if, then, what?

In Gretchen Rubin's book, Better Than Before, she talks of the Strategy of Safeguards:

Eliminating cues stops temptation before it starts, so it never overpowers us.

Putting a safeguard in place allows you to plan. Using if-then statements, she says, is the best way to stick to good habits because it arms us to face any high-risk situation with a carefully considered plan.

I wrote last week that I am an Abstainer except when it comes to chocolate: I keep a bar of 90% dark chocolate, and if I don't have any sweets, then I get a bar. I look forward to that bar of chocolate, but I won't over-indulge in it. It's a treat and a safeguard all in one.

Here are some other if-then statements I use:

  • If I'm working at my desk, then I won't watch TV.
  • If it's past 10pm, then I won't watch a show.
  • If I need to focus, then I move to a different desktop.
  • If I need to ride alone with a guy, then I text my husband first.
  • If I eat at a buffet, then I only get one plate.
  • If I need to go to the church, then I won't take my work computer with me.

Gretchen does warn that this exercise is probably easiest for Upholders because we enjoy making and keeping rules. f you know me in real life, you know just how true that is.

The title of this chapter is A Stumble May Prevent a Fall, and it is so well named. When we plan, if we do stumble, it's easier to catch ourselves.

We encourage this practice in relationships and speak very openly about it with students. My husband, who is a youth pastor, encourages students to put safeguards in place when they're dating. Everyone has different temptations, but the How far is too far? question is too common. So, instead of drawing a line for everyone, we encourage safeguards. Here were two of ours:

  • If it's dark outside, then we can't linger in the car.
  • If it's 10:00 and no one is at Aaron's house with us, then I have to go home.

Temptation is strong, and if we want to help ourselves, especially when self control is low at the end of the day, safeguards are the way to go.

The Strategy of Safeguards requires us to take a very realistic—perhaps even fatalistic—look at ourselves. But while acknowledging the likelihood of temptation and failure may seem like a defeatist approach, it helps us identify, avoid, and surmount our likely stumbling blocks.

What are some safeguards you have in your life? Do they help you avoid stumbling blocks?

Or, what are some safeguards you should have or need help implementing?