After reading Charles Duhhig’s book, The Power of Habits, I realized one of the strongest excuses I always gave for not following through on a new habit or for indulging old habit is to say the sentence ‘Tomorrow is my first day of this… so I can do this one today for the final time”. Maybe this happens to you too.You find yourself saying things like:
It doesn’t matter what I eat now, because I’m starting a diet tomorrow. (Research shows that people who plan to start dieting tomorrow tend to over-eat today.)
I’m definitely on track to finish my paper on time, because starting tomorrow, I’m really going to buckle down.
I’ll be really frugal in January so it doesn’t matter if I spend too much in December.
Today I’m eating whatever I want, but tomorrow I’ll be “good.” (People tend to self-regulate day-by-day, but everything counts.)
Tomorrow strategy undermines good habits by making it easy to deny that our actions clash with our intentions.
It’s quite pleasant to think about how virtuous we’ll be, tomorrow. In one study, when subjects made a shopping list for what they’d eat in a week, 70 percent chose fruit instead of chocolate; when asked what they’d choose now, 74 percent picked chocolate instead of fruit.
Postponing a start may also lead to the unhelpful phenomenon of the “last hurrah.” “I’m starting my diet on Monday, so I deserve to eat anything I want until then.” “After the holidays, I’m going to cut way back on spending, so I should take advantage of the sales now.”
Some people even fool themselves into thinking that extreme indulgence now will give them more self-control when the magic future day arrives. But eating a giant bowl of ice cream today doesn’t make it any easier to resist tomorrow, and spending an entire day watching TV doesn’t make a person feel more like working the next morning.
I have a fantasy of myself in the future: Future-Abraham will have more time and more energy for tasks that don’t interest Now-Abraham. Chores that I keep putting off — like turning notes into actual writing or doing regular exercises — will be easy for Future-Abraham.
Alas, there is no Future-Abraham, only Now- Abraham.
Do you find yourself promising that you’ll follow that habit — tomorrow?