Playing games on yourself

AT a meeting last Tuesday, I told my colleagues that I would finish this column — which is about deadlines — by noon on Thursday. I spent part of Tuesday afternoon searching the word “deadlines” on Google, but didn’t make much progress. By late afternoon, I felt a tiny knot of fear in my stomach. What if I let my co-workers down? So I wrote something silly just to get started. This paragraph.

On the motivating power of deadlines, however artificial they might be.

People respond well to deadlines because meeting them provides a distinct feeling of having achieved something within a time frame.

Amazing how you can fool yourself, even though you know you're doing so. This might seem irrational, but many self-help books seem to posit a notion of multiple selves, often adhering to that popular dichotomy that places an angel on one shoulder, a devil on the other. Succeeding in life, then, becomes a game in which you outwit the devil, the bad self.