Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The Club - Meeting 397 - All or Nothing

"What cannot be cured must be endured." - Thomas Burton

Hello all. Welcome back to The Disciplinary Couple’s Club.  Our (more or less, though recently not really) weekly on-line gathering of men and women who are in, or would like to be in, a Domestic Discipline relationship.  I hope you all had a great week.

Well, it’s been awfully slow here at the Disciplinary Couple’s Club, hasn’t it?  Little did I know that when I announced a very brief hiatus, and then ended up posting something anyway, virtually everyone would disappear.  This is probably the slowest it’s been since the blog’s first year. I hope everyone was off having fun.

My time off wasn’t exactly “fun”, but there was some adventure involved.  I made a major purchase that I think will give us a lot of enjoyment as we explore having a lot more time off. I’d been thinking about it for a long time and planned to do it, but the timeline was much shorter than I’d been planning on.  Moving forward on it much sooner than I’d anticipated created a lot of stress, plus a steep and ongoing learning curve. It also entailed some impromptu travel, which in turn led to hooking up with some old work friends.

Unfortunately, one of the net results of all the impromptu activity, scheduling changes and travel is it kind of knocked me off my game where behavior was concerned. Though, truth be told, things had been drifting for a while.  I had a few months there when I felt like I’d turned a real corner.  I was showing a lot of self-discipline on diet and had lost several pounds. I was getting into the gym regularly.  My bingeing on alcohol was a lot lighter than usual.  I was meditating regularly. My sleep was weirdly good, perhaps because of the decreased alcohol and more regular meditation.  

In short, I was kind of on a roll. Then I had a few nights where get-togethers with friends for “a beer or two” turned into several. The impromptu travel and hooking up with friends was a lot of fun but it too involved a few too many drinks, plus bad food over the course of a few days.  I was not sleeping well over part of this time, and as often is the case, fatigue made me crave simple carbs, sugar and processed foods, and conveniently, since I was on the road there were plenty of them available.

When I got back home, things got a little better behavior-wise but didn’t return to the sweet spot I had been in before.  Looking back over the course of the last few months, it’s not like there was one big fail or any decision to relax standards for a while. Rather, one small slip sort of led to another and another and another.  . . . I also found that when I tried to get back on track in one area, it didn’t really take hold as long as I was still showing a lack of willpower in other areas.

That’s how it always seems to work for me.  I’m kind of “all or nothing” where good and bad behavior is concerned.  To me, it seems intuitive that it should work that way – willpower should be like a muscle that can be trained to be stronger and more consistent. Yet, I’ve read about studies that indicate that’s not how it works.  Instead, willpower is an exhaustible resource that tapers off quickly after we’ve asserted it.  In other words, if you exercise a burst of willpower in resisting one temptation, you likely will have less capacity for showing that same kind of willpower on some other temptation, at least in the near term.

For me, it’s pretty clear that everything works better when I’m showing discipline across various areas and not just within one or two big ones.

Though, it’s also true that screwing up on one habit can have a disproportionate effect on others.  For example, I’ve blown plenty of good trends by having one bad night with too many beers.  I wake up tired and lacking energy. So, I eat bad food to power up again.  Maybe it also makes me blow off a workout.  The same applies to not carrying through on some good habits.  I’ve been a chronic insomniac my entire life, but I can keep it under control if I meditate daily.  Sometimes I get busy or distracted, or just slip out of the habit, and don’t meditate.  After a few days, my sleep always goes to hell.

So, what does this suggest about Domestic Discipline for you?  We talked about a somewhat related issue back in September, namely “zero tolerance.” But, that was really about taking a no tolerance approach to a single problematic behavior.  This week’s topic is more about whether areas that need to improve exist in relative isolation for you, such that you can target high priority areas while safely ignoring others.    

Or, are you like me and slippage in one area inevitably tends to lead to slippage in others, such that you really need to try to live a more disciplined live across the board if you are going to make much progress, or maintain progress, in those areas where improvement is really important?

I hope you all have a great week.