Imagine that you haven’t eaten in a few days. You’re really hungry. Your blood sugar is low, you might pass out at any moment, and you’re definitely not at your most clear-headed. Suddenly you are presented with two options for food.

Option 1: A bowl of probably-rancid meat. It’s certainly out of date, it isn’t cooked well. It’s something not especially healthy even at its best, and it’s certainly not at its best. It may make you sick; at the very least, it won’t improve your overall health. But it’s food, and it’s available right now.

Option 2: A delicious and healthy meal, balanced and nutritious, cooked to perfection. It has all your favorite foods, but the meal itself is centered around maximum nutrition as well. This meal will take you about 6 hours to prepare; maybe only a coupon for the ingredients is provided and you’ll have to shop for the ingredients and prepare the meal, etc.

Many people pick option 1. In fact, it’s often correct to pick option 1; if you’re about to literally starve, don’t be picky. Picking option 1 isn’t the mistake people make. The mistake people make is that they’ll often pick option 1 and then instead of eating exactly enough to stave off starvation and then move on, they’ll eat it all. They’ll keep ordering it. That will just be the thing they eat, maybe for years.

The point is that sometimes you’re in truly dire straits and you have to make a call. That’s fine; make it. But don’t then make that bare minimum, that survival choice, your default. If you’re completely broke and you have to take the first job offered to you in order to make rent, okay. Zero judgment. But recognize that you made that choice under duress and as long as that choice is active, you should be altering your lifestyle until that choice is no longer necessary.

That means take four bites of the rancid meat, choke it down, and then stop. Move immediately onto the better healthy meal now that you’re not literally going to starve in the next six hours. Or, while you’re working whatever terrible job you have in order to make rent, make sure you’re spending every extra hour you can banking money and learning skills until that’s not the case.

Survival choices are fine. Allowing them to become permanent will kill you.

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