Or Do you want Success? Make the right decisions! The Odysseus contract
Odysseus had to save his life from the seductive song of the sinful-voiced virgins. On his way home from the Trojan War, he discovered that he had to sail past an island inhabited by beautiful sirens. The sirens sang songs with beautiful, ringing voices, charming and seducing the sailors. When the sailors tried to reach the irresistible sirens and get closer to them, their boats were smashed on the rocks surrounding the island.
Odysseus also felt an irresistible desire to hear the sirens’ song, but he did not want to be wrecked with his sailors. He devised a clever plan. He knew that if he heard the siren’s song, he would be unable to resist the temptation and would steer the ship into the cliffs without rescue.
The problem was not the rational Odysseus of the present, but the illogical Odysseus of the future. The person he would become if the siren’s voice entered his ears. So he ordered his sailors to tie him tightly to the mast of his ship. Beeswax was poured into the ears of the sailors to ignore his requests, his cries and his agony. Just keep rowing – that was the order. Odysseus knew that his future self would not be in a position to make a good decision. So the rational Odysseus arranged the situation so that he could not make a bad decision later.
This kind of agreement between our present self and our future self is called an Odyssean contract.
We can follow Odysseus’ example. Here are some ideas:
Do you want to go to the gym regularly? – Make a commitment to your boyfriend/girlfriend (because we don’t like to cancel appointments and we don’t like to lie to our friends).
In case of a broken promise, make a financial donation to a cause that you do NOT support.
Make a promise to your loved ones or friends to do something that you don’t want to do at all.
My friends know, for example, that I am punished if I have to go to a hardware store while I am being devastated by a sea of screws and laths. So I say that if I don’t do this or that, I’m going to go along with a visit to a DIY shop. For me, it is motivating enough to NOT break a promise to myself to avoid this “experience”. (Much to my husband’s sorrow)
So, the point is to arrange your affairs in the present so that your future self WILL NOT DO and COULD NOT DO ANYTHING inappropriate thing, because it will cause you an inconvenience you would not like to face. By tying ourselves to the mast, we can avoid the temptation of the “now”… This is the trick to becoming more like the person we want to be.
So the key to the Odyssean contract is to recognize that we are different people in different circumstances. Our wrong choices can be prevented. The success with which we can avoid making bad choices is greatly helped by a thorough self-awareness. Want to make better decisions?