It’s inspiring to think that with the right amount of focus, strength, self-control and grit we can accomplish anything. You may have seen a few books, podcasts, and blogs floating about with #lifehacks for becoming fitter, happier, more productive, wealthier and more successful.
This is largely based on a self-deluded and overly romantic view of our true nature. Most people cycle through different diets, exercise routines, budgets and financial plans and resolutions. Willpower and optimism are great but it takes something else to be ready for a marathon, build a successful business and get your sh*t together.
Behavioural Science reveals that we are creatures of habit. Its possible 45% of all our behaviour is almost completely driven by a subconscious with its own agenda. A subconcious that frequently switches between Jekyll and Hyde, depending on mood, sleep, blood sugar levels, temperature and surroundings.
Learning to manage these two sides of our behavioural personality coin is key to breaking bad habits, and starting healthy new ones - especially with our money! Willpower isn’t everything, sometimes you need a little extra help.
If you have ever failed in your quest to becoming fitter, happier, and/or wealthier, you can learn from the 2500-year-old Greek story of Ulysses and the Sirens.
Warrior Ulysses and his ship needed to sail past an island inhabited by enchanting singing creatures called Sirens. The Sirens call was irresistible; any man who heard it would be completely spellbound. The song alone could lure entire crews of sailors to shipwreck on the island, ultimately leading to their deaths.
Knowing this, Ulysses set a trap for himself. He had his crew fill their ears with beeswax so they wouldn’t be able to hear the call. He then had the crew tie him to the mast and instructed them that no matter what he said or did, they were to ignore his protests, and only release him when he no longer struggled to change course (when the Sirens call had gone).
Our Siren songs are the 3pm chocolate bar, 12 episode netflix binge, the pair of shoes on sale, credit cards, and cryptocurrencies. It’s when our willpower weakens and we need a helping hand.
This is when we need to set a Ulysses trap for ourselves. They work because they understand our vulnerabilities and don’t rely on willpower and self-control. They help ensure our Dr Jekyll stays in control, and not Mr Hyde.
To set yourself some Ulysses traps, first define your tempting SIREN call and then set the TRAP you are tied to:
Here’s a idea few to get you started:
When you are facing a potentially huge Saturday night (SIREN), consider committing to an early Sunday morning workout with a friend (TRAP)
To stop midnight raids the fridge and pantry (SIREN), why not remove all presence of temptations from the house (TRAP)
If you’re easily excited by big end-of-year of end-of-whenever sales (SIREN), think about setting a daily spend limit on your card, or leave your credit cards at home (TRAP)
If you find it all to easy to load up your online shopping cart at 3pm in the afternoon (SIREN), try installing the Icebox browser extension, to put all your purchases ‘on ice’ (TRAP)
If you want to make extra contributions to super, but find yourself procrastinating (SIREN), set up small automatic transfers from your savings account called “YOU ARE AWESOME!” (TRAPISH 😉)
This article is general in nature, and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider if the information is appropriate and whether you need to speak to an accredited professional.
Kris White is the Chief Behavioural Officer at Zuper. Using behavioural science and evolutionary psychology his goal is to help the Zuper community increase their wealth and wellbeing.More