Why doing the right things is more difficult than doing their opposites


If you think humans are rational animals, think again after reading this post. No, we are not as rational as we like to be all the time. Here’s one simple example.

We know it’s not healthy to over-drink or overeat or smoke or overwork or do drugs, yet we still do it. I have a patch of eczema on the back of my right hand. I know the only effective treatment in my case is not to touch it and allow it to de-sensitize itself. Yet, I just keep scratching it as if I wanted it there permanently.

People, I mean people who are old enough to be grandparents, know it is unprofessional to gossip in office and it is simply not a nice thing to stab behind people’s back, yet they engage this activity passionately whenever they got a chance. Some young people who put aside their homework or risk jeopardizing their grades spend hours on computer games or simply aimlessly internet surfing.

I used to attribute it to a lack of self-control. Things are actually not that simple. It seems vices or the so-called harmful activities yield more pleasure than their opposites. I mean people must get some kind of pleasure from activities like drinking, eating, smoking, drugs, gossips, gaming or patronizing prostitutes.

Doing the right thing means depriving oneself of the pleasure associated with the above-mentioned activities. It must be rather painful to some people who are thus addicted. Sometimes doing the right thing means exerting hardships on ourselves, like when I go out walking on winter morning, dark and cold with a stick in hand, like when I choose to spend hours on preparing for a certification exam.

Now you understand why I say doing the right thing is difficult. It takes a strong will to resist the temptation of these vices, no matter how pleasurable they promise. It takes much more than self-control to inflict hardships on ourselves, simply because it is the right thing to do.

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