Virtue, Temptation, and Wallowing in our own Crapulence
"Smithers had thwarted my earlier attempt to take candy from a baby, but with him out of the picture, I was free to wallow in my own crapulence."
- Mr. Burns, The Simpsons
My Achilles heel is Temperance. Or more specifically, whiskey. It is delicious and potent and reduces my inhibitions. And it is never a single shot. Here's how the thought process seems to go. Tell me if this is your brain too:
- Brain: It's been a stressful day. Let's have some whiskey!
- Me: Yes, it has been stressful. A cocktail sounds great.
- Brain (after a drink): I'm still stressed. Let's have another!
- Me: I am still stressed. I deserve to emjoy myself!
- Brain: And with ice cream!
- Me: And with ice cream!
- Brain (after a second drink): More!
- Me: Ok! Yes! What were we doing?
- Brain: Getting more whiskey. Fuck it! And ordering pizza!
- Me: Yes! Fuggin' pizza!
My brain is a fat, drunken asshole. This tendancy has been built on years of bad habits, low self esteem, and a younger man's alcohol tolerance. When we get yelled at by a customer, miss a deadline, get an unwanted project, or even just sleep poorly one night, our brains want us to revert to the easiest path. And why not? It know what will give us that quick dopamine hit to elevate our mood, albeit in the short term.
Put all those things together, add a dash of confrontation with the thing that constanntly tempts us, and We throw our hands up in the air, yell "Fuck it!" And we do it. We do the easy, feel good thing and now we've broken our Virtue.
Fuck It to Chuck it Virtues
It is never just the One Thing we do, right? We've already said Fuck It to that One Thing, we might as well chuck the rest.
- I've already screwed up X, might as well screw the rest.
- I've already punched myself in the face, might as well keep doing it.
That's effectively what we're doing by letting the one Fuck It moment get the best of us. And there will be many, many, many Fuck It Moments for a very long time as we get better with Virtue. For me it's "I am already drunk so let's get some dang food" and out with Temperance goes Moderation and Resolve and all the tres. For others it could be...
- "I didn't make this deadline so Fuck it..." and out goes Resolve and Industry and with it the rest.
- Or "I didn't plan my day properly; fuck it, I'll just check email all day" and out with Order goes Industry and the rest.
- Or "I missed meditating today; fuck it, I'll bite your head over the phone" and out with Tranquility goes Silence and Humility and the rest.
And now we've got a whole mess of Black Marks in our Virtue Grid and it is demoralizing and let's just go ahead and finish the bottle and start calling all our Exes and remind them how awesome we were!
I've never done that....
Not that I can remember.... MOVING ON.
Removing versus rerouting around Fuck It Virtues
We have two possible solutions for our Fuck It Virtues. Option 1 works but will induce some short-term turmoil. Option 2 is a longer term solution but is harder to achieve.
Add friction to breaking your Fuck It Virtue. Removing access to the thing that generates your Fuck It moment or removing the triggers that lead to it is the easy first step, in some cases, to avoiding that Fuck It moment. For me, this looks like not keeping whiskey in the house because it is too easy to break Temperance, even in little ways, that would lead to the Fuck It moment for me.
Build an alternate/extinguishing Virtue. This is admittedly the harder option but the better one. Nature abhors a vacuum. Where nothing is, something must go. So if you have a thing that generates your Fuck It moment, you need something to take that thing's place. Virtue substitution for vice. It can be simple like, if you struggle with daily planning and regularly end up spending the day in email, find something small that re-installs that sense of Virtue.
This was to be a big problem for me a few years ago. Now when I notice I've spent too much time in email, I will shut off Outlook and clean my desk. That little break and reinstitution of Order shifts my brain out of the Fuck It moment email presents in false productivity. I then take a moment to plan the next few hours of work.
From Fuck It Virtues to Practiced Virtue
A combination of the above is the better way to progress on your Virtue Project. Removing triggers/adding friction reduces our chances of Fuck It moments. That plus having a better option or plan or habit gives us adn active thing to do to prevent the Fuck It moments.