Friday, March 05, 2010

A story about guilt

Every single day I feel tempted by a handful of things. From what I eat, what I wear, what I do, what I listen to, and what I watch on TV. A lot of these things tend to induce guilt. That is, if I succumb to the temptation.

We are dealing with a few things here:
1. temptation + poor will power = guilt
2. temptation + good will power = satisfaction

An example: Last weekend a friend bought me a 1kg bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs. These little pieces of candy coated heaven have helped me get through the dreary months of February and March for years now. They are nothing shy of awesome. However, they are so rammed full of sugar that they are actually wolves in sheep's clothing. This bag sits on my desk. I am tempted by it every single day. To use the first equation I have my temptation (mini eggs) and then I have my will power. As you can see I have two options. Poor or Good. If I have poor will power at that point I will eat the eggs and then feel guilty because they are bad for me, my teeth hurt, I'm going to gain 100 lbs over night and die next year. Stupid mini eggs! However if at the time of my temptation I am feeling (will) powerful I will push the mini eggs aside and either find something else to eat (hopefully not candy coated) or simply get back to work. The results of that second option sure sound easy. In fact that second equation could take less than a minute to unfold and I will be filled with satisfaction for the rest of my day all because I said no to that little piece of candy. Well, at least until I notice the bag again and go through this battle all over again.

It sounds so easy when I write it out. Poor choice = guilt and likely a bad mood and a sore tummy for the rest of the day or Good choice and feel great. Well I'm obviously going to take the good choice!! Why wouldn't I??

Oh right, that whole theory of short term gain vs. long term pain. So now it comes down to how good I am at debating my own conscience.

"I'll have some mini eggs but I'll only have 3, anything is fine in moderation... right?"
"Who cares if I have a handful of mini eggs, I'm young, in good shape, nothing can stop me!... but I have been kind of tired lately and I didn't go to the gym this week"

The debate has many ugly sides.

Which bring me to another point. What do you prefer to carry: a clear or guilty conscience? And within that: how good are you at clearing a guilty conscience? Mentally, it doesn't matter how many mini eggs I eat if afterward I say to myself "who cares, it's just a bit of chocolate" That being the easy route of course. A second option being "who cares, I'll go to the gym for an hour today" which is far more genuine as it will legitimately clear your conscience because you have physically worked out at least some of the impact of the chocolate.

Sidebar: my example has the fortunate ability to have a physical cure: the gym. If your debate is over something far less trivial your 'cure' is far more difficult. Though, if it's time or money wasted there are physical cures: make more money, reevaluate schedule etc. If it's moral guilt (hit and run... though I hope not) your debate gets infinitely more difficult.

Yet another question: What is the best way to clear your conscience and find yourself at the end of the better (second) equation? Do you carry guilt around until you eventually forget about it (for small things like mini eggs) or do you have to make a physical change to ensure a completely cleared conscience?

I'm going to tell you a secret, none of these questions have answers. We all work differently. When I indulge in TV, shopping, food, etc I tend to try to balance them with something healthy or positive. Clean part of the house, shovel some snow, go to the gym, walk the dog, etc. Does this mean that if I continuously set myself back to zero that I could potentially live a long and happy life? Not so much, see next paragraph.

How do you handle your guilt and clear your conscience? How do you keep your will power strong? Even better, how do you avoid temptation? Personally, I think this last one is definitely the best one we should all aim for as it nullifies this entire argument and gets me back to work much quicker.

I dare you to guess how many mini eggs I have left.

Happy weekend :)

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