Switch to mobile version

The Joy of Opting Out

Post image for The Joy of Opting Out

Sometimes, improving one small, seemingly obscure skill can make you better at dozens of things at once.

One time at a backyard get-together, I was chain-eating potato chips, when a well-meaning friend made a useful observation. At a natural break in our conversation, he said, “You’re a sucker for bowls of chips aren’t you?”

He meant no offense by this, and I took none—we are both observers of human behavior. I knew I liked chips, but I hadn’t realized quite how unhinged my chip-eating is compared to the people around me. Most people will graze on chips when they’re around, a few at a time, but I tend to fall into a whirlpool of near-continuous chip eating. I spoil my appetite. I park near snack tables and mingle from there.

Interestingly, I wouldn’t describe myself as a fan of potato chips, and I only really eat them at get-togethers. I don’t derive any real joy from eating them, the way I do with chocolate, or spring rolls. For whatever reason I just have a repeating, mechanical habit of reaching into nearby chip bowls when they’re around. 

If it’s true that people are either “moderators” or “abstainers,” then I’m an abstainer. In my experience it’s much easier to refrain from eating the first chip than any of the subsequent eighty. I don’t think I’m an outlier in this regard, however—one of Lays’ slogans is “Bet you can’t eat just one.”

This is a transparent bluff of course—Lays wants you to take and lose this bet every time, not to test your mettle against snack-temptation in a serious way. They certainly don’t want you to regard not reaching into chip bowls in the first place as an improvable life skill.

But not reaching into chip bowls is a skill, just like tying your shoes or peeling boiled eggs. Like anything else, you can be a hapless novice at not refraining from reaching into chip bowls, or a true master. If you were to make a conscious practice out of it, eventually it could become trivially easy.

Unless potato chips are somehow single-handedly destroying your life, that may not sound like a spectacularly useful thing to get good at. But it definitely is—the ability to forgo chips and other sensory temptations happens to be an extremely transferable skill.

The Ancient Art of Non-Participation

An ancient spiritual practice is what sparked my recent interest in mastering the powerful art of chip non-eating.

In a narrow sense, my goal over the holidays is to learn what it’s like to leave a nearby bowl of chips untouched. But this campaign in conscious chip non-eating is really a way of practicing a much more fundamental skill, one that makes life easier in virtually every area. Western Buddhism has a great word for it: renunciation.

Renunciation is one of ten trainable qualities known traditionally as the paramis (the others being generosity, resolve, patience, morality, effort, insight, loving-kindness, equanimity and truthfulness).

I think of these qualities as ten often-weak muscles each of us can strengthen during day-to-day life if we look for opportunities. The stronger these traits get, the less tricky your collisions become with certain recurring experiences that make life difficult: laziness, ill will, greed, egotism, and so on.

Theoretically, if you master those ten qualities, there isn’t a lot in the realm of ordinary human experience that will give you much trouble. Actively practicing them is new to me, but so far it seems as though every single moment of difficulty in life can be harnessed as a chance to strengthen one or more of those potent muscles.

The stronger we are at renunciation in particular, the easier it is to refrain from making tempting but costly choices in every area of life. By practicing chip non-eating, or any other specific form of renunciation, you’re simultaneously getting better at avoiding wasteful purchases, going to bed on time, declining a third drink, and otherwise quitting while you’re ahead, whatever the context—because they’re all the same skill.

We tend to think of renunciation as a long-term personal decree: “I renounce aimless web surfing forever!” Lifelong decrees are hard to stick to, perhaps even impossible, since they require you to decide for the person you will be tomorrow, next year, or next decade, and Future You may not agree that such a drastic rule was necessary.

The key as I see it, in my limited experience, is making our renunciations very small. I don’t know how to renounce snack food forever, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to. But renouncing my participation in this bowl of Doritos is always doable. It’s a small feat with a lasting benefit: future temptations, of all sorts, lose a bit more of their pull.

Although such a renunciation is small, it is the forever kind—it’s just that the life span of a bowl of Doritos at a Christmas party is not very long. Swearing off snacks forever is unnecessary, as long as you are capable of saying, “Chip bowl #8046, I’m going to let you live and die without my involvement,” and mean it.

It’s within the power of each of us, if we want, to calmly and silently renounce participation in this gossipy conversation, this impulse purchase, this Twitter argument, this strike of the snooze button, this passing tray of Fererro Rocher—forever.

A Pleasure That Lasts

If you start practicing renunciation on this scale, you might notice an interesting side-effect: there is a kind of pleasure to be found in saying no. Your silent decision to opt out makes you feel empowered and wise, right then and there in front of the box of Turtles. It’s a softer, but less conflicted kind of enjoyment, more akin to the pleasure of giving a thoughtful gift than of downing a drink.

There is real pleasure in potato chips, Turtles and gossip too—of an intense, costly, and quickly-fading sort. If you pay attention, the life span of this pleasure can often be measured in seconds, while the costs last much longer. Developing a taste for the subtle sweetness of renunciation makes it progressively easier to take pleasure in the choice that improves the rest of your life too.

I’m new at working the renunciation muscle, and I’m probably still experiencing what gym nerds call “noob gains”—easy progress that happens to a body that’s never been stimulated in quite this way before.

But I can see the trajectory. The gravity around the objects of my bad habits—phone apps, chips, second helpings—feels a little weaker each time I let the opportunity go by untouched. Sitting quietly without reaching for anything has a warm glow of its own.

Best of all, practicing renunciation of this sort doesn’t come with a feeling of martyrdom. You don’t have to wall anything off or deprive yourself of frivolous pleasures. The option’s always there. You’re just adding a new pleasure to the list of possibilities, and for once, it’s a kind that stays with you.


Photo by Whitney Wright (cropped from original)

Ron November 13, 2017 at 2:38 am

Extremely well said. You really have a real knack for this (offering deep spiritual teachings with usable, contemporary examples in clear, accessible language).

David Cain November 13, 2017 at 9:24 am

Thanks Ron!

Ever November 13, 2017 at 3:36 am

I love this and have been practicing something similiar and finding the quiet joy in it as well. I didn’t have a word for it so thank you for the introduction to both that and the wonderful concept of paramis. The choice of renunciation rather than the resolute ‘giving up’ of a thing also seems to actually increase success and eliminate guilt I’ve found.

David Cain November 13, 2017 at 9:26 am

The words we use make a big different don’t they? Giving up just smacks of loss and martyrdom. But renunciation implies a sense of personal power and wisdom.

Jonathan V. November 13, 2017 at 4:09 am

Hey David,

Would you go as far as purposely tempting yourself to practice renunciation? For instance, I’ve always been addicted to Mars bars, and after reading your article, I kind of want to buy one, leave it somewhere visible at home, and practice not eating it.

I would typically try to avoid snacks aisles in shops to not be tempted, but it seems like saying no to something you actually see in front of you is much more powerful than just avoiding it.

Curious about what you think. Cheers.

David Cain November 13, 2017 at 9:27 am

I think it makes sense to be practical about it. You’re never going to run out of opportunities to renounce temptation, so you probably don’t need to seek out extra ones.

Igor November 13, 2017 at 4:36 am

“Renunciation” is a very interesting word! I got this feeling a few times in the past, but never found the right name for it. Thank you.

As always, your thoughts are very helpful. :)

David Cain November 13, 2017 at 9:28 am

Even aside from its meaning, it’s one of my favorite words to say.

John Varney November 13, 2017 at 4:55 am

Nice article, as ever.
Those little renunciations give you a wonderful sense of freedom – freedom from the temptation to reach for instant gratification. In this day and age that is quite something (maybe nothing has changed except the sheer number of opportunities to indulge that clever marketers have devised).
Indeed exercising renunciation frees you a little from their grasp. With that “freedom from” you also get “freedom to” – energy you can put to better use.
Thanks for the reminder.

David Cain November 13, 2017 at 9:32 am

Good point… I never thought of it that way, but it seems like “freedom from” and “freedom to” are always connected in some way. Freedom from any fixation or bond by definition means more options become accessible.

Chris November 13, 2017 at 5:10 am

Jeez, I literally thought “mmm Doritos” when you mentioned them.

I’m also an abstained. I am very location based too. When I go into the office, it’s simple for me to say no to snacks as I don’t have a snack with me. A few coworkers have now ordered snacks to make the environment more friendly, but I refused to participate in the ordering. I get a perverse feeling of “better-than-thou” from it all, so that’s probably not great. It doesn’t help that one of them is constantly complaining about her weight yet sits there and munches all day on a variety of snacks that are in her drawer/desk and now the office. Long story short, I need to return the focus back to me anyways and stop paying attention to them – I just wish I didn’t have to hear her whine about the situation that she’s putting herself in.

Beth Larson November 13, 2017 at 5:33 am

For Chris,
Maybe you’ll have the opportunity sometime to casually share David’s blog with one or more of your co-workers and they can at least be exposed to the idea of choosing to abstain for the joy of it, even if they are not ready. :)

Chris November 13, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Nope. I’m trying to renunciate myself from my co-worker! :) That way I don’t have to deal with her whining! She’s definitely not ready and is always “too busy” for whatever thing I’m trying to improve on.

David Cain November 13, 2017 at 9:39 am

I also was thinking “mmm doritos” when I wrote this. I’m trying to take a more “eat to live” sort of philosophy towards food. Snacking can be a really compelling kind of pleasure but it’s really just eating that’s divorced from nutritional needs, and it basically only has downsides aside from the really short-term pleasure we get from it. It just happens to be an extremely common thing to do in our society, opportunities are everywhere, and we’re so used to it that we can do it almost automatically.

Shirley November 13, 2017 at 5:12 am

This is probably the most valuable advice I’ve received all year – thank you David.

David Cain November 13, 2017 at 9:40 am

Great. I hope you can put it to use!

Kat November 13, 2017 at 5:32 am

Thank you very much for this article. This “renunciation muscle” you’re talking about is one that – when in full strength – has helped me move away from unhealthy habits. I wonder if you’ve thought how this opting out relates to addiction to substances or unhealthy relationships. Just a few thoughts…

This article hit a chord with me as I have been limiting the amount of alcohol I drink this month after a few months of too much – a feeling of control happens when I don’t drink and it’s available – like at a gathering or out with friends. You’re right that making the decision not to drink THIS drink (or whatever) and not worrying too much about the future drinks (or whatever) can be empowering. Also cheaper for the wallet and clearer for the head the next day. But this process for me has also reminded me of something I heard when I supported a good friend through re-entry into Alcoholics Anonymous a few years ago – “1 is too many, 2 is not enough”.

So, if I understand from your article, you’re considering whether there is a virtue in “opting out” regardless of what is IS you’re abstaining from yes? But is there a different value or skill when it comes to opting out of something that you know you have an addiction to / unhealthy relationship with?

The ability to obtain from knowingly harmful habits is something that interests me. Without going into detail, I was in a toxic relationship with an emotionally abusive partner that took nearly a year to finally pull the plug on. When my partner at the time would write / call / come to the door, I could not resist the temptation to respond, even though I knew it would only prolong the chaotic mess of the relationship. Part of what helped finish this cycle was this “flexing of the renunciation muscle” – don’t respond to THIS misleading text, don’t call back to THIS phone call etc. Slowly, surely, and now I’m out on the bright side.

All this to reiterate, as you have written – we have incredible skill within ourselves to get out of unhealthy / boring / not useful etc habits & tendencies (or whatever you want to call them!).

Thanks for this!

David Cain November 13, 2017 at 9:50 am

So, if I understand from your article, you’re considering whether there is a virtue in “opting out” regardless of what is IS you’re abstaining from yes? But is there a different value or skill when it comes to opting out of something that you know you have an addiction to / unhealthy relationship with?

In this post I’m just talking about the simple situation of wanting something that you’re in some sense conflicted about — something with a downside, probably something you believe you’re better off not having — and practicing renouncing this opportunity for it. When it comes to managing addictions and other unhealthy attachments there are probably other helpful skills to be practiced too.

I am generally skeptical of AA and twelve step programs for a number of reasons, but one of them is that they seem to downplay or deny the possibility of moderation. Some addiction experts believe this renounce-forever-or-not-at-all dichotomy leads some people to a cycle of binging and abstinence, when they otherwise could learn to self-moderate. The renunciation muscle acts on right now, and the stronger it is, the more freedom you have to choose wisely right now. It seems to me like swearing off something forever and ever indicates a lack of confidence in one’s ability to renounce certain options in the present moment.

Sue Hauke November 13, 2017 at 5:09 pm

Having been on the addiction side of things, and subsequently having been to an AA-based rehab program, I just don’t think I could ever engage in my drug of choice in moderation. Oh, how I tried to ‘moderate’ my use, but once on the downward slope to the point of reliance on the drug to even function, there was no pulling back. Despite all efforts to manage consumption, recreational user eventually became substance abuser. Perhaps if I had learned some renunciation techniques earlier on, it might have been a different story, but this is also reliant upon the person being in the right frame of mind to be able to be logical and make good decisions for themselves. Drugs interfere with one’s ability to make those ‘next right decisions’. You can be sure that every addict out there struggling with the unmanageability that becomes their lives, would love to believe that they can pull things back to a self-moderation kind of manageability. But for someone in active addiction, I found that to be very difficult. For me now, abstinence or renunciation is the way to go—I’m done with the chaos that would rise in my head, relishing the idea that I could have just one drink or one toke. As if!

David Cain November 14, 2017 at 8:45 am

I’m definitely not trying to say moderation is always the answer — that should be evident from the article. But abstinence isn’t always the answer either, and one of the criticisms of 12-step programs is that they discourage non-abstinence approaches to problem behaviors.

Sue November 16, 2017 at 5:15 pm

I should qualify my comments by saying that while it was helpful in the early days, now 13 years into sobriety, I am not a poster child for AA (and have abandoned the program). The treatment centre didn’t like it when I pointed out that there is ‘more than one recipe for chocolate cake’ (in reference to approaches to sobriety). With regard to my own drug issues, I drew a line in the sand, and now am pretty black and white about it; I’m at peace with abstinence. But things like behaviours around food are still a challenge because that line can be so blurry. Sometimes I can easily be a proud renunciator (huge muscles!) and other times the old compulsions win out. Much of this has to do with emotions and feelings. Which is why I’m also encouraged by Camp Calm and the exploration of mindfulness because it isn’t just about arbitrarily saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to that bowl of chips. When I park at snack tables and power eat it’s not about the food at all, but anxiety around talking to people, negotiating the room. The behaviours are usually a result of some kind of tension. Matthew (below) makes references to “Recognize your feelings”. I think this can be a critical tool to ‘muscle’ building. I’m loving exploring all these different recipes for chocolate cake! ;-)

Beth Larson November 13, 2017 at 5:39 am

Question for you, David – is there an accessible book on the 10 paramis that you have come across? Any recommendations? They all sound like honorable goals, ways I can be both a better member of society and be better to myself.

David Cain November 13, 2017 at 9:52 am

Hi Beth. Yes! There is one called Parami: Ways to Cross Life’s Floods, by Ajahn Sucitto. You can download an electronic version for free from this site: https://forestsangha.org/teachings/books/parami-ways-to-cross-life-s-floods?language=English

Belonger November 13, 2017 at 6:09 am

David I’ve been reading your blog for many years and you’ve helped me get through a lot of difficult times – thank you! This article has landed at just the right time for me, so valuable in helping me move away from a toxic relationship and some really bad food habits. I’ve been interested in renunciation as a concept for some time, but feel resistance comes up usually at associations it has for me with self-denial and artificially supressing desires. But this idea of building a muscle, knowing that it will be useful for all sorts of future circumstances, sounds much more compassionate and pragmatic. Thank you

David Cain November 13, 2017 at 10:00 am

I think that’s pretty common, to feel unease about the idea of self-denial or fear feelings of self-deprivation.

It’s important to recognize that suppressing desires isn’t the point and it doesn’t really work anyway. We will all have desires appearing all day every day for the rest of our lives, and we can’t stop them. Some of them are for healthy, enriching things, and many are for harmful things that only undermine our health and happiness.

So it makes sense to learn some skills for recognizing and managing desires, and in fact the entire tradition of Buddhism is devoted to doing exactly that. There is a free book on the Paramis if you want to learn more about renunciation and other practices: https://forestsangha.org/teachings/books/parami-ways-to-cross-life-s-floods?language=English

Cynthia November 13, 2017 at 7:10 am

This is one of your best, and that’s a high standard. Thank you.

David Cain November 13, 2017 at 10:01 am

Thanks Cynthia. I never know which ones people will like, honestly. I thought people would be like, why is he writing a thousand words on potato chips?

Burak November 21, 2017 at 1:36 am

A thousand words on potato chips made my day. Thanks David :)

Don November 13, 2017 at 9:12 am

Excellent article, David! My problem–I don’t see any of your answers to these comments and wondering why.

Tomorrow I finish a month on a cleansing diet. Those chips sound so good!

Have you seen this book: “The Discipline of Pleasure?” It’s listed on Amazon. Give it a peek.

David Cain November 13, 2017 at 10:02 am

Hi Don. I usually first answer comments around 9-10am CST the morning after a post comes out. I don’t look at my computer until I’ve spent time reading and meditating.

Kevin Langman November 13, 2017 at 10:31 am

Another fantastic and timely article David! Really couldn’t be more timely, as I am also a sucker for bowls of chips, and fell hard at a party over the weekend.

The irony for me is I successfully abstained from drinking at said party, as I am making an effort to reduce my drinking this month. I also successfully abstained from eating any of the candy in the bowl of leftover Halloween treats that was sitting out. However, the chips had me.

Reflecting back on the experience, I was definitely telling myself that abstaining from 2/3 isn’t bad (which it isn’t). However, I still went way overboard on the chips to the point of not feeling to great after!

I have been making great progress with changes to my lifestyle as it stands, but I really like this concept of Renunciation, and think it provides a great lens for me to view some of these changes on a case by case basis going forward. Thanks again!

David Cain November 13, 2017 at 2:24 pm

Sounds like you did great. Yesterday I was at a little gathering with some snacks, and I didn’t eat a single chip. I did eat a few candies, which wasn’t the plan at all, but I feel great that I limited it to that. I know that next time the chips will be even easier to opt out of.

Larry November 13, 2017 at 10:31 am

Perfect David. Many thanks. A few days ago I renunciated Facebook. It was dragging me down and farming me for information. I feel much better for the change. Your article explains a lot.

David Cain November 13, 2017 at 2:25 pm

I did the same thing and once I broke the habit of checking it, it lost its grip on me. I still go there now and then but its “gravity” is gone.

matthew November 13, 2017 at 11:58 am

“Developing a taste for the subtle sweetness of renunciation” — I love the way you put that. :)

The great Karen Horney, in Our Inner Conflicts, wrote that Renunciation is one of the 4 steps to resolving our inner conflicts and making decisions:
“Preconditions for recognizing contradictory issues and for making decisions on that basis…”:
1) Recognize your feelings. “We must be aware of what our wishes are, or even more, of what our feelings are. … Most of us… do not know what we really feel or want.”
2) Know your values. “Since conflicts often have to do with convictions, beliefs, or moral values, their recognition would presuppose that we have developed our own set of values.”
3) Renounce one of the options. “Even if we recognize a conflict as such, we must be willing and able to renounce one of the two contradictory issues. …most people are not secure and happy enough to renounce anything.”
4) Own the decision. “…to make a decision presupposes the willingness and capacity to assume responsibility for it. …including the risk of being wrong, and bear the consequences without blaming others.”

David Cain November 13, 2017 at 2:27 pm

I like this way of framing things. It makes me wonder if all of our difficulties come down to two or more conflicting desires, and if solving them is a just matter of recognizing them and renouncing one of them. Thanks for this!

Poko November 13, 2017 at 12:00 pm

I’m currently ready The Slight Edge and this reminds me of that book, have you read it? Basically, the concept being that it’s the things that are :easy to do and easy not to do” (i.e. say no to this bowl of chips), but that those small choices compounded over time are what make the real difference over the course of a lifetime. This goes for both negative and positive habits.

David Cain November 13, 2017 at 2:28 pm

I haven’t read it no but it sounds like we’re taking advantage of that same principle. I see it as gradually reconditioning ourselves so that what was once hard gradually becomes easy, because you’ve broken that little bit of the ice each time.

Jalie November 13, 2017 at 12:54 pm

My grandmother used to take a single See’s chocolate and cut it into 4ths to enjoy throughout the day. Your article reminded me of her and the impact such tiny habits can have on others. Insightful as always, David. Thank you.

David Cain November 13, 2017 at 2:29 pm

I love this idea and I might try it myself. Thanks Jalie.

John November 13, 2017 at 6:10 pm

LOVED this post. Now I have to go read about paramis. But I’d also like to hear more from you about them. Thanks!

David Cain November 14, 2017 at 8:47 am

Check out the link to the Ajahn Sucitto book in a few of the comments above. It is offered freely online.

Adam K November 13, 2017 at 8:20 pm

Feels like this post was written for me personally. Potato chips are a tasty, tasty nemesis. But maybe *this* time I can skip them.

David Cain November 17, 2017 at 9:21 am

That’s the only time you can, or need to skip them! And we’re all capable of it. In fact swearing off something forever feels like protesting too much almost, like it’s a vote of non-confidence in our ability to opt out on a given day. So we pretend that it doesn’t exist and hope we never remember how much we want it.

Abhijeet Kumar November 13, 2017 at 9:27 pm

Non-participation is a beautiful way of putting this. When we can opt out of one set of things, we finally have space for new things to opt into. This works not just for compulsive desires, but also when we have a fear of missing out, or fear of failure. If we miss out or fail on this particular thing, opens up a new possibility, so either outcome seems abundant.

David Cain November 17, 2017 at 9:22 am

FOMO is a big motivation, and I’m glad pop culture has given us a name for it. Now we can recognize it and act in spite of it.

Patrick Tahiti November 13, 2017 at 11:36 pm

Seen like this Renunciation is maybe the power to Choose one’s path (counter-intuitive). It is just wonderful how profound insights can come from a bowl of chips. Well done again !

David Cain November 17, 2017 at 9:22 am

All insights come from snacks

Kelli November 14, 2017 at 4:06 am

I would love to read a series where you take the paramis and translate their concepts into current-day situations, like this post.

David Cain November 14, 2017 at 8:48 am

As I practice more with them, I will probably have quite a bit to say :)

Aretina November 14, 2017 at 7:09 am

This couldn’t come at a better time, as I’m mindlessly putting a dent in the kids Halloween candy. The other technique I was trying- asking myself “how will this action move me ahead in my goals” just isn’t cutting it at 7pm when the weight of the entire day feels like a series of missed goals and self-judgements.
I like this approach, that the act of renunciation is a muscle that can be exercised to build a pattern of small improvements, instead of being the end goal in itself.

David Cain November 17, 2017 at 9:19 am

That’s a good point — those long-term, logic-dependent motivations aren’t always reliable. At some point I just will not care about optimizing for long term goals, and I just want ice cream. But renunciation doesn’t require that whole-life context, just an engagement with feelings that are here right now.

Debbi November 14, 2017 at 8:59 am

As a fellow abstainer, I appreciate the concept of renunciation and agree with your post but also feel like it is important to couple it with an avoidance strategy. There is a body of research supporting the idea that we have a certain amount of self control at the beginning of the day and each time we make a choice that involves saying no to temptation we use up a bit of it (I realize that I am oversimplifying here but that is more or less the idea). By combining avoidance (I will walk to a colleague’s desk by taking a route that does not take me by the chocolate bowl) with renunciation (when I have to go to to the desk whose owner has the chocolate bowl, I will choose not to take a chocolate today), I feel like it is easier to make good choices throughout the day. I used food as a fairly trivial example, but feel like this also applies to more substantive choices – such as whether to join in when others are gossiping – as well. Your thoughts?

David Cain November 14, 2017 at 9:20 am

Oh definitely. Avoidance is the easiest way when it is practical. Staying off of social media is the first line of defense when it comes to avoiding toxic online arguments, if you tend to get into them. We can’t always do that though, and there are times when we’re giving up something valuable just so we don’t need to exercise renunciation. We need both strategies, for sure.

Rebecca K. Horton November 14, 2017 at 9:36 am

Hi David! As usual you are right on target with advice on living happier! Thank you for that. Was it Ben Franklin who proposed practicing those valuable traits? Anyway, life would be better if we all got back to doing that.
One note: I’m a sucker for all kinds of goodies. I love chocolate but I hate it if it has mint in it. So I bring home Peppermint Patties. I won’t touch it! Also, just saying no has more than the simple one time benefit—if I say no to the cravings then I don’t have to fight the compulsion. Then the next time, saying no to the cravings is easier. Once I give in…ha ha.

Rebecca K. Horton November 14, 2017 at 9:39 am

Also, on the social media “web”. It’s a dopamine trap. When I started having excruciating neck pain I figured out that I had to stop looking at my phone in the same way. Trying to break those habits as well as harmful food and attitude additions.

David Cain November 17, 2017 at 9:16 am

Totally, and recently I’ve found it helpful to regard every momentary want as a want of the same thing: a dopamine hit. Whether it’s clicking on twitter, or throwing a chocolate bar in my shopping cart, we are contending with the exact same issue, so getting better at it helps in so many ways.

Md Nayeem November 14, 2017 at 11:06 am

Hey David!!Man, your websites is really amazing, actually its articles & the above one also have some unique differences, but all of other comments sectors are closed, so I can’t knock for others. Whatever now I’m on!!I will check out them….Thanks for those articles, I really find them helpful, as for, Your articles- Freedom Comes From How You Live
Wise People Have Rules For Themselves
stress!! There’s a Story
Mindfulness is the Opposite of Neediness
…Learned as Kids & so forth
keep it on buddy….

David Cain November 17, 2017 at 9:17 am

Thanks! The comment sections close after 90 days (I think) because otherwise they get filled with spam

Amber Pollard November 17, 2017 at 10:08 pm

“The comments sections close after 90 days […] because otherwise they get filled with spam” — I find this statement really interesting and I’d like to ask more about it. What if comments sections didn’t get any SPAM and only generated responses of high-value? What responses are of most high value to content creators? I’ve never had a blog as insightful or valuable as yours, but I want to find about what response tools could do for content creators — I’d love to hear from you.

Paula November 15, 2017 at 11:37 am

What a great and timely article! Just a week ago, I embarked on a no-sugar, no-processed food lifestyle. It’s been relatively “easy” so far but I know the holidays are coming up… And I am like you, a chip-inhaler!

My husband once suggested to separate the emotion attached to eating junk food. See that bowl of chips? Think of it as a neutral item, like a chair, or a pencil. My co-worker says she pictures the treat covered with worms, or something equally as yucky. Not sure I’d like to carry that image with me, so I’d rather renounce the temptation and walk away from the table!

For me, it’s about my health, and as I’m inching past middle age, I don’t have an option of taking care of myself if I want the best chance at a healthy, long life. I’m hoping that’ll be motivation enough to say no to the Doritos. Probably not enough to say no to the wine ;)

David Cain November 17, 2017 at 8:59 am

I like these ideas! I’ll try the “neutral object” exercise and also the worms one :)

Jean Gall November 16, 2017 at 4:30 pm

This is pretty much the same as the Fruits of the Spirit, from the Bible. It’s funny to me how people are always coming up with philosophies from other cultures, that are already here … though ignored.

David Cain November 17, 2017 at 9:09 am

The idea of practicing virtues isn’t a culturally-specific or particularly original idea, it’s something everyone thinks about. It certainly didn’t appear for the first time in the New Testament, or in the (much older) Buddhist philosophy for that matter. This post is about the specific moment of application for a specific virtue.

KG November 16, 2017 at 5:28 pm

Thanks for posting. Great topic, a little provocative and definitely got me in reflection mode. For me renunciation is a very empowering short or long term practice. It really gives me a window into greater ‘Self Discovery’ and answering the question, Just “how” free am I?

David Cain November 17, 2017 at 9:11 am

Freedom is what it’s all about. If we have patterns that we don’t know how to avoid, we aren’t really free. Renunciation, to the extent that we can do it, is synonymous with freedom from patterns.

Marcin November 18, 2017 at 1:33 pm

David, you say it gets easier to refrain from temptations with each “win”. I’m skeptical. Have you heard of “ego depletion”? You can read about it e.g. on Wikipedia. When we successfully beat one temptation, we are more susceptible to the next one, at least short term. My life experience confirms this to be true.

David Cain November 27, 2017 at 3:15 pm

Sounds like you’re talking about willpower. I’m seeing this more in terms of deliberate practice. Refraining from doing something is a skill like any other, involving mindfulness and deliberate movement, rather than an isolated feat of will. If you see it only as a willpower exercise it will be a lot harder probably.

emma November 27, 2017 at 4:06 am

it seems you are remaining an “abstainer” even in the presence of chips, just more consciously. do you think there is a way to practice being a *moderate enjoyer* – truly delighting in the pleasure of the 13-15 chips that is a “serving” and then actually stopping? i have never managed.

David Cain November 27, 2017 at 3:16 pm

I think so, but often abstinence is simpler and more rewarding anyway. But when you use abstinence/renunciation on a case-by-case basis, it is compatible with moderation.

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 2 Trackbacks }

Desktop version

Raptitude is an independent blog by . Some links on this page may be affiliate links, which means I might earn a commission if you buy certain things I link to. In such cases the cost to the visitor remains the same.