My Annual Pre-Holiday Lecture

Those of you who are long-time readers will recognize the content of my annual Labor Day diatribe. Essentially, it’s a reminder about how easily we procrastinate about addressing problems rather than fixing them. No, it’s not a “cut and paste” from a dozen previous annuals so there may be something new or something you (or I) missed. So here we go…

Even without Covid19 it is easy to start deferring addressing alcohol related issues until “after the holidays” or, certainly, after the election. So, we start with “after the end-of-summer, Labor Day celebration, then move on to Halloween (now the biggest “adult” drinking event of the year). Next it’s Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then New Years. And as a potential last gasp there is always the Super Bowl (the day after is when we receive our largest volume of calls from exasperated spouses).

But it doesn’t stop there. Valentine’s Day to the rescue, Groundhog Day, and toss in birthdays, Mothers’ Day, Memorial Day, the 4th of July and suddenly we’re back to Labor Day having successfully avoided addressing issues for another year. Congratulations.

Of course you’ve also burned up another year of your finite supply of time.

And missed out on doing any number of things from travel to sex to delaying your body’s march towards infirmity.

Now for the question I have posed to myself and others when it comes to procrastinating, whether drinking, smoking, eating or some other nagging behavior. “Where would you like to be in 6 months if you could skip the discomfort between now and then?”

I have a particularly relevant circumstance at the moment: after four reconstructive surgeries it appears I may once again develop a functional left knee. How functional depends on how much effort I put into the Physical Therapy which “should” occur daily and involves 22 separate exercises. The amounts to 1.5 hours 4 days a week and 2.5 hours the other 3. According to the surgeon and two physical therapists, the amount I do over the next year will determine how functional my knee will be for the rest of my life.

That sounds, and mostly is, motivating. It’s still hard to pull off consistently, especially those 3 x a day very painful knee stretching sessions.

But after 7 years of limited mobility and a lot of really bad falls, I am managing because I am keeping my eye on the prizes: travel, hiking, walks on the beach, and just plain old walking.

As with any change, it helps to envision what outcomes you want, work on motivation, secure some accountability (which is why I have two physical therapists), and get good at manipulating yourself in your own best interest. Have trouble with that? I guess you know where to find empathic, research based, help – don’t you?

So how do you want next Labor Day to look?

The 51%/49% Dilemma

Whether we call it that or not, we are all familiar with the 51%/49% condition we also refer to as “contemplation hell.”

It comes down to being stuck when it comes to making a decision about anything over which we do have control. Drink or not? Smoke or not? Lose weight or not? Get the exercise or not? Marry? Divorce? And so on through an infinite series of decisions.

One day we’re 51% in favor of change – the next day it’s 51% in favor of not changing. And so the “deciding not to decide” becomes our default mode and we roast in rumination purgatory.

How do we counteract this normal tendency to procrastinate?

How about an old fashioned cost/benefit analysis?

That can work if you can manage some self-honesty and acknowledge when you are skewing the numbers one way or another in favor of your preference for today.

Sometimes it’s easier to get some help with the process, but that means giving someone else some of the power and it again means being honest.

But, as always, we are available for a free consultation. No, we don’t have beds we have to fill to stay afloat. We have reached that age, and those conditions, where we can work with those of you we want to without worrying about making the rent or meeting payroll.

Time to sort out your options? And, please remember, just because you decide on what would be best doesn’t mean you have to do it. Many of us have drunk too much, smoked too many cigarettes, or stayed married too long. Most of us could stand to brush up our assertiveness, practice CBT, learn to talk back to ourselves as well as others, and balance our lives.

Most of us have more time than usual these days – don’t go all 51%/49% on not using any of it productively.