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If you’re like some of my clients, you race from one goal to another without stopping and use checking off accomplishments as a way to fuel pride and boost self-esteem. The problem is that when throwing yourself headlong into the next task to reach your goals is the most important endeavor in life, experiencing down time becomes something deemed bad and wrong and to be avoided at all cost.
Does this scenario sound sadly familiar? If so, you may be a Goal-a-holic, someone who gets their biggest buzz from keeping busy setting up goals and meeting them. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine to have and meet goals. Goal setting is an important life skill, but it’s only one half of the equation, the other half being knowing how to enjoy life and feel good about yourself when you’re not creating and pursuing goals. This other half of the equation is what many dysregulated eaters fail at.
Instead of feeling proud and taking a deserved rest, when they stop moving forward and stand still, they feel as if something’s wrong or that something’s wrong with them. When they intentionally do nothing, especially when there are still things to tick off on their to-do list, they feel guilty and ashamed. So, they either avoid relaxing, taking a break, or turning off their conscious minds or, when they do, they may go overboard doing so.
For example, one Goal-a-holic client told me she stayed up until 2 a.m. binge-watching a TV series. It gave her the same high binge-eating did and she wished the next day that she’d gone to bed earlier just as she often wished post-binge that she’d quit eating when she was full. It’s as if she had to consume every episode in the series (her way of relaxing and tuning out), just like she had to finish off ice cream, candy, lasagna, etc.
Goal-a-holics live in terror of their worst nightmare, slacking off, because they’re habituated to the high they get from getting things done. How about deriving that same joy from giving yourself a break and doing as little as possible? The idea isn’t to exchange one pattern for the other, but to enjoy both in balance. For example, I love seeing clients and writing blogs and I equally love watching mindless TV for a couple of hours at the end of every day to unwind and give my brain a rest. One activity is not better than the other; they are equally essential and satisfying for different reasons.
To quit being a Goal-a-holic, set a heart-felt intention to reduce goal setting and to chill out more. Use soothing self-talk to manage anxiety when you’re doing nothing and keep reminding yourself you’re seeking balance. Doing so may be uncomfortable at first, but my bet is that it will help you cut back on mindless eating. Now wouldn’t that be nice?
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