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Dealing with temptation

Monday, December 12, 2011

I just finished a great book by Stuart Vyse called "Going Broke". It is an economic and sociological discussion about why we spend, but also discusses why we succumb to any temptation. He talks about what we want in the immediate future vs what we want long term: the car now vs comfortable retirement, the drink now vs sobriety, or the food now vs long term weight loss. He says that surveys about why we do what we do don't work because you are talking to people when they aren't immediately confronted by temptation. Some people either inherently have or have developed not so much self control, but a desire for a long term goal that exceeds the pull of immediate temptation. There are some who want to ban credit cards or fast food outlets so that they are never confronted with temptation, and there are people who create temptation free zones: they don't have credit cards, they never keep snack foods in the house. Americans value total freedom of choice, but in the end are confounded by it, and allow themselves to partake simply because it's there.

I, for one, tend to allow myself to think that I am giving up so much for one long term goal that I should be able to postpone the realities of achieving another long term goal. It isn't so much self-control (I still don't know what that actually IS) but I have developed mantras and methods to keep my eyes focused on my long term goals, trying not to confuse one goal with another. I mean one order of french fries won't impact my savings, but it WILL impact another goal. Over the years and decades, they are ALL important to me. I just need to make sure they are important at that one brief moment of choice.
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    Very interesting. THank you for sharing.
    2369 days ago
  • OOLALA53
    This dovetails with the information I read in a book years ago called New World New Mind by the brain researcher Robert Ornstein. He did not talk particularly about food issues but about the fact that humans evolved in a world in which the immediate dangers were very important to deal with and there was little long-term vision in what we had to do to survive. Thus overall humans tend to be more compelled by the singular and immediate rather than the big picture: the airplane crash that kills 100 people (and statistically very few people compared to how many fly) vs. the 400,000 people (that's like more than 10 crashes a day) who die each year from mostly lifestyle-induced diseases. Some people will be afraid to fly but will eat, drink, or smoke themselves to death 1) because the body does reinforce the use of these sources of pleasure, esp. the manufactured foods of today, and 2) we are not in touch with the long term effect because of genetics, as well as a lack of training. Humans are capable of making conditions that are dangerous and have incredible costs to individuals and to society but we protect them because of this human tendency. A few individuals have a prediliction for foresight and many more could be trained in it. He and his co-author said it is becoming imperative that we teach more about probability and long-term decision making. I read the book in 1991. Much of what they wrote about keeps getting proved but not much happens because of it. It sounds like you have become aware of these elements in your life and are making use of your abilities. Great job!
    2369 days ago
  • RR1_RR1
    Cutting up the credit card is certainly something I need to do!
    2380 days ago
    That sounds like a really good read. I think I know why I spend, its because for years I was on a tight budget, and growing up we were considered poor even though Mom always made sure we were never left without food or decent hand-me-downs. I am currently not a good example for my DD though since I dont have her on any sort of budget and she feels that there is always $ to be spent. On the days that I do "clamp down" she is shocked and wonders why we have to be so poor. I explain that this is not poor, we actually are doing pretty well... anyway, my point is that I should probably read this book and quick!
    2380 days ago
    Here's where I run into a problem with this thought provoking analogy:

    I avoid temptation by not having the trigger foods in the house - good idea, right? So, then if I have a craving and want cake, I will buy only one piece at a restaurant rather than a whole cake, better option, right? But, I'm also trying to satisfy my budget and therefore can't stand to pay the price I have to pay for a piece of cake out versus making a whole cake at home for about the same amount of money!!

    The only sensible answer is to not eat cake AT ALL!! emoticon Easier said then done some days.
    2382 days ago
    Your blog is very thought provoking. I agree with you and the book sounds like a great read. Thanks for the information.
    2382 days ago
    Your thought-provoking blog got me thinking! I enjoy reading your thoughts!
    2382 days ago
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