Have you ever noticed how taking a vacation can supercharge your work productivity? Or perhaps indulging on holiday desserts can amp up your diet compliance or gym motivation the following week? “Cheating” — deviating from our daily routines—can be an effective strategy to ignite future action, fuel motivation, and create consistency in goal pursuit. Yes, I said it…

Cheating, when used correctly, can be an effective tool to master behavior change, increase productivity, and optimize performance.

Cheating is widely believed as a one-way ticket to failure, but science has shown it can actually enhance our goal pursuit when applied correctly. I will show you how to leverage the science to optimize success and increase probability of attaining your goals. Applying this science of “cheating” can make the difference between failing and reaching higher levels of performance. Shall we begin?

Why Cheating Works.

Any behavior worth sustaining requires sustaining motivation over time. Sustaining motivation requires creating routines that effectively harness our self-control resources and regulate temptations. For instance, to be highly productive we have to manage distractions (emails, surfing social media), to maximize sports performance we have to practice/train and manage down time or to eat a healthy we have to eat certain foods/quantities and manage the tempting indulgences and overeating.

Exercising complete self-control has become the wide-spread recipe for success and any deviation from the plan a sign of “failure”. However, success is rarely achieved by a succession of wins or positives steps towards our goals. Rather, real life success, whether behavior change, sports or business, is paved with daily struggles, temptations, set-backs, struggles, and losses which can’t let us derail us and must be overcome to net large, long-term wins. Simply put, we cant let obstacles get in the way.

By harnessing the psychology of cheating, we can transform obstacles into opportunities to achieve new levels of performance and productivity.

The One Key Factor to Make Cheating Effective

The one key difference between cheating that makes or breaks enduring motivation is planning (hence, the fancy scientific name: planned hedonic deviations). To make cheating an energizing force for motivation and performance it needs to be pre-planned into your behavioral routine.

How Eating Cookies Helps Me Stick To My Routine

We all have ‘cheat’ foods or indulgences. Foods we categorize as “bad” that we are tempted to always eat when in sight. Mine are oatmeal raisin cookies. Every time I would go to whole foods I found myself impulsively eating an oatmeal raisin cookie. In fact, I loved them so much I found myself going to Whole Foods more often just to get more cookies. Instead of actively resisting oatmeal raisin cookies and exhausting my willpower which would starve my mind, derail my entire diet and add unnecessary stress — I actively planned a weekly “cheat” cookie consumption. By strategically enjoying my once-a-week savory oatmeal raisin cookie it unlocks my adherence to the remaining 98% of my diet. One weekly cookie “planned cheat” helps create and maintain consistency across the rest of my healthy eating. Smart cheating!

Planned “cheating” (e.g., eating a planned oatmeal cookie) makes the difference between feeling in control of our eating which sustains the healthy eating vs. Unplanned cheating (e.g., eating a cookie whenever you see it) which facilitates a downward spiral of eating recklessly and feeling miserable.

Hacking Productivity & Motivation

Using “planned cheating” not only applies to dietary compliance, but also unlocking business productivity, building wealth, or enhancing exercise or sports performance. For example, instead of burning out of work, we can plan a vacation strategically to unlock productivity, or before a big sports performance we can plan a few rest days. Deviating from a savings by having a planned shopping trip or plan to buy instead of saving can help us stay motivated to continue saving.

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