You can apply bright-line rules to your goals by simply getting specific. The idea behind these kinds of rules is that they erase any wiggle room, and put the objective into razor-sharp focus. Remember that “I’m going to try to eat better” goal? The wiggle room in that statement can be measured in elephants. Make it a bright-line rule by instead saying “I’m going to eat two different types of vegetables every day.” It’s the difference between a hope and a plan.
Bright-line rules work for a few different reasons. As author and behavior psychology blogger James Clear explains on his website, these rules give you a new identity. For example, if you are trying to eat fewer ice cream cones, you’ll be more likely to fold and make a just-this-once exception. If you made a bright-line rule to only eat ice cream on the weekends, you can say “No, I don’t do that.” when someone offers you a cone on a Tuesday. It’s not even a decision; this is the new you.
Clear points out another reason bright-line rules can help you achieve your goals: decision fatigue. Your bright-line ice cream cone rule takes the guesswork and consideration out of all these ice cream cone offers you’re getting. “Without bright lines, you must decide whether a situation fits your standards every time,” Clear writes. Though it’s a myth that situations like these will deplete your willpower (that stuff is infinite, ya’ll), your motivation to stay your path will wear down. Once you clear the ice cream cone decisions out of your way, you’re gifting yourself the motivation to tackle bigger issues.