Cheating Yourself

I am a very strong proponent of cheating yourself.

Inside of you there is an enemy. Call it whatever you want – Mr. Hyde, the “bad wolf,” use whatever analogy you desire. The point is that there is very much an entity inside you that wants things that are bad for you.

In most cases, this entity doesn’t think of itself as your enemy. In fact, it’s usually fantastic at justifying its actions as being in your own self-interest. It doesn’t tell you to lay in bed all day eating cookies because it wants you to be fat, lazy and unemployed – it tells you that because it wants you to be happy. It just has no concept of happiness beyond the immediate.

It’s not a good long-term thinker or strategist. But in the immediate term, it’s very, very strong. You can rarely beat it at its own game, but it can rarely beat you at yours. That’s how you win – you cheat.

What do I mean? Well, a short-term battle, one that’s on the bad wolf’s home turf, looks like this: you’re sitting at your computer working, but you have an XBox sitting right next to you. It’s plugged in. It’s on. The TV is on. The game controller is sitting within your reach. Your favorite game is in there, and its already on the home screen, all fired up. In that situation, it’s really, REALLY easy for Mr. Hyde to get the better of you, to convince you that you can play for just five minutes and then get back to work, and don’t you deserve a break anyway?

In that situation, you’re trying to fight the devil with will alone. Some people can win that; most can’t. I rarely can.

But you know what your bad wolf will rarely (if ever) do? Decide to drive to the store, buy an XBox, buy a game, come home, plug it in, install everything, get it set up, and then decide to play games, all while you were trying to work. The bad wolf is bad at long-term planning. It can win battles, but only the battles you let it fight.

So cheat. Get rid of the XBox.

You don’t necessarily have to throw it away. But pack it up and put it in a high closet. When you want to play, climb up there, get it down, install it, and play – and then pack it back up when you’re done. You can have your cake and eat it too, then. Just don’t let the bad wolf tell you, “it’s okay, you can leave it out this one time.”

Pick your battles. Relax when you’re tired, work when you’re not. Don’t give Mr. Hyde the space to get a grip on you. Cheat him if you have to.

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