Choose your vices carefully

One of the favorite questions I ask my loved ones, friends, and acquaintances is this: “*what’s your favorite vice?*” While it may sound like a contradiction but it’s a little more nuanced than that. 

Most people immediately know what I’m trying to ask. Simply because everyone’s got a favorite vice or two. They know it isn’t something they should be indulging in but they end up doing just that! Sure, it can be unhealthy, if alcohol is one of the vices but mature beings (not necessary old, as in age) almost always know when and where to draw the line. 

Not surprisingly, it’s the mature who are able to crisply answer my question. They are aware of the choices they have and the ones they like to exercise every now and then. They also carefully consider the consequences and adapt accordingly. Some go to the extremes and replace their vices with something positive because it stopped giving them the pleasure is has (or can) become a health hazard. 

And guess what? All of that is fair. I believe everyone’s ought to have a vice or two. Living without one is hard to do as we are by nature drawn to the forbidden fruit.’ Psychology says that the more guilt or shame you feel around a particular activity (that’s forbidden) the chances of you indulging in it are much higher. 

Moreover, there’s ample research out there confirming that all this self-control can overload you to feel irritable, reactive, and even depressive! That’s a scary trade-off given that your indulgence would have made you feel far better. Would you not be better off without it? Easier said than done. In fact, Liad Uziel, a senior lecturer in the department of psychology at Bar-Ilan University in Israel says, “Striving to fight bad habits is part of the human experience and will always be so.” 

As a student of psychology and human performance, I couldn’t agree less. But I do think, the key to avoiding all this unnecessary stress is to strike a balance. How do you do that? By acknowledging that vices are okay and life is good so long as you don’t overdo it. Some say “moderation” is the key but that also implies that you can probably do it everyday, just keep it under the limit. And we all know the challenge with respecting limits, don’t we? 

The alternative is to consider indulging in vices once in a while. (That could be once a week or two-weeks or perhaps a month?) And enjoy it thoroughly when you do. Without regrets. That’s what life is all about — to be lived fully.

By Sunil Nair

Nurturing leaders of tomorrow.

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