Have you noticed that whenever you tell yourself not to do something, that’s when you suddenly feel like you really want to do it? “I shouldn’t eat that cookie” and suddenly the cookie is the only thing that seems to matter in life and you just can’t stop thinking about it. “I shouldn’t stare at other men or women because I already have a partner” and suddenly the hot guys or girls seem to be everywhere you look and you have no control over where your brain is wandering. It seems as if whenever you forbid yourself from doing something, it suddenly gets the forbidden apple effect: it becomes golden, juicy, attractive, the key to a better life that you just can’t avoid eating.
I believe the reason that happens is because we humans love our freedom. We always want to be free to make our own decisions, to choose between different options. We want to feel like we are in control of our own lives. So when we other people put restrictions on us, or when we put restrictions on ourselves regarding what we can and cannot do, we begin to feel that our freedom is being taken away from us. We start to feel somewhat like prisoners in our own lives. So we begin looking for ways to restore that freedom that we love; we begin wanting to reclaim control. And the way to remove the threat to our freedom is to disobey the restrictions, to do what we know we shouldn’t do. We eat the forbidden apple because we want to be free and in control.
So how can we avoid succumbing to our temptations?
The very freedom that makes us eat the forbidden apple can also help us avoid eating it. That can happen when we learn to focus on the freedom that we already have instead thinking of the restrictions on our lives. Focus on what you should do, and don’t dwell on what you shouldn’t do, what you can do and not what you cannot do. Think it terms of possibilities and opportunities. Speak in positive terms instead of negative ones.
“I should try to eat healthier foods.”
“I should think of ways to show my wife how much I love her.”
“I should try to be more productive at work.”
All these are so much better than their negatively stated opposites. They make you think positively, and they make you feel as if you have more freedom and control over your life.
Just as important to avoid eating the forbidden apple is knowing how to forgive yourself when you accidentally succumb to your temptations. What we often forget is that guilt doesn’t give you more self-control. When you let yourself swim in guilt for having done what you shouldn’t have done, you make yourself focus on your weaknesses and your limitations, reminding yourself once again about your lack of freedom. With all those negative feelings inside you, you begin seeking ways to make yourself feel better, and many times the way you choose is the one you were thrilled to take in the first place, the one that made you feel free, the thing you were not supposed to do. So you end up doing it again, and before you know it, you’re stuck in a cycle: Eating the forbidden apple, feeling guilty for having done that, then eating the forbidden apple again to make yourself feel better.
We all succumb to temptations now and then, but the way to conquer those temptations is to not dwell on them. They don’t deserve any space in your brain. Brush them off, forgive yourself and focus on all the things you do right, the things you have been successful at, the positives.
What you give your mental energy to is what will end up becoming the reality of your life, so make sure you put your energy towards the things that are worthy and welcomed.
And as always, cheers to life!