As part of our “Love Essentially” series, Jackie Pilossoph helps us navigate the complex world of relationships. Have a question that you would like her to answer? Contact her here, and it may be featured in an upcoming article!
When you’re in the mood to treat yourself to a dessert, what’s your go-to? Mine happens to be the Culver’s Concrete Mixer with brownie pieces and marshmallow, a delight I discovered through my teenage son and his friends.
But if you’re thinking of indulging in any kind of food or drink that isn’t exactly good for your health, Dr. Lisa Kaplin has a warning: If you’re not going to enjoy it, do not waste the calories.
Kaplin, a North Shore-based Certified Life Coach and psychologist recently wrote a blog post about one of her clients who was beating himself up because he had eaten a Big Mac.
“I told him that he should either eat it and enjoy it, or don’t eat it. Those are his best choices,” said Kaplin, who has been a coach for nine years and a psychologist since 2000. “If I’m stressed or depressed and I’m just eating chocolate mindlessly, not only does it not help my mood, but I don’t even have the benefit of enjoying it. But If I consciously eat the chocolate, savor it, and decide not to feel guilty or shameful, it’s a completely different experience.”
I sat down with Kaplin to talk about the importance of making conscious choices, not just with food, but with any decisions in life, big or small. Kaplin explained that consciously choosing—choosing with intent, means making a decision without three things: excuses, regret or guilt.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re shopping online and you happen to notice a pair of sandals you want to purchase. You hesitate because you’re feeling guilty. You might be thinking, ‘Maybe I won’t wear them a lot this summer since I’m spending so much time at home because of the pandemic,’ or ‘Maybe I should be saving money during this hard time in the world.’ Now you are stressed, and even if you decide to buy the sandals, you don’t really feel good about your decision. Don’t the excuses and the guilt take away all the enjoyment? So now, if you buy the sandals, you have also bought anxiety and possibly regret.
Guilt and regret are two emotions that have no good purpose. Nothing productive comes from either of these. Especially now, during a time when so much enjoyment has been stolen from all of us—traveling, seeing loved ones, socializing, and not feeling safe, to name a few, it is important and healthy to squeeze out guilt and regret and make room for gratitude and joy.
Kaplin and I thought of these other seven life decisions that are better made with intent and purpose, and without the negativity of excuses, guilt or regret:
1. Managing Time
Work is important to everyone, and at times can feel overwhelming. So, what happens when you’re busy working, and a friend invites you to sit on her back patio for a glass of rosé on a warm summer night? You have a decision to make. You are either too busy and choose work, or you go. But if you go, just make sure you enjoy the night guilt-free, without thinking about deadlines or pressure.
These decisions can be among the most difficult. Do you let your teenagers socialize during COVID-19? Everyone has a different comfort level and no one should judge what any parent decides is right for their family. That said, if you let your child go out with friends, don’t spend your night worrying. That emotion won’t change anything, except that you are hurting yourself.
You either trust your financial advisor or you don’t. So, once you agree to an investment strategy, cross that decision off your list. If you put the burden of worrying about your finances on yourself, it serves no useful purpose. Instead, feel confident that you are in good hands, and have made a smart decision for the long-term.
Perhaps one of the most scary and stressful of life, this decision shouldn’t be taken lightly, and should be made with a lot of deep thought. But, once it’s happening, think about how wonderful the new place will be when you’re settled, not the stress and fear of change or all the work involved with moving.
The decisions involved when it comes to dating have to do with attitude. Are you going to be open-minded, friendly and non-judgmental in your quest to find love? You can view dating as a chore that must be done to achieve your ultimate goal, or you can look at meeting a bunch of new people as a fun filled and interesting journey. The latter will surely be more productive.
6. Getting out of a bad relationship.
If someone is unhappy in a romantic relationship and he or she chooses to stay in it and not try to work on the relationship, it is most likely because of fear, lack of self-confidence, or guilt. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, leaving a long-term relationship or a marriage is heartbreaking. It’s devastating, lonely and very scary. But if you do leave, try to focus on your future, and during those depressing times that follow, remember all the reasons you left. I suggest making a list of reasons why your relationship wasn’t working out, and then saving the list and reading it whenever you start to doubt the decision.
Love really is a choice. Attraction, trust, respect, and likability are all factors that come into play when choosing love and commitment. Loving someone out of guilt is unfair to both partners, and choosing to stay with someone out of obligation or for an ulterior motive is just plain wrong. In other words, don’t be kind to your spouse because you feel guilty or because you are scared to be alone. Be kind because you know how wonderful it will make your partner feel, and how much simply being kind can make a difference in igniting and sustaining dedication to the relationship.
“We owe it to ourselves to make decisions that make us happy, and guilt and regret can prevent that,” Kaplin said. “Make that decision and own it. Put both feet in and live it or choose something else.”
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- How to Develop a Giving Plan During Uncertain Times
- A Better Summer: What We’re Buying From Chicago-Area Stores
- The Ultimate Guide to Better Summer Picnics
Jackie Pilossoph is a former television journalist and newspaper features reporter. The author of four novels and the writer of her weekly relationship column, Love Essentially, Pilossoph is also the creator of the divorce support website, Divorced Girl Smiling. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism and lives in Chicago with her two teenagers.