Episode 59: Planning Ahead of Time

Uncategorized Feb 28, 2022

One thing my clients often tell me is that their urges feel especially challenging at certain times of day, days of the week, or even in certain places. Maybe you notice the urge to watch pornography on work trips, when your family goes out of town, or on a work break on a certain day of the week. This is completely normal. 

Our brains are brilliant in that they remember instances of dopamine hits, but you don’t have to let your lower brain dictate your life. Although it feels like it, your urges aren’t dangerous and they aren’t a problem. And one practical skill that will make your urges easier to handle is planning ahead of time. 

Listen in this week as I offer my tips for building the skill of planning ahead of time. You’ll discover why this is such an integral part of being intentional about how you live your life, what happens when decision fatigue kicks in, and what to look out for as you begin practicing planning ahead of time. 

If you’ve been thinking about joining Overcome Pornography for Good, this is your chance to sign up! We’ve got an amazing marriage and pornography call with our trauma expert, Lindsay Poehlman, a new workshop called How to Have Difficult Conversations with our relationship expert, and so much more in February, so you don’t want to miss out! 

I’ve got a brand new free masterclass called How to Overcome Pornography for Good Without Willpower! If this class sounds like something you need, and you have questions you’d like me to address on the call, make sure to click here to join us! 

I have amazing news. If you want to take the work I’m sharing on the podcast deeper, I’m running a masterclass called How to Quit Viewing Pornography Even if You’ve Tried in the Past, and it is 100% free! All you have to do is sign up here and I will see you there. 

What You'll Learn from this Episode: 

  • Why urges can feel stronger at certain places, times, or days of the week.
  • What decision fatigue means and why we want to avoid it. 
  • The power of making decisions and planning ahead of time. 
  • What to pay attention to as you’re planning ahead of time to manage your urges.
  • Questions that will help you be intentional about how you spend your time.


Listen to the Full Episode:

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Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to the Overcome Pornography for Good podcast episode 59, Planning Ahead of Time.

Welcome to the Overcome Pornography for Good podcast, the show that will teach you how to stop viewing pornography and never go back to it. If you want to learn how to train your brain out of a pornography habit, completely shame-free, then this is the show for you. I’m your host Sara Brewer, a certified life and faith-based coach.

Hey, you guys, welcome to the podcast episode this week. Jeez, what a winter it has been. Hopefully, you can’t tell too much in my throat, but I am sick again. Again, I swear every other week, maybe every week I am getting sick and it’s so miserable. I can’t wait for this winter to be done.

Also, my kids, they do about 10 hours a week a daycare and I think, you know, it’s our first year of really doing daycare and I think they pick up a lot of stuff and bring it home, pick up a lot of stuff and get everyone a little bit sick. And I don’t know, maybe just the winter after the big Covid scare everyone’s immune systems are maybe down a little bit and we’re getting more sick. I don’t know, I have no idea, but something is happening this year where I am just so sick all the time.

I hope you guys are having a great month of February. I love the month of February because things start to warm up a little bit. I usually take a trip in February. We just got back from spending a week in Cozumel, Mexico. it’s an island off of Cancun and we did some scuba diving. Oh my goodness, the scuba diving in Cozumel is beautiful.

There was one dive that we did where we were, it was almost like swimming through slot canyons. So I’ve done a lot of slot canyons growing up living in Utah, there’s all the ones down in Zion and just southern Utah. And it was like swimming through slot canyons with all of this coral all on each side of you and swimming through caves and it was so cool. I saw a shark, some turtles. Anyways, I love February.

I am excited to get into our content today. It’s going to be a little bit of a shorter one after having a couple longer episodes just with some really practical skills for you guys. I’m going to talk about planning ahead of time.

I got a message, someone was asking like hey, I’ve heard you talking about planning ahead of time, but can you give me some more information on how to do that? And so that’s what we’re going to talk about today. So this is helpful to you if you have difficult events that come up that typically cause you to go and look at pornography.

So maybe like a work trip and typically on work trips you struggle. Or your family goes out of town or certain days off of work, or your work break. Or it could be a certain day of the week that is difficult for you. It could be maybe you spend a couple nights a week at your work, I have a handful of clients who are firefighters and spend their nights at the stations and those are like typical moments that are especially difficult where you tend to get a lot of urges.

And the reason for this is because if you remember, our brain, it gets dopamine from pornography. it’s gets about two times the amount of dopamine than it would get from normal natural pleasures and so it really thinks that porn is super important. It thinks that porn is important to our survival, it thinks that it is important for it to get and that’s why we get these urges to have pornography because of the dopamine it gives us.

But your brain not only remembers where it gets its dopamine, so it doesn’t just remember, “Oh, hey, yeah you get dopamine from porn.” But it remembers where you were when you got that dopamine and what time it was when you got that dopamine. It remembers all these little details.

So if you’ve had a pattern of viewing pornography on Thursdays at 10PM and that’s your pattern, your brain is going to remember that and Thursday at 10PM is going to come along and your brain is going to be like, “Oh, remember, this is where we get our dopamine.” Or whenever, maybe it’s when you’re out of the house and on vacation your brain is going to remind you of this and you’re going to have urges.

So with these difficult events that pop up, and maybe too, maybe these events not only do you have urges but you have more desire to view, you have more justifications and excuses in your mind, in your thoughts that make it harder to not view. So with these specific events what we want to do is plan ahead of time.

What we want to avoid is what I call decision fatigue. And that’s when you get to this moment without having a decision made and so you’re in this moment and you’re feeling the urge and you’re trying to make the decision whether or not you’re going to view pornography when you’re having that urge.

And then we experience decision fatigue, which is like no I’m not going to, but actually I want to. But no, I said I’m not going to. But this is a good chance for us. And you’re trying to make this decision when you’re already feeling the urge What I want you to do, and this will make things so much easier for you, is to make the decision when you are not feeling the urge. Make the decision ahead of time.

This is so important because when we do this, when we plan ahead of time we are using our prefrontal cortex, we’re using our higher brain. This part of our brain that can make decisions, that can complete goals, that can keep commitments, that can help you plan ahead of time and decide what you really want for your life. Instead of making decisions on your lower brain, with your lower brain which is just responding to urges and just wants the dopamine.

Okay, so if we make this decision ahead of time, that lower brain can come in and those urges can come up and it can be pestering you and pestering you. But you already made your decision and then you can implement all the other tools that I’ve taught you in this podcast and in the program.

What’s really interesting about planning ahead of time too, is it reminds you that you have complete control over whether or not you look at porn. Sometimes we lie to ourselves, and we say, “Well, it just happened. And I don't know what happened, but I just was looking at pornography.” Instead of recognizing it as a choice that we truly do make.

And sometimes, why we do that sometimes is because we don't want to admit to ourselves that we're not willing to quit, or we don't want to quit. And so as you plan ahead of time it's a good opportunity for you to ask yourself and remind yourself like, is this something that I want to do? Do I want to quit this? Or is this just something that I feel like I have to do for these reasons?

Because you will not be able to quit viewing pornography if you don't want to. If you're doing it out of obligation, or you're doing it because you should. You will be able to quit pornography if it's something that you're choosing for your life.

Okay, so how do we plan ahead of time? I'm going to give you a number of questions that you can think about in order to create your plan ahead of time and some examples. So the first thing you want to decide is decide what you're going to view or if you're going to view at all. And this, kind of going back to what I was just saying a minute ago, this is where you are truly deciding, am I going to view pornography or not?

Do not underestimate this question because some of you are going to be like, “Well, yeah, of course my answer is going to be no.” But really take a moment and think about it and think about this event coming up and ask yourself, what am I deciding to do right now? What am I deciding to do when this event happens? Okay, so that's the first thing you want to decide.

And like I said, that's a really good opportunity to, if you notice some resistance there coming up, if you notice some like, “Well, actually, I do want to look at porn at this time.” You can notice that, and we can think about that and question it. And you can decide what you want to do, you can come and get some coaching help on that if you're in the program. Or you can just, like it's just so good for you to notice what it is that you want and then we can take it from there.

Because if you lie to yourself and say that you don't want it and you really do, it's just resisting, it's going to put you in a powerless place. And let me just say one quick thing about this. If you notice that you do want to view porn in that event, that still doesn't mean that you have to or that you're going to.

It's just good for you to admit to yourself what it is you want and then from there we can look at what it is you truly want for your life, if viewing pornography is going to help you get that. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But we can do that in a shame-free way when we're honest about it. Okay? And I won't dive too much into that. I think I'd dove more into that in my episode called Pillar One Shame-Free Commitment.

Okay, the second thing you want to ask yourself is what will be challenging about this event? Maybe what's challenging about it is you're alone. Maybe you have a lot of urges. Maybe you have a lot of opportunity. Maybe it's a pattern. Maybe you know that you're going to be feeling a bunch of negative emotion that day or you know that you're going to be bored, right? So write out what is going to be challenging about this event.

One quick note, I'll try not to get on too many tangents here. But one quick thing to notice, I really want you to pay attention to if you are using pornography as an escape from your life, or if you're using pornography as something to make your life bearable.

Sometimes what's happening is we come home from work or whatever it is with our life and our lives are just not exciting. We don't like our life that much, we don't want to be in our life that much. And so we use pornography in order to make things a little bit more bearable and a little bit more exciting.

You get to decide if you want pornography to be a part of your life to make your life bearable. Or if you want to create a life that is better than bearable, that you don't just need to escape, that is exciting and that you enjoy and that you like every single part of. This is why I do this work, because so often pornography is an escape and is keeping you from creating a life that you really, truly want.

If that's you, I want you to ask yourself and do this exercise, like, what is my dream life? If I didn't use pornography? What would I do instead? If I could spend my time doing anything in the world, what would I choose to spend my time doing? And do I want to create that? Or do I want to continue to just make my life bearable through these false pleasures that I indulge in?

Okay, so what will be challenging about this event? List all those things out. And that will give you, when you write out what will be challenging about this event, that will give you a blueprint as to what you need to do to make it easier.

So the next question is what is your plan to carry this out? How I recommend doing this is looking at all of those things you wrote down that were challenging, and create a plan for every specific thing that was challenging.

So for example if it's, well, I am really tired at this event. Okay, make a plan for how you're going to handle the tiredness. If it is, well, I usually have a lot of negative stress in this moment. Make a plan for how you're going to handle the stress, and how you're going to sit with the stress, and how you're going to maybe find more productive ways of handling the stress.

Maybe if it's I'm all alone and I have a lot of opportunity, is there something that you can do to lessen the opportunity? Without resisting it, without pushing it away. But can I leave my phone in the common area? Can I make it so that I have a little bit less opportunity here? And you can do that in a way where you're not running away from it or pushing it away, right?

We're still going to notice these urges and breathe into them, and process them like you've heard me talk about a lot in the program. It's not like go away, I'm going to push my phone out of the room, so I don't look at it. We're still going to breathe into those urges and we're also going to get rid of opportunity. We're not going to, like we're not going to just have our phone sitting in front of us.

Okay, other options with this plan, sometimes we do these plans, I do these plans with my clients if they are waking up in the middle of the night every single night looking at pornography, how can we help with the challenging parts of this event? Usually, it's tired, we're tired, we're groggy. So can we get up and walk around and go get a glass of water?

And as we're getting that glass of water, read over this plan and recommit to ourselves or read a letter to ourselves? Okay, this is the part where you get to think, “Okay, what would be the most helpful thing for me? And how can I create a plan that will help me stick with my decision to not look at porn?”

The next question is when you arrive at this event, how will you justify or excuse yourself for not following the plan? This is an opportunity for you to get all of those justifications out on paper. A lot of times we aren't honest about our justifications, and then we think our justifications without addressing them, so this is an opportunity for you to do that.

Maybe you notice you think, your justification is well, I am really tired. And I need to get sleep for tomorrow because I have this big thing going on tomorrow. And then ask yourself, “How can I answer that justification? Is it worth losing some sleep over to not look at pornography?” And if it's not, then we need to change what our decision is.

Maybe the justification is well, I really want it, and this is really difficult, and I really need it. And we can start looking at these justifications, you can start looking at them and getting coaching on them if you're in the program, or allow yourself to change them and answer them in some way so that we have an answer to these justifications instead of just believing the justifications.

And then lastly, the last question I want you to ask yourself is, if it gets really difficult, what is my plan? Because there might come a moment where you're like, “You know what? Screw it. Screw it all. Who cares? This is too hard.” What is your plan if it gets to that moment?

And like I said, the most important part of planning and deciding ahead of time is truly making the decision for what you're going to do instead of just waiting to see how it goes, which we do, right? Like let's just see how it goes in the morning, what my urges are like and then I'll decide if I'm going to look or not.

No, we have to decide ahead of time. And all these questions will help you do that and help you make a really solid plan. And of course, if you're in the program, bring these to the Ask A Coach board, bring these to the coaching calls, and we'll help you with them.

So after you create this plan, and after you go through the event, ideally, you follow your plan, and you don't look at pornography. If you do, if you don't follow your plan, this is a great opportunity for you to look back and see what happened and what went wrong.

And maybe we need to make some adjustments to our plan. Maybe we need to make some adjustments to our thought work. Maybe we need to get some coaching on specific things that are coming up. But if you don't follow through with your plan, I don't want you just to throw it out the window, I want you to use it as an opportunity.

Think like a math problem, sometimes we have a math problem, and we're trying to solve it. And we almost get it, but we don't get it all the way. And then we go back and do it again and we tweak little things here and there.

It's not like we're just throwing the math problem away and being like, “Oh, I suck at math.” No, we tweak things, and we try again, and we change the way we do things. And that's how we solve the math problem. That's how we get good at quitting porn. That's how we get good at these difficult events.

Some of you are going to be thinking, “Well, I don't know if I like really want to take the time to plan ahead of time. This seems like a lot of stuff I have to think through.” And if that's you, I want to illustrate this example. I want you to imagine that you're trying to get from your house to the grocery store, and the grocery store is 20 miles away and you're riding a bike. And you're riding your bike, you’re riding your bike, you’re riding your bike.

It's going to be so much faster if you get into a car and hop in a car. Now, the thing about hopping into the car is you might not have the directions. You might need to put the directions in the GPS in the car. And it might not have gas, you might need to go stop and get gas. There might be a few things where you can't just keep pedaling like you could on a bike, you have to stop and get everything set up. And then you can continue going.

Imagine if you're in that situation and you're like, “Well, I'm not going to get in a car because it's going to take too long to stop and get gas.” Like no, you will get to where you want to go way faster than you would on a bike, even if you had to stop and get gas. And so taking the time to do this and stop is going to get you that goal of quitting porn way faster, even if it feels like you have to slow things down and take a break and take some time to do this.

Okay, one last thing I want to say about this because I can hear some of you saying like, “Okay, but Sara, I get to this event and it's really difficult. Like really difficult. I feel such strong urges. What do I do when I feel such strong urges?” What I want to say to you is yes, you will, you will feel strong urges. And that's okay. The urge is not the problem. Thinking that the urge is a problem is the problem.

Okay, thinking that the urges are a problem is causing resisting. Remember the beach ball example, like when we hold a beach ball underwater, what does it want to do? It wants to pop up. That's what happens with our urges when we just hold them and resist them, they pop up and they become even stronger, we give into them. The urge is not a problem.

If they're really difficult and really strong, that is not a problem. All this is is a vibration in your body. You are safe to feel these urges and they cannot make you do anything. It's just a vibration and an uncomfortable emotion in your body. Truly, truly, like I wish I could infuse this truth into all of you through the podcast mic. That's what I'm doing, imagine me like infusing this truth into you.

Urges are not dangerous, they cannot make you do anything. They are just an uncomfortable sensation in your body, period. And if you've practiced processing them, if you understand how to do that, if you're in the program, you've done your 100 urges or even just, jeez, your 20 urges, you know how to do it and it's easy. The difficult part is that we haven't really chosen not to view.

I had a conversation with a client, I was coaching a client earlier today and they said to me, they said it's just easier to give in. Because we were talking about a past experience he had, we were looking at his learn and move on. We were trying to figure out what's going on. And he didn't try to process it at all. He just gave into it. He had the thought, “Hey, this is a great time to view porn, let's do.” And he's like, “Okay, great. Let's do it.”

And when we were kind of exploring that, right, when I'm coaching, it's very shame-free. We're not like why would you think that? What's wrong with you? Of course not, we're just like, okay, I wonder why. Why did you make that decision? And he said it's just easier. It's easier and I was tired.

And gosh, this is a whole topic for a whole other podcast. But what I'll say about this is it is not easier. That is a lie. I said to him, how easy was it to sit with yourself throughout the day knowing that you had looked at pornography and like feeling weird about it and bad about it? That was not easy.

How easy is it to be spending your time and energy in this program quitting porn, instead of using that time and energy doing things that you want to be doing and that you like? Right, it's not easy to feel like you're not doing what you want to be doing with your life.

It's a really hard place to be when you're deciding to indulge in false pleasures instead of deciding to create the life that you want, and to quit the thing that is causing harm in your life. And I'm not going to pretend that it's not difficult to sit with these urges. Yeah, they're uncomfortable, but they're supposed to be uncomfortable. It's supposed to be difficult, it's not supposed to be easy.

It's hard to sit with them sometimes. But it's harder to continue your life with unwanted porn use. It's harder to always be worrying and wondering why you can't quit. It's harder to feel like you're living below your potential. And so it really is this difference, right?

And then we talked about how there's a difference between this river of misery and the pond of misery. You have to go through the river of misery to quit porn. And telling yourself it's going to be easy is just a lie because it's not. It's going to be miserable, especially with these difficult moments we've been talking about. And your brain has all of this over desire and it's bugging you to look at porn. It's not easy.

It's absolutely doable, but you have to go through this river of misery to get there. But once you get through that river of misery, you quit porn, you're not there anymore. And the alternative is to sit here in the pond of misery, where maybe it's not as rushing, and it doesn't feel as intense in the moment. But it's like static, yucky, gross water that you're just staying in.

Okay, there are two types of difficult in this world. There's the difficult and the hard things that move you forward. And there's the difficult and the hard things of staying put. So it's easier to just give in is a lie. It’s a lie. They're both hard. They're both difficult. And you just get to decide which difficult you want to start engaging in. Okay?

All right, you guys, that's what I have for you today. If you want help with this, make sure that you're in the program. If quitting pornography is what you want to do, that is the best place for you to get all the help, all the support you need. I have trainings on this and specific workbooks and worksheets for you to fill out to make this plan. And then, of course, all of the one-on-one support that you could need.

The program truly is a place for deep implementation. The podcast is a lot of learning, and I hope you're having many transformations and having some breakthroughs. But the program is the place where we really implement it all. We have deep transformations, deep implementation, right?

There's a difference between passive learning and really implementing. There's a difference between listening to someone explain these tools or watching a YouTube video on someone snowboarding and actually getting on the mountain and learning how to snowboard with a teacher.

That's what the program is meant to do, it's to help you implement all of this and I want you there if you're trying to quit porn, because I know it'll help you get where you want to go as fast as possible. All right, you guys, have a great week. We'll talk to you next week. Bye bye.

I want to invite you to come and listen to my free training called How to Quit Viewing Pornography Even if You've Tried in the Past. If you like the podcast, you will love this free training. We talk about, number one, how to not rely on willpower or phone filters so that you can actually stop wanting pornography.

Number two, how to guarantee that you won't fail no matter how many times you've tried in the past. And number three, how to feel good about yourself while becoming someone who doesn't struggle with pornography. You can access this training at sarabrewer.com/masterclass.

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