Stop rationalizing! This is the best advice ever that I can come up with for now. 😉 Rationalization can be good and is actually essential when planning or looking for constructive solutions. Unfortunately, I tend to use rationalization in a different way: it helps me to make excuses! I think we all do.
Suppose you took a small piece of chocolate just because you wanted a snack. You’re still hungry, another little piece won’t hurt. And then another, who can blame you, you deserve it! See how easily it’s done and our minds are amazing at doing it! Some of you might be drooling by now (I apologize), others might not have difficulties resisting food. But we can all think of at least one thing we try to get or do by using rationalization when we know already it is non-constructive or even worse still, destructive.
What is really interesting here and extremely encouraging is that we already know the answer. When that kind of rationalization starts, there are two possible outcomes: you keep going until you get to the not-so-helpful result or you stop.
How to stop?
I don’t claim to have the perfect solution (if I did, I’d be rich by now), but I think the next few points are an excellent way to start.
Believe you can change your thinking. More precisely, You can change the way you think! You’ve probably heard it said many times by many people: people never change. It’s true that you cannot (or with much difficulty) change other people, but you can change yourself! Think about it, your brain is a pretty powerful tool. How much time did you spend learning how to work your computer and all the software on it? By spending a bit of time reflecting on our thinking, we can certainly learn new ways of processing our own thoughts that will make life better.
Avoid absolute thinking. Absolute statements such as “I already had a piece, I can’t eat healthy” or “he got me in a bad mood, the whole day is ruined” are good indicators that the rationalizing process has begun. Even when these are not part of a making-excuses endeavour, they rarely lead to useful, constructive and healthy feelings, decisions and situations.
Stop when it starts. Or even better, stop before it starts when possible. Let me be honest, I don’t know about you but I usually realize pretty early when I start a rationalization process. Free will dictates that it’s up to me, and to you, to stop our own rationalization. Keep in mind that stopping usually leads to the best results!
Whether or not this seems difficult to you, you’ll only be able to stop rationalizing if you do something about it. First, think about what triggers rationalization for you (what, when, who and how, the why is not important). Second, watch for these triggers and stop the process as soon as possible. You can even rehearse it by imagining a situation that triggers the process and then stop it. This will take practice and self-compassion. Be aware though not to start rationalizing about learning how not to rationalize. 😉