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Many dysregulated eaters feel a need to have an airtight plan and absolute certainty about how things will turn out before moving forward on a decision. One client calls it “getting things all figured out beforehand.” A lovely notion, but not how life really works.
Face it, the process of making plans is as much for the present as it is for the future. We tell ourselves that we make them in order to ensure that things don’t go awry in the future, but equally, we plan because it helps us feel less anxious in the present about what lies ahead. Who wouldn’t want to feel more confident about what’s around the next bend in the road? The problem is that we can’t get it all figured out beforehand because we don’t know—and can’t know—what’s out there that might affect our best laid plans.
Many of our fears of what could go wrong are actually not about the future, but about the past. For example, the afore-mentioned client had an exercise addiction many years ago and feared that resuming exercise might lead to her overdoing it again. Well, it is possible that this might occur, but the only way she’s going know that is to give exercise a try. More importantly, she’s not going to be able to decide how much exercise is right for her until and unless she’s out there doing it. In this and other situations, we can’t possibly know what’s what until the future becomes now and our mind/body is able to give it the Goldilocks test of too little, too much or just right.
This is where we often go wrong: staring intently into that crystal ball desperate to see what the future holds. Sure, we can learn from past successes and failures, but we can never discover what’s enough for us except in the moment. How much food or exercise one needs at 22 is different than at 47 or 63. The key to assessing how things are going and to making adjustments can only be done through the felt sense of the body/mind in the now, aka, you won’t know til you get there. Moreover, many of us have transformed ourselves from who we were back when we had problems with food, exercise, etc. precisely because we learned from our mistakes which have changed us for the better.
The more mistakes you make, the more you know what you don’t want to do, which brings us to the subject of taking deliberate action. This is done, not by doing the opposite of what you’ve done before, but by making informed choices, then testing them out. If things don’t work, that doesn’t mean there was something wrong with your choice or plan. What’s important is to know what you’re doing—do it consciously—and why you’re doing it. All we get to see into the future is our take on it in the present. What happens with our plans is only partially within our control. So plan for the uncertain future, and then, without knowing how things will turn out, get on out there and live it.
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