#634 Jason and the Argonauts (+ Pema Chödrön)

Another Strategy to Deal with the Sirens

Emerson and I recently enjoyed some Greek mythology via the D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. It was fun to spend some time hanging out with Zeus (the God not our dog—lol), Hercules, and some of the other epic gods and goddesses and heroes and monsters.

Today I want to chat about Jason and his band of merry heroes, the Argonauts. We’ll skip the details of their chase for the Golden Fleece and focus on how they got by the Sirens. Their strategy adds yet another approach to our evolving array of ways to deal with our distractions and addictions.

First, quick context/recap.

As you may recall from our previous +1 discussions on Sirens and Running Your Willpower Offense, Sirens are dangerous creatures!

The Sirens sing such enchanting songs that no mere mortal can resist crashing into the rocks. And, as we discussed, each Siren sings a different tune—one that most seduces that particular sailor. (What song do they sing to YOU?!)

So, as we discussed, willpower scientists tell us that the best way to deal with the temptations of the Sirens is to play OFFENSE with your willpower, not defense. We want to recognize where we get tempted and then, like Odysseus tying himself to the mast after putting bees wax in his men’s ears, we precommit to virtuous action and have a much better chance of avoiding danger.


Sometimes our offensive plans may not pan out and we need to embrace a good willpower defense.

That’s when Jason and his Argonauts come in.

They’re sailing along. They didn’t do any pre-commitment planning (oops) and find themselves right in the middle of a symphony of Sirens.

What do they do?

Well, thankfully our Heroes have the legendary musician and singer Orpheus on the boat with them. He senses the impending danger and starts playing louder and louder—overpowering the Sirens’ songs with his own music. Voila. Saved.

How’s that relate to our lives?

Well, Pema Chödrön comes to mind.

In The Places that Scare You, she tells us about a practice she calls “doing something different.” Here’s her take on it: “Acknowledging that we are all churned up is the first and most difficult step in any practice. Without compassionate recognition that we are stuck, it’s impossible to liberate ourselves from confusion. ‘Doing something different’ is anything that interrupts our ancient habit of indulging in our emotions. We do anything to cut the strong tendency to spin out… Anything that’s non-habitual will do—even sing and dance or run around the block. We do anything that doesn’t reinforce our crippling habits. The third most difficult practice is to then remember that this is not something we do just once or twice. Interrupting our destructive habits and awakening our heart is the work of a lifetime.

Yep. That’s another way to deal with our bad habits. Notice that we’re starting to go sideways. (Always the first and most difficult step.) Then, do something different. ANYTHING that doesn’t reinforce our crippling habits.

Today’s +1. Perhaps you can channel Orpheus and sing and dance the next time you find yourself steering toward the rocks?

Oh! And, remember. We don’t do this once or twice. We’re never exonerated. “Interrupting our destructive habits and awakening our heart is the work of a lifetime.

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