Even when you’re disciplined, rarely do you get a perfect day. When one arrives though, it’s really something to savour.
When you live a disciplined life, most days are good though. Each one is a solid step forward and something to be proud of. But, now again, there’s a potential car crash waiting around the corner. ‘Potential’ and ‘around the corner’ are key words there. It doesn’t have to happen. And that’s where a mitigation plan comes in.
What’s wrong with the odd car crash you might ask? Quite a lot.
For a start, it destroys momentum. Nothing is as big a threat to consistency than when momentum is disrupted. If you drink three litres of water every day, and then have a day or two where you don’t drink any? I can guarantee it’ll be at least twice as hard to drink three litres of water the next day. Five times as hard the following day.
A car crash seriously messes with your results. At best, it will cause your week to break even. But usually it puts you at least a few steps back. You then have to use the next few weeks to gain the ground back.
But, here’s why a car crash is particularly disastrous for consistency. Like a virus, it has a way of spreading and infecting other habits and behaviours in your life. Let’s say you’re used to sleeping seven hours a night, but choose to party hard one night and you only get four hours sleep. Every other habit and behaviour you hold dear is now under threat. It’ll be harder to eat well, exercise, drink water etc. It’s a very steep and slippery slope. Before you know it, many of your habits and behaviours are coming crumbling down.
That’s a long way of saying, you have to avoid car crashes if you want to hold onto a disciplined life.
This is where a mitigation plan comes in. If you know you have something potentially disruptive around the corner, you have to think ahead. What can you do to proactively tilt the balance so severely the other way – that you turn a car crash into a blip?
Blips are fine. A blip doesn’t destroy momentum. A blip doesn’t cause you to fall off the wagon. A blip doesn’t dent your results in the same way a car crash will. You can take a few blips every week and still sit nicely in the 80 / 20 zone (the place where you can enjoy life and reap the benefits of being disciplined and consistent).
Let me give you a couple of examples for what a mitigation plan looks like in practice:
Last week I had a meal out with friends. Even with my best willpower effort (and taking into account I was going to let loose a bit), it was inevitably going to be a high calorie and carb evening. So, I made sure to ensure every one of my seven tracked habits was in the bank beforehand. I was more active than I might usually have been that day. I also fasted until later in the day and made sure to head into the dinner with low calories, high protein and low carbs:
This tilted the balance so severely the other way, that it mitigated the evening meal. I didn’t end up tracking the evening meal (it’s hard to do in a restaurant), but I would guess my mitigation helped me roughly stay inline with where my total calories would be on a normal day. Sure, carbs would have been a bit higher than I would usually like, but it is what it is. Importantly, I downgraded a potential car crash to a blip.
Here’s another example. We went to a friend’s house in the village on Saturday night to play some poker. I suspected it was going to be a later night than I would usually have (I’m normally in bed by 10PM). I also often get up early on a Sunday morning (between 6 and 7AM) to go for a long walk. This all meant there was a pretty good chance of getting disastrous sleep and falling below my 6.30 hour goal.
Thinking ahead, I decided to change a few things. I’d skip the early morning walk. I also wouldn’t set an alarm, and would allow myself whatever time I needed to be fully rested.
It turns out it wasn’t a crazy late night, but it was enough to see me go to bed over an hour later than I might usually (it was worth it, poker was fun!). My daughter woke up about 5AM and got into our bed too, which disrupted my sleep further. As I had planned for, I woke up much later than I might have usually – 8AM.
This all meant I ended up with an epic sleep of 8:17 hours!
Intentionally waking later was the ultimate mitigation. Even if the poker night went on later than it did, my 6.5 hour sleep goal would have been safe. But, I went further than simply protecting it. I ended up turning a potential car crash into a WIN – because 8:17 was one of my top five sleeps of the month!
There’s nothing complicated, or even hard about a mitigation plan. What most people lack is the self awareness of upcoming events that will threaten your consistency – and to understand why that’s fatal. Once you get that, it’s easy and it feels natural to plan ahead and mitigate. And when you do this, you’ll find it so much easier to be consistent with the habits and behaviours you care about.
A last word on mitigation. It’s an advanced strategy. It assumes that you have built some discipline and consistency to start with. If you haven’t, start there. My best advice for that is to focus on one habit at a time and visually track your progress – as I do every month.
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