The "What-The-Heck" Effect
Let me share an all too familiar story. Let’s say that you have the intention to eat healthier, and you set a goal to not have sweets anymore. For the first week you’re motivated and good at sticking to the plan, choosing healthier options when you have cravings, but then one day for some reason you almost unconsciously start snacking on something you’ve been avoiding. You realize it and you’re disappointed, but you’re still serious about your goal so you resolve to fix things up tomorrow. But then later in the day, when you have a craving for a snack, you choose something unhealthy again (because you already messed up the day), which escalates into something worse and before you know if you’ve had a full on binge.
I don’t know that this is a technical term but I call this the “What-The-Heck Effect”. You fall short of a goal or intention and you figure 'what the heck', I can splurge for the day or whatever it might be. The problem is that even though you feel like the damage is already done, you continue to set yourself back because you’re affirming the wrong belief related to making unhealthy choices. This idea is true for spending time on social media, snoozing your alarm in the morning, sticking to a schedule or to do list you wrote out, and in so many other areas. Psychologically this tests your will power and gives your brain a reason to rationalize why discipline isn’t as important and it becomes even more likely that you’ll cave and act outside of your intentions.
That’s why I want to provide an alternative perspective. Instead of evaluating your performance on a broader scale, like 'how did I do on this thing today', think of it as a moment by moment intention. Just because you weren’t true earlier in the day does not mean you have an excuse for the rest of the day. Every moment you’re making choices with consequences that either empower you or disempower you, and I challenge you to bring that presence into your decisions more often.
Let me finish by proposing this question - When was the last time you splurged, or let the “what-the-heck” effect get the best of you?
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