You’re standing in line at the coffee shop, staring at the beautiful display of donuts, Danishes and croissants beside the cashier.
It’s early in the morning and you’re on your way to work.
You didn’t sleep well, you’re not looking forward to the day ahead and you think about how much one of those glossy pastries would cheer you up.
But, you really do want to lose the extra 10 pounds that have been making all your pants that used to be loose, noticeably tighter. You should just stick with the coffee.
But boy do they look good. And surely you deserve it after the week you’ve had so far.
“One donut isn’t going to make a difference,” you think.
I hate to the bearer of bad news, but it will make a difference. But not because of the calories, fat grams or sugar.
Rather because neurons that fire together, wire together.
This is a principle that neuroscientists refer to a lot. It basically means (in highly over-simplified terms) that, every time you make a choice or take an action, the neurons in your brain communicate by one brain cell releasing a chemical (neurotransmitter) that the next brain cell absorbs.
When brain cells communicate frequently in this way, the connection between them strengthens. Messages that travel the same pathway in the brain over and over again begin to transmit faster and faster, and with enough repetition, they become automatic. They actually physically “wire” together.
What this means for you is that every time you make a poor choice, it results in it feeling a little more comfortable for you to make the same poor choice next time.
But here’s the good news! This principle also means that every time you make a positive choice, it results in it feeling a little more comfortable for you to make the same positive choice next time.
Now, I’m not trying to tell you that you shouldn’t eat donuts. I love donuts. Donuts are awesome.
But make sure you’re only saying ‘yes’ to the donut when it’s really a donut that you want. Not a better sleep, or a job that you love, or a boss that appreciates you.
If you truly want a donut then have it and sit down and eat it mindfully and enjoy it.
But if you’re simply choosing to eat a donut to cover up other uncomfortable feelings, then reconsider. Because every time you make that choice, you increase the likelihood that you’ll make the same choice again next time.