The "What the Hell" Effect
So you set your mind to something, whether it's budgeting, eating, exercise, etc, and have been doing really well at it.
And then one day you are busier that usual, and you miss the mark on your goal. The next day you are also quite
busy, so you think, 'What the hell. I already missed yesterday. I'll just skip today too'. This 'what the hell' effect of thinking or feeling like you have already completely failed with one slip up is a by-product of not allowing ourselves room to fail. When we go slightly over our limit, we're more likely to go really far over, and then give up completely.
A way to rebound or avoid this all or nothing psychological trap is something called 'emergency reserves'. Creating an emergency reserve is mentally setting extra aside, allowing ourselves some wiggle room in meeting our goal, should we need it. For example, if you set your goal to do five fitness classes a week, but allow yourself the 'emergency reserve' of missing one a week, you'll be more likely to attend all five. This is because of the associated guilt around using an emergency reserve. There is a psychological cost to using it, so we often won't dip into it. It's different from setting a goal of five classes a week, with no room to 'fail'. Without the room to miss a few classes, you'd be more apt to give up after missing just one, than seeing a missed class as the use of your 'emergency fund'. So the next time you'd like to create a positive behavior, challenge yourself, or set a goal, consider including an 'emergency reserve' into your program.