Every Time You Don’t Give into Temptation, You Win a Small Piece of Your Life Back
As human beings, we are primed to be attracted to a Smorgy’s Boards of temptations. My own fine-dining menu of temptations includes social media, junk food, computer games (anything with Mario because it takes me back to childhood) and alcohol.
You are smoking crack and passing magic mushrooms under oakwood park benches if you think you are immune from temptation.
We can’t avoid temptation — but each time you avoid it, you win a small piece of your life back.
Right now, a few temptations have got the best of me and one of those is social media. You know when temptation is winning because you lose control. You set boundaries and then break those boundaries consistently.
But what if temptations have an upside?
That’s the question I pondered. What if there was a way to rig the system in your favor?
Discipline wins part of the battle. Each time you can demonstrate to yourself that you are disciplined, the power a temptation has over you becomes weaker. Using discipline, you can build a new habit that overrides the temptation you seek to eliminate.
The thing about temptations is that we know deep down that they are more of a problem in our lives than a positive effect (described as an escape, a vice, a distraction, etc).
For me, social media has its benefits, although right now those benefits are being overshadowed by the negative effects such as time being wasted, less time with my partner, the need to please and having my attention lured away from learning and into the instant gratification lobster net.
Enter Jerry Seinfeld
This is going to sound like the lamest, least badass solution to temptation. Stick with me.
While dealing with the problem of my social media temptation/addiction, I came across a story about Jerry Seinfeld. In it’s simplest version, Jerry said that he had a calendar where he’d cross off every day with a red pen if he wrote jokes on that day.
He claims that writing jokes every day is about having a physical, visual representation of the habit displayed somewhere where it cannot be ignored. This is where the light bulb went off and then shattered in my head into a thousand tiny pieces. What if a stupid calendar could help track a temptation?
So to overcome a few of my temptations like Social Media, I went and got a calendar and started following Mr. Seinfeld’s strategy.
Each day I beat my temptation, I’d draw a red cross on the calendar. Once the streak was long enough, a new habit was formed and the thought of not winning the prize of another red cross became something more tempting than the original temptation I sought to beat over the head with a baseball bat.
Surprisingly, the addictive nature of seeing a bold red cross drawn through every day I’d managed not to succumb to temptation, was the log that broke the poor giraffes back.
Small shifts vs. huge transformations
Beating temptation or a habit you have practiced for years very rarely happens by going cold turkey. Small shifts, combined with a visual representation, is an approach that anyone can try.
The idea that you transform in a moment and beat a transformation is something that rarely happens outside of storybooks written by Dr. Seuss.
Small shifts, tiny wins and a winning streak are how you challenge yourself to not go back to being the person you used to be.
The story in your head becomes, “how do I maintain my winning streak?” instead of “how do I avoid temptation?”
It’s the act of making it through one day of tempting thoughts that starts the process of dropping that which does not serve you or the life you want to create for yourself.
Start winning your life back one day at a time with a red marker, calendar and the formation of a winning streak. Once you beat one temptation, add different colors for each other temptation you want to tackle.
Beating temptation builds discipline and frees up time to do that which your heart desires.