129. Be honest with yourself.

Last week we talked about The Habit of Being Forthright.

Several people called to stay how much they agreed with the very premise of the blog and how they have benefited from incorporating The Habit of Being Forthright into their everyday lives.

A few spoke about the internal challenges of always saying what you believe to be true; their concerns about hurting others feelings; having to defend their comments to an unappreciative listener; and being courageous enough to present an unpopular viewpoint.

Overwhelmingly though, the consensus was clear. When asked a question, the best answer always is the one you believe to be true and the “asker” of the question needs to learn a simple rule that states, “If you aren’t prepared for an answer you don’t like, don’t ask the question.”

And then I received a call from Margaret. She called to tell me that while she agreed in principle with the content of the blog, she pointed out that I had omitted discussing the key portion of The Habit of Being Forthright.

Margaret clearly articulated that there is a portion of The Habit of Being Forthright that is crucial to our lives and yet many of us fall victim to the bad habit of distorting the truth to ourselves.

She explained that the first step in adopting The Habit of Being Forthright is to always tell ourselves the truth and not the delusion that comes from rationalizing false facts and convincing ourselves of their truth.

By way of explanation, Margaret spoke of a friend who has been wrestling with obesity for many years.

This friend, in addition to at various times joining Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Herbalife and “every other weight loss program the world has to offer,” has also sought professional counselling and the constant depression that has resulted from all of these failed attempts have left her friend dependent on antidepressant medication.

Before Margaret explained how her friend’s failure to adopt The Habit of Being Forthright into her life contributed to her present state, she felt it important to tell me that she is a physician in a family practice and is therefore eminently qualified to make such statements.

Her friend, like many of her patients, lives her life in what she calls the “moment of desperate delusion.”

“Desperate delusion” is the decision making strategy we revert to when our present-moment needs for gratification encourage us to turn away from the truth – to not be forthright with ourselves – and convince ourselves to do something that will provide us with immediate gratification even though we know it will have long-term adverse consequences.

The example she used was the frequency with which her friend convinces herself to order meals in restaurants that she knows contribute to her weight issues.

She rationalizes this behaviour by telling herself that she will be really good the next day even though experience has repeatedly taught her that this will not be the case.

Margaret described how many of us have mastered this practice of self-deception even though we know that, “I’ll just have a tiny piece,” or “I’ll eat this bag of potato chips today and really hit the gym hard tomorrow,” or “I’m going to finish the pack of cigarettes I have and then definitely quit smoking” are just lies we tell ourselves to justify, and make okay, the things we know that are preventing us from having the lives want.

I can’t disagree with Margaret. I can personally attest to the hundreds of lies I have told myself over the years in order to justify (and rationalize) that “just this once is not a big deal.”

It took me a long time to learn that it is a big deal.

The Habit of Being Forthright means not only always telling others what you believe to be true but ensuring that you always tell yourself what you know to be true.

And that surely is a habit worth having.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

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