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Getting Rid of Guilty Pleasures

Getting Rid of Guilty Pleasures

Guilty Pleasures

    We all have activities we love or foods we crave that we think of as “guilty pleasures”, things that aren’t good for us, or that we feel would embarrass us if anyone else know about it, but that we enjoy anyway.

    Maybe you like reading “airport novels”, or chick lit, or true confessions. Maybe you love double-fudge chocolate chunk ice cream with chocolate sauce and chocolate sprinkles, or gummy worms, or expensive imported truffles. Maybe you cry in cheesy romantic comedies, or obsess over 1960’s B-movies, or scream like a little girl in slasher pics.

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    Whatever it is, your pleasure is tempered somewhat by guilt. Some guilty pleasures make us feel guilty because they’re so bad for us — fattening foods, time-wasting games, IQ-sucking sitcoms. Others aren’t necessarily bad for us, but we fear for the effect on our reputations if word got out. They make us look “low-class” or “non-intellectual” or “unprofessional” or “immature”.

    The guilt ultimately arises, though, from the pleasure itself. Our modern society, with it’s “work work work ethic” and deeply-bred commitment to constant self-improvement — through dieting, through “extreme” sports, through self-help books, through a never-ending stream of products and media that all promise a “better you!” — holds pleasure in rather low esteem. It is seen, at best, as a reward, though a somewhat disreputable one, for the success of all that work work work.

    But more often it’s seen as a luxury, and a dispensable one at that. The poor are held in contempt for their continued willingness to own DVD players, the rich for their decadence. Food, we are told, is solely for the nourishment of the body; sex, we are told, is solely for the reproduction of the species. Pleasure for pleasure’s sake is to be avoided, and those who seek it are to be shunned.

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    Hence the guilty pleasure — the thing we do just because it makes us feel good. It’s shameful to seek after the “empty calories” of the sugary snack, fluffy novel, or childish hobby. It’s a betrayal of the fundamental principles our society is built on.

    It’s time to strike the phrase “guilty pleasure” from your vocabulary.

    The idea that those things that distract us from the “real” work of living should be held in contempt is, of course, good for those who profit most from our work, but it’s no good for the rest of us. Work is good, of course — things need to get done — but work without pleasure is for automatons, not human beings. Indeed, it is the “guilty pleasures” we should feel least guilty about, because they re the things in which we are more fully our own people.

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    Behind the concept of the guilty pleasure is a demand for conformity. Don’t eat that, watch that, read that, do that, be that. It is an insistence that there are certain things we’re supposed to eat, watch, read, do, be, if we are to be taken seriously as adults. It is an insistence, in fact, on being “normal” — or even worse, “average”.

    I defy that.

    I hear you thinking, “But certainly, if something’s unhealthy for you, and you do it anyway, you should feel guilty about it — it’s the only way you’re gong to stop!” And sure, if your diet consists solely of guilty pleasures, if your reading is entirely guilty pleasures, if your life is consumed by the quest for ever-more guilty pleasures, that’s a problem. If your guilt stems from your concern over a lack of willpower or discipline that is causing you real harm, you absolutely should be dealing with that. It’s probably not the guilty pleasure that’s to blame, though — you need to work out some balance in your life as a whole.

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    But more often, our guilty pleasures are an exception, a small part of a life that’s otherwise already well-balanced. Which is to say, you can probably afford to indulge in a guilty pleasure or two without any guilt. If it gives you pleasure and isn’t likely to kill you, by all means, dig in!

    Same thing with the rest of the guilty pleasures. If your guilt stems from the fear of what other people would think if they knew, and you’re no longer in middle school, you need to deal with your lack of self-confidence, not your appreciation of Top 40 music.

    As with so much else, it boils down to a question of balance. If your life is chugging along just fine, thank you, and you just happen to have an inordinate fondness for Troll dolls, I say know yourself out. On the other hand, if your eating habits or entertainment preferences leave you unprepared to deal with your life — or if they’re the only consolation in your life — you need to give some serious thought to discovering more nourishing pleasures — or building a more nourishing life.

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    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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