Years ago, my dad told me a story he heard from a speaker at a business conference. The speaker talked about someone going on a diet (in the days when a diet meant eliminating certain foods altogether). The speaker said that when offered dessert at a dinner in a restaurant, the person thinks ‘I’ll never have dessert again after I start this diet, so just this once, I’ll have the chocolate cake.’ The speaker noted how much more powerful that phrase could be if it was turned into ‘just this once, I will pass on dessert.’
I’ve thought of that story many times since, mostly during the two periods in which I participated in Weight Watchers. As I learned new eating habits, I would say to myself ‘just this once, I’ll…’ Using that phrase didn’t require me to come up with the willpower and energy to resist a fattening and/or unhealthy food choice long-term; I only had to do it ‘just this once.’ I was amazed at how effective and helpful that phrase was for me.
At this time of year, when many people are making resolutions about improving various aspects of their lives, including health, I’m thinking of that phrase again and all the ways it can be used to help us make changes:
Just this once, I’ll pass on dessert. I can have one tomorrow if I want one.
Just this once, I’ll go to the gym even though I’m tired. If after exercising ten minutes, I still want to leave, I will.
Just this once, I’ll turn off my electronic devices and talk to my family / read a book / work on a craft.
Just this once, I’ll keep my mouth shut when a stranger is rude to me, rather than perpetuate the cycle by responding in kind.
Just this once, I’ll shrug it off when a driver cuts me off in traffic, instead of letting myself get worked up about it.
Just this once, I’ll try something new. If I don’t like it, I don’t have to do it again but maybe if I add up a couple more ‘just this onces,’ I’ll discover a new activity that I enjoy.
Just this once, I’ll consider that I might be wrong.
Just this once, I’ll listen before I talk.
Just this once—it can be a powerful statement.