A common issue with long-term goal-setting is the lack of short-term payoff. When faced with instant gratification against future gains, the temptation to cave in to the “now” can be irresistible. A surprising source of inspiration comes from Greek mythology and the story of Ulysses.

Ulysses was making his journey home after the fall of Troy and had to sail his ship past the isolated island of the Sirens, dangerous and beautiful creatures, who lured sailors with their seductive and enchanting music to shipwreck on the rocky coast or plunge to their death. The dilemma faced by Ulysses was that he wanted to hear the Siren song, but also wanted to survive. He came up with a plan that anticipated his future inability to resist temptation. Ulysses instructed the crew to tie him securely to the boat’s mast and to put wax in their own ears. That way, the sailors would not be drawn to the Sirens or hear Ulysses pleading to be set free. Ulysses was able to hear the music without being destroyed by it. He successfully led himself through temptation and continued the voyage to Ithaca.

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