Every time we find a VIP with his pants down — Arnold Schwarzenegger or Anthony Weiner, for example — you can almost hear the collective "huh?" around the nation's water coolers, on its Twitter feeds and shared over its backyard fences.
What in the heck were those guys thinking? Where were they when John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, Bill Clinton and so many others crashed and burned? Why wasn't the very real risk of shame and humiliation enough to stop them cold?
In fact, the more we anticipate wagging fingers, public pillory and guilt, the worse we're likely to do when it comes to self-control. If we focus on the pride that comes from good behavior, we make better choices. By far.
What would make anticipating pride so much better than anticipating shame in controlling temptation? One reason is that pride focuses attention on the self (not the cake) and on success rather than failure. Shame, on the other hand, emphasizes the opposite; it focuses attention on the object of desire and the act of succumbing, making resistance harder to pull off. Simply put, anticipating pride makes us feel good, and anticipating shame makes us feel bad.
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