“I can resist anything except temptation.”Oscar Wilde
You and me both, mate. But there’s something else I would add to Wilde’s quote.
“I can resist anything except temptation… but I wildly over-estimate my ability to do so.”
Just as difficult as resisting temptation is admitting that you maybe you aren’t as mentally bullet-proof as you wish you were. This doesn’t make you weak, or crap. It makes you human.
So what’s to be done? Well, as Robert Plant sang, there are two paths you can go down. And as always, one is a path of denial, the other a path of acceptance.
On the first path, you resolve to stay strong at all costs – in the moment. You believe that you can resist any temptation if you just try hard enough – in the moment. You strain to remain virtuous – in the moment – and you believe that if you can stay ahead of your temptations today, it will be easier tomorrow.
Don’t. It never works. And even when it does, it’s miserable.
The thing about “the moment” is that it’s too late. If you’re having to make yourself miserable just to stop yourself doing something “in the moment”, the damage is already done.
You need the second path. This one has a different flavour, but it has the dual advantage of being more enjoyable, and… actually working. Here it is:
Make it easier to do the right thing.
Trying to resist temptation is excruciating. And even if you somehow succeeded 100% of the time – which nobody does – it’s a magnificent waste of your energy. Every unit of energy you spend on resisting temptation is a unit that now cannot be used towards something better.
So instead of trying in vain to be stronger, why not make the weights lighter instead? Stack the deck in your favour. Tweak your environment to rid it of as much temptation as you can?
If you want to stop checking your phone so much, turn it off and put it in another room.
If you want to spend less money when you go out, get some cash out in the afternoon and leave your cards at home when you meet your friends.
If you want to go for a run after work tonight, arrange to go with a friend so that it’ll harder to get out of when you can’t be arsed later on.
Don’t wait until “the moment” to try and stay strong. Be kind to yourself – do the work in advance. Remove the temptation from your environment – in any way you can – and see how much freer you feel.