which in reality can add up quickly and stack your own deck against you.
I don’t have a magic pill to cure this habit, but you don’t really need one. All you need is to be aware of it, recognize whether it’s an issue for you, and take deliberate action to beat it. Your future thanks you in advance, and you can do hard things.