This happens to me all the time, where I justify making a poor decision based on a false mental state of contentment or a previous circumstantial outcome. A perfect example of this situation: I am tempted to eat a pint of ice cream, and I justify my decision to go ahead and eat the entire pint by the fact that last time I did this, I didn’t gain weight. Or, I think to myself “well, I looked really good in that picture of me from a few days ago.” When the reality is, my jeans are a little snug and eating a pint of ice cream is not aligned with my current goal to lose a few pounds.

I have had similar experiences with my business. I’ve made a questionable decision but still had a rewarding experience or outcome. For example, I hired a new employee last summer after only one interview. I went with what I felt like was a good feeling – and only spent a little bit of time actually checking references and gathering tangible evidence that this was the best decision for my agency. After all, I hired a new employee years ago in this exact same manner and it worked out great.

I provided the new employee with a dedicated account, and within just a few short weeks, I was seeing evidence I made a poor decision.  Several mistakes were made, deadlines were missed, time was not tracked, tasks were not completed, efficiency and production were way off – and ultimately my agency lost this account.

These types of scenarios should not be credited as the norm but should be acknowledged as exceptions to the rule. I’ve gathered a list of what experts say are the best ways to resist temptation. And if we can just stick to these, then we can avoid shameful feelings of content.

  1. Use “I don’t” instead of “I can’t.” – When we constantly use the terminology “I can’t” then we feel deprived instead of empowered. If you are trying to limit your social media use, then adjust your thinking to “I don’t check Facebook more than twice a day,” instead of “I can’t check Facebook more than twice a day.” This trains your brain to accept your goal and adhere to it as a discipline versus a rule you are not allowed to break.
  2. Set your motivation as internal and not external. – This is important because it removes the potential to justify any action altogether. If it is an internal belief, it won’t need justification. For example, “I don’t procrastinate because my boss gets upset” won’t have the same impact as “I don’t procrastinate because I want to forge ahead in my career.”
  3. Identify what exact actions are necessary to achieve your goal. – Maybe in order to buy your dream car or house, you need to work an extra five hours each week. Or, let’s say saving $50 each week will be enough to take a big vacation. Perhaps spending an hour each week making new LinkedIn connections will increase your company’s monthly revenue by 10 percent. Whatever your goal is, calculate what it will take to accomplish it. Being mindful is half the battle.
  4. Place your goal within eyesight. – Whether it’s losing weight, taking that vacation, buying your dream car, hiring new employees, getting a new retainer client… keep a visual in plain eyesight. Change your phone screen background or pin up a photo by your desk. If you are always looking at your goal, it will be easier to make decisions to reach them.
  5. Invest an appropriate amount of time. – Depending on the type of urge or temptation to make a rash decision, you will experience better results if you invest some time into the decision. This could be as simple as telling yourself to wait 15 minutes before deciding to eat that cupcake or as complex as resolving to invest an entire week and two full hours of research before accepting that new job offer.

Whether personal or professional, a false sense of contentment can damage our perceptions and result in regrettable experiences. I don’t want to end up resentful and deeply regretting decisions I make, so I am going to use the above tips to prepare my mental discipline.