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Ulysses Pact

In Homer’s Odyssey, Ulysses and his men have to sail past the Sirens, beautiful women who sing such enchanting songs that any man who hears their voice will become so captivated that they sail blindly towards it and crash into the rocks in the way.

The dilemma Ulysses faces is that he desperately wants to experience the beauty of the sirens’ song but also avoid their enchantment.

So, he plugs his mens’ ears with wax and instruct them to bind him to the mast of his ship, only releasing him once they’ve sailed past the sirens’ island.

Because of the wax earplugs, his men will be immune to the enchanting song of the sirens, allowing them to sail past the island successfully. And because he’s been bound to the mast of his ship, Ulysses will get to do what no man before him had ever managed—to hear the beautiful sirens’ song and live to tell the tale.

The Ulysses Pact is the disentanglement of the moment in which a decision is made on how to act and the moment in which the action itself happens.

By deciding how to spend our time, what our values are, up front, when we have the ability to think about them rationally and objectively, we, like Ulysses, will find the ways to overcome the momentary distractions and emotions that could otherwise lead us astray.

For the longest time, I've followed this for making decisions on how I spend my time. I sit down every Sunday for a couple of hours to plan out in detail what the next week looks like. And once the decision is made, it is simply about seeing it through, no arguments, no excuses, at the time of action.

However, this year, I've been learning to take the same approach with the identity I wish to craft for myself.

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