Guardrails and other precautionary measures
Thinking about guardrails.... OK, I'm dating myself here, but in the late 1980's there was a recurring skit on Saturday Night Live featuring "Toonces the Driving Cat".
It came with its own little jingle and the story was always the same. Toonces' owners would inexplicably believe that their cat was capable of driving the car and every episode ended with Toonces driving the car off a cliff. Somehow everyone always survived and they'd stage the same scenario in a different setting a few weeks later. The writers of SNL got a lot of mileage out of a pretty silly idea - it was just so ludicrous you couldn't help but laugh.
Unfortunately, we often display Toonces-like skills when we over-estimate our ability to navigate life as our own boss. As we begin forming habits that both reflect and feed healthy appetites, it's tempting to assume that we are on our way, with life on a new trajectory. This is a critical stage, when the behaviors are still new enough that they are not yet ingrained. If we are not careful, it's easy to fall back into our old "go-to" responses, especially in pressure situations. How can we stay on track?
I have found it helpful to put some structures in place that slow me down and force me to play out in my mind what the end result will be if I act out in my old behaviors. What kind of structures? Maybe I need to drive a different route to and from work so I don't stop off at that place. Maybe I should sit in the driveway and pray for two minutes before going in to see my family at night to ensure I leave work at the office. Maybe I need to install some internet filters that have to be fiddled with before I can visit sites I don't need to be on. Maybe I alter my path to the break room to bypass that administrative assistant who always seems to wear something that catches my eye. Guardrails - they won't stop me from going over the cliff if I am bound and determined to do so, but if my goal is to strengthen better appetites, maybe they'll cause me to hit the pause button long enough to choose a better path.
Perhaps the most important structure for me has been finding a group of men that walk through these situations with me. Men who pull for me. Men who pray with me. Men who encourage me. Men who love me the way I am and care too much to let me stay that way. Men who have earned the right to tell me when I'm being a jerk or an idiot because we've been in the trenches together and I know their weaknesses too.
Some people consider these types of structures as being weak. I call it being wise.
"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." - Proverbs 4:23