We are constantly made to feel horrible for being weak to the things that are in front of us. Am I supposed to say “no” to a platter of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies? No way, I love cookies! I indulge in them at every opportunity, but after filling my belly with all of that processed sugar, I feel ridiculously guilty for my lack of willpower. I beat myself up and repetitively wonder why I cannot be stronger. Depending on the bad decision, I used to reel over it for a day–or a week–until I eventually got over it. I would make a claim that I would never do it again, until someday soon after that I would find myself in the same scenario probably making the same choice. It was a vicious cycle that resulted in a lack of improvement, so was there no hope for me?
To deny the reality that humans love instant gratification will create a pathway to automatic failure. This doesn’t mean that we should toss everything aside and create mayhem. I became interested in finding out how to make better choices in all aspects of my life. I reflected and analyzed the good and bad decisions I made on a day-to-day basis and over a long period of time. I learned that what has helped me the most is not willpower. Willpower is something that comes later and is the final piece of the larger puzzle. Infinite willpower is an illusion that hides behind the actual mastermind of success: removing temptation.
By removing temptation I achieved a lot of the goals that were important to me and I want to share some of them:
People are often surprised that I manage to survive a full day of teaching without the need for the morning or afternoon boost. There are two key factors that keep me at peace in the morning and throughout the day: sleep and a quiet lunch. I ensure to stay well-rested by prioritizing sleep in my daily schedule. I revive my energy during my lunch breaks by trying to squeeze in a mini-meditation or simply being by myself. I noticed that break room conversations were often about unruly students, stress from home, or politics. All of those conversations are valid to talk about. But for me, not right before having to survive a few more hours of the school day.
NO MO’ FOMO–it’s a real thing.
Temptation: Social Media
The age of social media was born when I was in high school with MySpace making online profiles a part of our identity. Social media and its effects were unchartered territories for us. New insecurities were born because we were living in a world that didn’t exist yet. This new idea of revealing ourselves online wasn’t built for everyone and some of us started to realize a part of ourselves that wasn’t there before. I’m more of an introvert and definitely not the life of a party but social media made it easier to be involved. Too involved. I detached even more from social situations but then became envious of other people. Social media made it easy to compare your life to others and constantly relive experience you thought would be forgotten the next day. I deleted Facebook in 2009 and never looked back. At first, I felt different, awkward, and uncomfortable. I became detached as being online became a part of everyone’s daily routine. People responded to me as if I was purposefully trying to be rebellious against society when in reality I was doing it for me. I experienced college completely in person and not on my phone. I waited until I was emotionally ready and confident in my identity before returning to social media. Sometimes when I find myself getting lost again, I will step away and remember what is important- being present.
Temptation: All the yummy food in the world
Freshman fifteen? More like sophomore sixty. I ate a lot during college. Without the comfort and ease of my family’s homemade food, I became dependent on take-out. The only time I was eager to be in the kitchen was for baking desserts. It was the first time in my life I started to eat when I was bored. I was always the thin one in my family so I didn’t understand the concept of self-control with food. I thought I was lucky and I never thought the luck would run out. Losing weight was not a concept I understood. It took about a year until I figured out the tricks that worked for me. The first decision was to stop going to the gym. Being active is a key aspect of maintaining a healthy lifestyle but I noticed my mind was playing a game with me. Anytime I went to the gym I manipulated myself into believing I earned an entire burrito. I realized if I could manipulate myself to make bad decisions I could manipulate myself to make good ones. I maintained the majority of my diet by eating out. However, this time around, when the food arrived I asked for a to-go carton. I immediately cut food in half and save the rest for later. Grocery shopping was a little trickier, I noticed seeing junk food in person was hard to resist so I did all of my food shopping with the Instacart app.
TO CHIP OR NOT TO?
Temptation: Credit card debt
The credit card companies don’t care about any of us. They will pull out all the stops to draw your attention. The offers in the mail will be shinier than gift wrap. They will raise your credit without asking. The cards are designed to give you a sense of power and authority and there are ways to effectively take advantage of their offers and play the game, but it’s not easy. Start small and don’t exceed more than two credit cards. Cancel cards that are lying around asking to be used. (The hit you take on your credit score won’t last long if you frequently use your card.) Pay your credit card balance in full everything month; if you can’t make the payment then automatically subtract the leftover amount from your paycheck before it even arrives. Most importantly, never take out a new credit card when you need the money.
If you find yourself saying that any or all of these were obvious, that’s good because you would be right. Often, the right answers are there, we just have to reach our arms out, grab them, and stop making our lives so difficult. The funny thing is we already know the answers to our difficult questions, but we refuse to apply them. We somehow convince ourselves that we should be strong enough, but that pride is doing more harm than good. We should have pride in saying that we are not perfect and that weakness is actually the inability to admit we have flaws.
It’s important to keep in mind that there’s a level of subjectivity in what is a good or bad decision. These were the things I wanted to improve on, but you may have different goals.
Published by Vyky Saiz
Edited by Brittany Priore
Photo source Rhythmic OMS