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Ulysses' contract: what it is, how to use it, and examples

Willpower comes and goes, it's that simple. What at one point we set out to do, convinced that we would do it, the next day can be turn into a titanic odyssey and unlikely that we will do it, unless we are forced or we do not have another option.

It also happens the other way around: doing something we shouldn't, like eating that succulent and delicious candy from the pantry despite being on a diet or going out with friends on the day we were supposed to go to the Gym.

Fortunately, there is a strategy to prevent temptations and laziness from preventing us from reaching our goals: the Ulysses contract. Next we will find out what it is about.

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What is the Ulysses contract?

Ulysses, a hero of Greek mythology, made a long journey back to Ithaca after the Trojan War. The odyssey was not without its dangers, as the goddess Circe had warned him. One of them was the song of the sirens, a malicious melody that enchanted everyone who heard it and that would end their lives.

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Some sailors, enraptured by the beautiful song, jumped into the sea and drowned in it while their captains directed the boat towards where the sirens were, crashing the ship and sinking. Our hero knew that when the time came, if he did nothing, he would succumb like all those who had sailed the sea of ​​mermaids.

Fortunately, Circe told him what to do: her sailors were to put wax plugs in their ears. And, if he wanted to hear the sirens singing, he should ask his men to tie him to the mast of the boat. So he could hear the hypnotic chant and, if it worked, he wouldn't lose his life jumping into the sea. No one would release him if he started asking his men to let him go, for the sailors wouldn't hear him and they would be too busy rowing with their heads down.

And, sure enough, that's how it happened. When they passed by the island of the sirens and they sang their songs, the sailors, deafened with wax plugs, did not hear them. They kept rowing, immune to the hypnotic song of those malicious beings and, also, to the pleas of Ulysses that he asked to be released. They survived, they were able to tell it and Ulysses and his men continued living stories that would add to the famous work that is the Odyssey.

All this history has served to give a name to a curious phenomenon present in our daily lives: the Ulysses contract. This term refers to any agreement by which one puts up barriers to avoid falling into future temptations. It could be seen as a remedy to fight one of the main weaknesses of our brain, which is the desire to receive immediate reward.

We can do this type of contract with ourselves only or, also, involving other people, anticipating the possible loss of control in our decisions. To make sure not to fall into the trap of immediate reward, vice, and laziness, one forces oneself not to have the option of rewarding the now, the present, in front of the benefits or consequences to come. The Ulysses contract works by taking away the opportunity to choose, limiting our free will, and forcing us to do what needs to be done.

We continually sign Ulysses contracts, without even knowing it. We do it so as not to succumb to temptation, knowing that each one is not a single self, but the sum of several, of several here and several now that make that effort that we proposed at a certain moment become any. The desire comes and goes, the optimism also and our willpower is extremely moldable by the circumstances..

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Examples of Ulysses' contract

To better understand the idea of ​​the Ulysses contract, we are going to see a few examples that represent this very well. phenomenon, with its equivalent to the mast to which the Greek hero tied himself and, also, the sailors deafened with the plugs waxy. Many of them are not only given as an explanation of what the Ulysses contract is, but also so that whoever wishes to apply them in his life if precisely one of them is the vice or temptation that he is going through now same.

A fairly simple example of a contract of this type would be that of, when we are in the supermarket, do not buy any sweets and avoid succumbing to going off the diet. Being at home we will not have them on hand and, when we feel like it, we simply will not be able to use them comfortably because we do not have them. The here and now asks us to eat sweets, but fortunately our past self in the supermarket knew how to anticipate this situation and avoided buying them.

Examples of the Ulysses contract

Another case would be to want to be in shape and join a gym. When we are paying the fee, we force ourselves to go so as not to feel that we are losing money. If this doesn't work, we can agree with a friend to go together, asking him to make us go. The social pressure And the fear of looking bad with a friend will make it less likely that we will skip the day of training.

The gym fee could be compared to the pole to which Ulysses was tied, while the friend who forces us to go and who it casts down every excuse we can make is like faithful sailors with wax in their ears immune to the pleas of the hero Hellenic.

And since we give so much importance to money, we can give another example, very useful for saving. It would also be an Ulises contract to schedule automatic transfers from one of our accounts to another., also ours, to force us to save. Another option is to make the credit card have little money or, directly, leave it at home and carry just enough in your wallet to avoid wasting it on nonsense.

A curious case of Ulysses' contract is the following: there are people who, to quit smoking, sign a check with a more than large donation to an organization that causes them a visceral rejection and they give it to a friend with the instruction that if he smokes, give it to him. An extreme case is that of people with alcoholism, who when they go to rehabilitation for the first time are asked to throw away all the bottles of alcohol that are at home.

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Is this strategy infallible?

Although they sound great as we've seen them up to this point, Ulysses' contracts are not infallible. Their main problem is that they are so easy to sign, so easy they can be canceled. The ideal would be to use the system that other people are involved in what we have proposed, physically present to prevent us from abandoning ourselves to our vices or avoiding doing what we should.

However, this is impractical because, in addition to the fact that these people are also human like us and can also fall into vice, we need to convince them first that we must both be strong and continue ahead. What's more, the one and the other can manipulate each other to break what they have agreed to and skip the fact that they have decided to do together, be it going to the gym, give up smoking or spend less money. We can resort to persuasion to violate the agreement, making someone else's implication to no avail.

It is difficult to find a friend with whom you have so much confidence as to sign an oral contract of this type but that it is strong, hard and cold enough not to allow us to breach it.

That is why Ulysses's solution was so effective. By plugging the ears of his sailors he not only prevented them from being enchanted by the malicious song of the sirens, they could also lower their heads and keep rowing without being tricked by their hypnotized captain into changing the course.

The problem of persuasion is more serious when we ourselves are the judge and party. If we had the ability to conduct ourselves by certain self-imposed rules without resorting to external restrictions, then we would not have problems to achieve our objectives and therefore we would not need this type of contracts. It would be enough to propose something and ready. The problem is that we end up negotiating with ourselves and, sooner or later, we end up giving in to our wishes.

However, we must not lose hope. It is better to apply an Ulysses contract, limiting our options and eliminating temptations, than to hope that by sheer force of will we will succeed in what we have proposed. The desire, optimism and strength change from one day to the next, they are highly variable, so we should not allow us to give the slightest opportunity to what can ruin the goals and dreams we want achieve.

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