Eat fries naked
Okay, now that I’ve got your attention, let’s get one thing straight: I’m not suggesting you eat fries while not wearing clothing. Unappealing? For sure. So, what am I suggesting, exactly?
Hold the ketchup. Hold the ketchup and your willpower will increase. Maybe that sounds too simple. Maybe you don’t even like ketchup with your fries, so you’re thinking, “Doug, this doesn’t even apply to me!,” but bear with me. (no pun intended)
Maybe you eat your fries plain. Perhaps you like mayo on your burger. Pick anything simple like that, and do without it once. Why? To increase your willpower, of course!
When you willingly give up (or sacrifice) something simple like that, it increases your willpower in the times when you desperately need it. For example, when you are tempted to get that next drink at the bar that will put you over the edge, it will be easier to resist.
“Because I didn’t have ketchup with my fries one time?” Well, it might not be quite that simple, but maybe it is. If we can get used to denying ourselves of some of the simple pleasures, it will be easier to deny ourselves those things that might be more complex, but also more important.
Let’s be honest: Avoiding ketchup on your fries just once isn’t likely going to have an effect on you either way. Avoiding ketchup all the time might have a positive effect on your health. Avoiding the extra drink that pushes you over into the inebriated category will always have a positive effect, whether just on your health, your driving capabilities, your family members or even strangers.
You can have “set” sacrifices that change. Sounds like an oxymoron, correct? Let’s go back to the ketchup analogy. Perhaps you decide to avoid ketchup on your fries every time you have them for one month. That is a “set” sacrifice and not just a one-time event. At the end of that month, maybe you change your “set” sacrifice to drinking nothing but water when you go out to eat.
Well, not only are you going to be healthier by drinking more water and less of other beverages, but you might just realize you don’t even prefer ketchup on your fries anymore. So now you have two “set” sacrifices. Or perhaps you go without ketchup most of the time after that first month. It will be easier to avoid other things you shouldn’t have or do.
Every time we resist, or “sacrifice” something we want or desire, it builds up our willpower for the next time we want something. This makes it easier to resist that thing and others in the future. Increasing our willpower, as we’ve already learned, can have a huge positive effect on us.
Consider the first battle of the day, according to Camino in Rethink Happy: The alarm clock. Do you hit snooze? Do you get up right away? If you get up right away, good for you! If you are a snooze-button person, it’s hard to get up right away, isn’t it?
But if you set an alarm and get up immediately when it goes off, you are, in a sense, keeping your most important appointment of the day: the first one with yourself. If you hit snooze, essentially you are telling yourself it’s okay not to keep your word to yourself, which can have an effect on every other commitment you make!
Keeping that first appointment of the day with yourself will spill over into the rest of the day. For example, if you get up when the alarm first goes off, you’re not as likely to be running late for the office or other commitments you’ve set for the day.
When we run late, we tend to snap at others, including our spouses, children, co-workers, employees and yes, even the pets!
Make the decision
So now that we’ve decided we need to have some “set sacrifices,” what are some guidelines for this process? Two solid avenues for set sacrifices are:
- Helping/loving someone else.
- Working on a vice/toward a virtue.
Love your spouse-be sneaky like a spy
Need some examples? Here’s one: Make sure to set aside 10 uninterrupted and undistracted (no phones) minutes with your spouse every evening. This can be tough, if your kids are still in the ankle-clinging stages, or if you don’t get home at the same time every day, but it can be life-changing for your marriage. Here’s why:
- The kids see that you are putting your marriage first. This conveys to them that your marriage is important, giving them a sense of safety and balance.
- Your spouse sees that she is more important than the dishes, or your phone, or whatever else might be an immediate distraction when you arrive home.
- You each get time to unload briefly about your day. This doesn’t have to mean you share every detail of a frustrating circumstance and become a total downer for your spouse.
Maybe you are just getting on the same page: “Billy had a tooth pulled at the dentist today. Christy had some issues with picking up her toys at daycare and they told me she had to sit in timeout. I had a client blow up at me on the phone today. At lunch, this funny thing happened when John decided to reach for his glass at the same time as me, and we ended up with water everywhere.”
Another example is to be a bit more sneaky in loving your spouse. Get her a glass of water before she can ask for one. Don’t say anything. Just do it. Set it beside her and say nothing. If she’s concentrating on something else, she might not even notice. But when she looks up, she’ll see it there, and she will realize you put it there because you were thinking about her.
Or maybe you come in through the laundry room and take a peek in the washer. You notice the cycle is done and the dryer is empty. Switch the clothes and start the dryer. Not only will your wife think she’s lost her mind later, but she’ll figure it out eventually. Even if she doesn’t mention it, you’ve shown her you care.
These “sacrifices” should ideally not result in an overt reward. You’re not doing it for recognition from your spouse. These sacrifices should also change periodically, because our situation changes. And theoretically, we get better at that which we are challenging ourselves to do.
Need some ideas for how to make “sacrifices” with your kids? Here’s one: Play intently with the child you are not naturally drawn to. (It’s okay, we all have one that perhaps is harder to spend time with.) Play what they want to play, and be with them in the moment. (No checking your phone.)
Working on a vice/virtue
There is always some crossover between doing things for others and working on virtues and vices, but there are some sacrifices you can make that work more specifically on your vices/virtues. Some examples include:
- Punctuality with prayer/meditation times.
- Getting up without hitting the snooze button. (Can you tell this is a favorite of mine?)
- Praying for those who cut us off in traffic instead of cursing or yelling at them.
- Making a small sacrifice of some sort when eating a meal, such as no ketchup or salt, or taking more of what we don’t like (ugh, mushrooms?) and less of what we do like (bread or meat).
Why? Doing so helps improve our virtue, which gives us greater self-control. This leads to a greater detachment to the things that don’t matter so we are prepared to grow in virtue toward the things that do matter.
Challenge #10: Make a small sacrifice of some sort, and commit to making it all week.
Who is Doug? Doug Kisgen is an author, entrepreneur and personality expert. His primary work? Raising his five kids with his wife of 20+ years in the hill country of Texas.
For ways to put these ideas into practice, check out Doug’s book, Rethink Happy: An Entrepreneur’s Journey Toward Authentic Joy, available as an e-book now, or pre-order the paperback!