Updated: May 5, 2022
“The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking spaces.”
— Will Rogers*
Living is a constant test. A continual game of choosing and discarding. An endless sequence of discriminations. Every day on this earth we encounter various challenges and crossroads of all kinds. Time and life’s punches, as well as the occasional successes and abundant errors, sharpen our vision and broaden our perspective. As calendars expire, our judgment sharpens and we learn, at least in some cases, to detect certain tricks life uses to gain our attention. However, it lays traps that we fail to see from time to time, causing us to fall directly into its furtive ambush. They are found around every corner, at every waking hour, dangling in front of every decision. Their purpose is to distract us from the goal, to make us waste an opportunity, or to force us, very surreptitiously, to remain immersed in our routine, slaves to our inertia and victims of our inaction.
Although these traps do not necessarily appear at key moments, I have the feeling that, more often than not, it is at decisive occasions that these diversions present themselves, as if they wanted to ensure that, provided they succeed, we will be diverted from the path we had traced. They are temptations, innocent gifts, delicious candy baskets whose sole objective is to move our gaze away from our goal and redirect our attention and efforts towards alternative paths. The faces they show vary, as well as their way of presenting themselves to us. However, their falsehood remains constant.
Sometimes, it can be a salary increase when you had, finally, decided to leave that job from which you had gotten pretty much everything you could have. It could also be that "miracle pill" that promises to make those extra pounds “disappear”, making you abandon that workout routine that took you so long to transform into a healthy habit. Or perhaps, it could be disguised as an alternative career to the one you always dreamed of following, just because it will require less time, less money, and less sacrifice. Promises, after all, of something easier, safer, and more immediate, in exchange for giving up the search of your truly desired and rewarding prize, but that comes at a higher cost.
It happens all the time. These emotional scams, these opportunistic hooks, abound all around us, and as innocent as they may seem, they have the potential to turn our paths and disrupt our future. It is extremely easy to give in to these delicious tricks, to these existential traps that simply slip between our senses, invading them with miserable sensations of satisfaction, ephemeral as a sigh, and temporary as the seasons.
The real cost of “easy”
How much does “easy” cost us? What's the real harm in succumbing to these baskets of sweet temptations? How would our life have been had we chosen to discard them to continue along the path traced by our minds, and opened by our hearts? Questions that we may ask ourselves too late but that we still need to answer to act more wisely in the future. Although it is useless to complain about past issues that can no longer be altered, learning from past mistakes can bring extraordinary benefits to our lives.
When was the last time you traded your road for a shortcut to an empty, dead-end? What are the candy baskets in your life? We all have them, and we've all fallen prey to them more times than we care to accept.
In my case, one of the “temptations” that I face daily is related to those “early dawns”, starting my day hours before sunrise. This is a basic and repeated example of constant bartering, or the temptation to carry it out, in which the value of the immediate "prize" differs substantially from the reward for rejecting it. The sheets’ “embrace” and the cozy warmth of the bed on a cold night, cling to my body with the promise of additional hours of comfort and rest. The price for giving in to this ruse is the reproach of my conscience throughout the day for not having fulfilled my commitment, added to the lack of physical energy for not having started the day on my terms and energizing my body, or running against the clock unsuccessfully, for having started late what needed to be completed early. It is a daily and repeated struggle, which never gives me a break. One way or another, however, day after day I choose what at first glance seems to be the least appetizing dish but which, as the minutes go by, offers me the sweetest taste of victory. And I do not intend to set myself as an example of strength, but rather to share my daily struggles to overcome my challenges, in the same way you face yours.
It is a good thing to look around us, especially today when so much information is at our fingertips, and see how many examples of stoic struggle, unwavering persistence, and inspiring victories abound in this world. Every day, millions of people face the same doubts and challenges, confronting fears and miseries similar to yours and mine. And yet they persevere and win. Sometimes they fall, but they get up and move forward.
Negotiating an already signed contract
Giving in to temptation is, in a certain way, a deviation from a plan that we had outlined. It is a violation of a contract we signed with ourselves. Have you made a plan? Have you signed that kind of contract? If you have, why are you trying to rewrite it?
Kobey Bryant said once:
“Look at how you deal with the inner challenges, the kind of self negotiation that takes place outside of our own heads. You start talking to yourself, saying, ‘Man, my knee is really sore right now. Maybe I’m doing too much.’ And you just got to say, ‘You know what? I’m not negotiating with myself. The deal was already made. When I set out at the beginning of the summer I said, ‘this is the training plan I’m doing. I signed that contract with myself. I’m doing it!’”
Is this your case? It probably is, because it is for everyone.
Again… we all fall victim to distractions that are succulent but lacking in substance. It is a truth of life, and our focus should not be on ignoring them, but on learning to identify them. That is the only way we’ll be able to avoid their influence. Punishing yourself for past mistakes will only lower your energy and undermine your self-esteem. The important thing is, as I have already mentioned on so many occasions, to embrace the plan that we draw without deviating from it, except for those necessary adjustments that the ups and downs of life force us to make.
Keep an eye out for big prizes that don't require sacrifice. Distrust simple achievements and conquest without merit. Without effort, work, dedication, and perseverance, there are no prizes, no achievements, and no conquests, because they are all consequences, not coincidences.
Sharpen your senses and examine everything.
As the saying goes, “if it seems too good to be true…”
* William Penn Adair Rogers - (Nov. 4, 1879, Oologah, OK – Aug 15, 1935, Point Barrow, AK), was an American vaudeville performer, actor, and humorous social commentator. He was born as a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, in the Indian Territory, and was known as "Oklahoma's Favorite Son".