I saw this “donuts are the devil but tacos are king!” message on a white board at my gym the other day, and I was struck by how hugely flawed this type of thinking is (especially at a “health” club.) Sure it’s just a throwaway line written on the board in the group class/bootcamp room, but it still registered with me. Mainly because I’m all too familiar with this flawed thinking myself.
A doughnut isn’t the devil. A doughnut is just a doughnut. A taco isn’t king. A taco is just a taco. Just like a pair of shoes is just a pair of shoes. Or a watch is just a watch. Or a pricey leather bag is… just a pricey leather bag. No more. No less.
The problem here is that the more you elevate or demonize a thing, the greater the chance you can be controlled by it. You have “thought” it into a totally artificial, undeserved, powerful state of being.
And we humans do this all the time.
Things, on average, are hugely overrated. Listen, I get it. I really like things too. If I didn’t, this tiny website that you’re reading right now wouldn’t work. But the truth is, the joy ceiling on a taco in isolation is enormously low. As is the joy ceiling on a new pair of shoes. Or a new shirt.
I mean, it’s a shirt. “Ooooh new shirt. YAY shirt! Something to cover my nipples! Nipples are bad. I’m a filthy mammal!”
It’s not really about the things. It’s the actions around the taco or the shoes or the shirt that make us really happy. Remove the taco, still do the things you would have done around the taco (say, meeting up with friends) and you quickly realize how unnecessary the taco is. The things are often irrelevant to happiness, if not outright counter-productive (such as eating too many tacos, alone, in front of Netflix).
And it’s a real pain in the butt, but our brains often confuse things with actions. Like tacos = friendly happy fun time. Or nice clothes = successful cool sexy time.
But this just isn’t true. And through that confusion we artificially elevate or demonize the thing. We give enormous amounts of power to something that’s otherwise totally inert. And by giving a thing that power, we take the power away from ourselves.
The watch or the shoes or the suit won’t ask for the raise. Or get the date with the smoke-show eyeing you up from the bar. You have to do that. The taco doesn’t prevent you from exercising. Nor is it forcing you to avoid eating nutritiously. You have the power to do those things. The taco sure doesn’t. It’s just a taco. How do I know you can do it? All of it? All of the things? Because our brains are powerful enough to artificially elevate a taco to a position of power which downright scares plenty of us. That’s true power. You just have to re-purpose it.
Get over the taco. See the shoes, the shirts, and the watches for what they are. They are tools. Totally useless unless they’re serving you (certainly not sabotaging you) in pursuing or doing something that truly brings you joy.
You have to do the things. The thing can’t do the things for you. And until it can, it’s best to stop elevating it upon an artificial power pedestal.
Because the higher up you put it, the more power it’ll have. And the more power it has, the lower you’re gonna feel.
Now pass me the Cholula.