If you are waiting for the prize, for the reward, if you are restricting your diet until you achieve some goal, until you cross some finish line…..then I have some bad news for you. You are setting yourself up for failure. If you are switching up your eating, purely in service of some short-term goal, such as achieving a goal-weight, getting a six-pack, fitting back into your jeans or whatever it is, then you are not changing your diet, you are going “on a diet”.

But for real, long lasting success, you don’t stop when you are tired. You don’t stop when it is difficult. You stop when you are done.

But it is never done.

It never ends.

That thought should fill you with dread.

And excitement.

If the thought of your change in diet never ending, if the thought of your struggle, your hard-work, your exercise, or whatever it is, never ending, fills you only with a cold dread, then you are normal.

However, if it also fills you with a savage excitement, or exquisite determination, then you have a chance of achieving a solid, long-term success that most people cannot even conceive of, but can only envy when they see it. If you want to make a major, significant change in your diet, that gives long-lasting effects and rewards, then pay with the thought that it never ends.

In diet, if you have the mindset of eating “healthy but not delicious” food so you can “reward” yourself with “good” “delicious” food (that is unhealthy), then you are setting yourself up for failure. You may still succeed in attaining your goals with that mindset, but it will be despite that mindset. You may achieve short-term goals but will struggle to achieve them, and struggle even more to maintain your results. When you go in with the mindset of “enduring” a certain way of eating just to attain your goal, and just to be able to “reward” yourself with “good delicious” food then you have already programmed your valuation system to sabotage your efforts.

Why would you endure eating “bad” (but healthy) food so that you can reach some point where you again allow yourself to eat “good” (but unhealthy) food again? Why not just eat “good” food now? Why not just eat “good” food every day?

When you start a new way of eating, with the idea that you will have “cheat days” once a week, or you will reward yourself with a “treat” food when you achieve some milestone, your valuation system will hijack your efforts at the first sign of trouble. If your conception is that you will “endure” eating a certain way until you get a six-pack and then you will be able to go back to eating the “good” (but unhealthy) food as much as you want, then you have already sabotaged your valuation vehicle.

Your goal, your motivation, your inspiration all may carry you through the first few obstacles as you continue your diet, starting your path toward your chosen goal. But as soon as you hit some really tough times, some difficult obstacles….the inevitable question will bubble up in your head…”Why?”….”Why am I doing this?”….”Why am I suffering now?” …..”Why am I enduring this food that I don’t like, when I could be having “good” food right now?”

And your self-sabotaged valuation system, and your short-term “just endure until the finish line” mindset will not be able to offer very convincing answers.

This same, subtle difference of mindset an of valuation applies to other areas such as exercise too, or any other area in life where you have to be strict to achieve success. If you are doing hard exercise just to cross some self-determined finish line, just to achieve some goal…which will result in you not having to do that exercise anymore….then you are sabotaging yourself before you even begin.

If your reward for hard work is not having to work hard anymore…you are screwed.

But you are not alone. So many people fall into this trap, without ever really analysing and assessing their valuation system and their conception of a mystical finish line.

If your reward for hard work is not having to work hard anymore….then why not just stop working hard right now?

Hard work is hard. So why do it? “Well, because I want to save enough money that I can have a comfortable life in 30 years when I retire”.

Okay, cool. Fair enough. But why not just be comfortable now?

Of course this does not mean that you shouldn’t work hard and that you shouldn’t think long-term, make goals, celebrate or plan for the future and save for future security. What it means is that you have to carefully analyse your expectations of a future finish line and what values you are placing on things.

If hard work is valued by you, even subconsciously, as “bad”, as a kind of necessary evil that you just grin and bear until the day you can stop and finally enjoy life, then you are in for all kinds of problems (like most people).

First of all, you are making yourself use far more self-control exertion to keep going with the hard work than you need to. By telling your brain that what you are doing is “bad”, but necessary because it is in service of some later reward that is “good”, then the only way you will stop yourself by abandoning the “bad” now is by using a whole lot of self-control.

Second of all, if you think that once you achieve your goal then you can relax and enjoy the fruit of your labour, then you are setting yourself up for a brief time of celebration…soon followed by the frustration of slipping back to where you started, or even lower. Remember, it was that “good” food that got you into the predicament you are trying to solve now (losing weight, getting a six-pack, whatever it is). Rewarding yourself with it and finally being able to enjoy it when you cross that finish line is only going to send you straight back to where you started, but a little more tired and a little more jaded and frustrated than before.

Thirdly, you are hijacking your own valuation system, as mentioned before. When you hit those rough spots, those difficult times, when it is so tough that your motivation shrinks away and leaves you and you start asking “Why..?”….”Why am I putting myself through this?”….”Why am I doing this to myself?”…..”Why am I foregoing pizza now, so that I can get to some point, some finish line, where I can enjoy pizza later?”……”Why am I foregoing the pleasure of this good thing now, so that I can have this good thing later?”….

Promising yourself some forbidden food as a reward for foregoing that food for a week is counter-intuitive and sabotages your efforts from within. Rewarding yourself with “cheat days” and “cheat meals” is counter-intuitive, jacks up your valuation system and sabotages your efforts from within. Doing something that you think of as “bad” so that you can soon reach the finish line, relax and enjoy the “good” is not a useful, long-term winning mindset. It IS entirely possible to achieve success with this mindset. It IS entirely possible to even achieve mid-term success with this mindset. But long-term success, without unnecessary extra exertion of self-control, with enjoyment NOW and enjoyment LATER is not achieved with this mindset.

Self-Determination Theory (SDT; Deci and Ryan) distinguishes between Intrinsic and various levels of External Motivation (for diet, exercise, or any difficult task). We will discuss Self-Determination Theory and motivation types much, much more in later articles, but for now, recognise that Intrinsic Motivation is king when it comes to long-term success and especially for maintenance of success.

Intrinsic Motivation, as opposed to other forms, is the enjoyment of the activity (whether exercise, eating a certain way, doing some task or work) not only for the rewards it may bring, but for the task itself. You do the task, and even though it may be difficult, you enjoy doing the task, because you enjoy doing the task. You enjoy it while you are doing it, not only because of what you will get out of it later.

If you want true, lasting success and fulfillment in your diet (or exercise, or work) then analyse your values. Truly appreciate and value your new food choices, your new way of eating as “good” and something you would love to do long-term. If you cheat yourself, and value it only as “pretty-good”, or “tolerable”, or even worse “bad”, while you chase the finish line when you can ditch it and return to your “good” food, then strap yourself in….

If you want true, lasting success and fulfillment in your diet, then value what you are doing as “good” now, already. Enjoy it now. Enjoy it already. Do it for the future benefits, for the long-term goals, and for all the intermediary goals, by all means. But enjoy it now. Enjoy it as “good” now.

And if you want true, last success and fulfillment in your diet (and broader life), then realise this: It never ends.


If you cannot fix your mindset to enjoy and value hard work, rather than seeing it only as a tool to be used and discarded as soon as possible, then resign yourself to a life of mediocre, comfortable, vague desperation.

There is no FINISH LINE. So enjoy the hard work. Enjoy your new diet, your new way of eating as “good”. Value it and abhor the days or times when you have to “cheat” due to uncontrollable circumstances.

IT NEVER ENDS. And even as that realisation fills you with dread, it should fill you equally with excitement.

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