I’ve had a couple of conversations recently about why we don’t do things that we know are good for us. Or conversely, why we do things that we know are bad for us.
We know what’s good and bad for us. We know that macaroni and cheese doesn’t show up on any diet plan (well, except one to gain weight). Ditto hot fudge sundaes. That regular exercise, salad, a good night’s sleep, and twelve hugs a day are good for us. Tequila shots are not.
Take it a little further. Spending too much money, loving the wrong person, ignoring the signs that the path you’re on is doomed. How often have you made a decision, knowing that it’s not the best one you could make? And how often does it go wrong, and you look back and curse yourself for ignoring that still, small voice that said THIS IS A REALLY BAD IDEA.
So why do we do it? Why do we eat the hot fudge sundae, quit the good job, say the wrong thing, love the wrong person? Maybe it’s just a momentary lapse in our otherwise stellar judgement. Or maybe it’s a conscious decision to go against the flow. A little rebellion. Maybe a lot of rebellion. And maybe sometimes we don’t realize the impact that one little decision can have down the line. Think of a snowball rolling downhill, increasing in size and momentum as it descends.
Sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes not. Sometimes I think we find ourselves in the middle of a humongous mess and think, how in the heck did I get here? Sometimes we know exactly how we got there, but not how to get out.
And sometimes I think we just want what we want, and damn the consequences. We know it can’t turn out well, but we do it anyway. There’s no thinking, no weighing of options, no balancing right and wrong. We just go with it – we’ll deal with the fallout later. I like to call this the “ostrich” principle (you know, hiding your head in the sand).
So what’s the solution? It’s easy to say, “Just don’t do it.” But even someone like me, with an overabundance of discipline and willpower, can wilt in the face of dark chocolate or good wine. Or play Pollyanna and make a decision, telling myself “this isn’t such a bad idea. It’ll all work out” (see ostrich principle above). It rarely does. But even knowing this, I still do it. Why? Well, that’s the question.
I guess we could find a friend to guide us who never makes a wrong decision. Or who has a better perspective on the situation, and isn’t swayed by emotions or desires. We could establish a strict set of guidelines and swear never to stray from them. Or just retreat from civilization, live in a cave (or a log cabin in the woods) and avoid temptation altogether.
Maybe we just need to remove our hearts, eliminate emotions, and live a purely logical life. (It seemed to work for the Vulcans.) Because, in the end, I think that’s what it would take to overcome those momentary lacks of judgement, those emotional responses that can lead us down that wrong path.
So, it seems that unless we do something incredibly drastic (like removing body parts), we’re doomed to encounter this problem again and again. Because we’re human. Because we want what we want. We get tired of living a structured life. We want to, just once, be wild and daring, do something out of character. Walk on the wild side. Or else we’re just oblivious to the consequences of our decisions (it seems to work for sociopaths).
Or maybe that’s just me. Are you so disciplined that you never make a misstep? Or are you like the rest of us – flawed. Human.
Anyway, I’m open to explanations. Or solutions. Because at this point, I think we’re all doomed to the occasional stumble. We just have to hope that when we stumble, we have friends close by to pick us up again. Or that we don’t stumble into a bubbling tar pit.
I’ll be waiting for your answer…at Kilwin’s…