How many times have you planned on starting at the gym “next week”?
And how many times has it never happened?
If you’re like most people, then the answer is almost every single time.
So today I’m going to introduce you to a behavioral tactic called The Sunshine Effect.
The sunshine effect is a little trick we play on ourselves, where we’ll make plans which we have no intention of keeping, purely as a means to justify doing something right now which we shouldn’t be doing. We fool ourselves that tomorrow, when the sun comes up (hence the name), things will be greatly different.
How many times have you said this to yourself:
“It’s okay, because from tomorrow everything is going to be different.
I’m going to hit the gym every day next week, twice per day if I can, and there’ll be zero junk food, fizzy drinks, alcohol…”
It’s usually a deal we make with ourselves when we fall victim to another issue – last supper syndrome.
I covered last supper syndrome in a recent article on my blog. But for those who haven’t checked that out yet, let me ask you this – have you ever binge eaten junk food the night before starting your new diet?
That’s last supper syndrome.
Basically, the fear of overhauling our lifestyle (i.e. “no more junk food!”) scares the s**t out of us, and we retreat the the comforts of all the things we know we shouldn’t have, by having “one last blowout”.
So we tell ourselves that it’s okay, things are going to change tomorrow, in order to give us a temporary feeling of relief. But all this does is make the feeling of going cold turkey even harder.
Because you know what’s harder than starting a new healthy diet?
Starting it while coming straight out of a very unhealthy diet. That’s what.
It’s like going from one extreme to the other. And the moment we reach the time when we said we were going to change everything, we find it impossibly hard. Thus, we return to the comfort of junk food, make more plans, and the cycle continues.
But the sunshine effect is not merely limited to your diet.
I know countless people who fall victims to this in their jobs, too.
They’ve worked a job they absolutely hate for the last year, and they told themselves that “It’s okay, because I’m going to start looking for a new job when I get home after work tonight…”
But they don’t.
We get home, veg out in front of Stevie the TV, then head back to work the following morning. And then, suddenly, it’s been five years.
Once again, they are using the sunshine effect. All we’re really doing is creating a false light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a threat being made without conviction, to justify doing nothing in the moment, even though we really wish we could.
“It’s okay, because pretty soon…”
How To Stop Using The Sunshine Effect To Ruin Your Goals
Look, it’s human nature to do this.
I’ve done it, too.
Back when I was overweight, do you have any idea how many times I said I’d be starting my new healthy lifestyle next week?
In truth, I didn’t really care about starting that new diet on a Monday. I simply wanted to make myself feel less guilty for having a massive blowout that weekend and covering my face in chocolate cake.
I knew I wasn’t serious, because once I started trying that healthy lifestyle, if one little thing threw me off track it would cause me to write off the entire rest of my week and say some bulls**t like, “No point now, I might as well start next again next week.”
(Even though it was only Wednesday lunchtime!)
The truth is, until we’ve got on top of what’s causing this self-sabotaging behavior you won’t get past the sunshine effect. Because there will always be something else.
Example: we go from “I can’t wait for the 1st of January. New year, new me!”, to “Well, I’ve just got to eat all of the remaining chocolate in the house…”
It could be something which is deep-rooted in your psyche, perhaps stemming back as far as to when you were growing up, and it’ll take some serious thought to pinpoint exactly what it was that caused you to start behaving this way. But the first thing you can do to combat this behavior, something you can do right now, is to stop living by the f**king calendar.
This is one of the first things I teach PT clients.
Your body doesn’t care whether it’s Monday morning, Wednesday lunchtime, the 1st of January or Friday the 13th – if you start training hard, it will respond!
In regards to training, I highly advise you to start working towards a set goal.
So rather than just saying, “I’m going to get in better shape!”, create a specific set of targets you can hold yourself accountable to. “I want to be a size 10 by March 1st,” for instance.
This way, you are not just training blindly in the hope of achieving slightly better results than you have now. Then get to work.
Let me tell you a story…
Back when I was a kid, I was laid up in hospital for almost a year after going through Perthes disease, a rare childhood disorder which sees blood supply to the femur disrupted, eventually causing the bone cells to die and in my case leading to my left hip crumbling.
The prospect of never walking properly again, especially at that age, was f**king terrifying.
So every time the doctors told me we needed to start rehabilitation (i.e. learning to walk again via rehab, Zimmer frame, crutches, etc) I kept on putting it off and saying we’d begin the following day/week.
I can still remember, I did this half because it was terrifying, and half because I didn’t want the fuss of everyone buzzing around me, making a big scene, in case I failed.
Until eventually, I was faced with an ultimatum…
Having been laid up in bed for such a long time, I was told that unless I got my act together I would likely not be able to walk ever again. My Grandad, a full-time bad-a** who visited me almost every single day, sat me down and gave me a good talking to. After listening to my bulls**t excuses for half an hour, he said only these words:
“Your future is created by what you do now. Not tomorrow.”
And he was right.
I encourage you, whatever you present situation, to also heed these words.
If you’ve enjoyed my post on how using the sunshine effect can prevent you from reaching your goals, share it on social media. If you’ve found it helpful, others will too. Plus, you’ll look like a boss.
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