I remember in college I had one of the new Macintosh computers and I enjoyed the game Lode Runner. More than enjoyed. I frequently stayed up all night playing it. And designing new levels for it. It was a “logic under time pressure” game that apparently my brain goes nuts playing.
Thirty years later, I downloaded the phone app 2048 (because it was recommended to me) and promptly stayed up all night playing it. (And I mean literally, I was still playing when the sun started shining in the windows.) I promptly removed it from my phone.
And then started playing the online version. Oy.
So I look at that as addiction. For me, addiction is any activity such that: doing this activity impairs my judgement to choose wisely whether to continue doing it (and the continued doing of it undermines my longer-term goals).
I am reminded of the potato chip commercial “Bet you can’t eat just one!” Who takes that bet?
Oh, I’m tempted. “Betcha I can, too, eat just one!” I think we all want to believe that our willpower or resolve is strong enough to withstand a simple act like eating a potato chip. We tell ourselves we can have the same intentionality before or after. One little chip isn’t going to sway me; I’m tougher than a little chip.
But I think a healthier perspective is something like this: every act we do influences us, changes us, makes us a slightly (or largely) different person. From the vantage point after the act, things may seem different, and indeed, we may make different choices. I may like to think that I won’t change, but the fact is, I do. My biochemistry, neurochemistry, my spirit, my mood… everything can change.
I have several musings on how to deal with this. I’ve tried many things over time; variously successful, depending on what’s going on in my life. My disclaimer: I still struggle with it. Just this past week I was up to 6am playing 2048. (I tell myself I’m going to stop when I create the 8192 square! Almost there!)
But before getting in to the things I’ve tried, I want to share the positive side of this “Bet you can’t eat just one!” problem.
The other day I had to do the dishes. I didn’t feel like it. I wanted to sit on the couch. (Or sit in front of the computer and play 2048.) So I said to myself, “Wash just one spoon.” Now, I knew the idea was that once I washed the one spoon, I would be in a different place. I’d be in the kitchen, soapy hands, and I’d probably want to wash another spoon. And then maybe a fork. So I knew this little game.
But even though I knew the game, it still worked. I couldn’t get psyched up to get up off the couch to do all the dishes, but I could challenge myself to at least wash one little spoon. So I walked into the kitchen with the idea that I would wash the one silly spoon and then go back and sit on the couch.
But after I had washed the one spoon, I was in a different place, and it was easy to do a few more spoons, the rest of the silverware, and eventually all the dishes. Even though I honestly was ready to only wash one spoon, and even though I knew the hope was to get myself to do all the dishes… it still worked.
This is not always effective, of course, but it’s worth a shot (imho). And, at the very least, one more spoon gets clean.
Sometimes I apply the same approach to my morning prayers, if I’m putting them off. Just say the first prayer, Shimon. The first one! And after I’ve done that, I’m usually in quite a different place, and it’s easy to continue on to the next one. And the next one. (Not always, but mostly.)
So, do you have any activities that you find yourself staying up all night doing (and then regretting it)?
If so, what have you tried, and how successful would you say it’s been?
More from me on my strategies in the next post, G-d willing.