By Nate Whitten, September 2015 Issue.

When you hear the word cheating you probably conjure up a negative feeling about hurting others or being hurt yourself.

If you’ve ever cheated on something or someone, you may have experienced feelings of guilt or shame. If you’ve been cheated on, you may identify with feelings of betrayal or embarrassment, followed by anger.

With this in mind, we can see why cheating tends to backfire and negate all the positive things we’ve been trying to accomplish – whether it’s in fitness or other aspects of life.

Let’s look at the benefits of cheating by reframing two definitions of the word “cheat” so that the word – or act – of cheating can generate success rather than failure.

Definition 1: To act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage, especially in a game or examination.

Although we may not consciously think of our relationships with our self or with others as a game or examination, most of us live this way at a subconscious level. Society has programmed us to see our endeavors as win-or-lose situations by creating categories of right and wrong. If correctness is your aim, you will most certainly fail. But life isn’t a game and eliminating examinations that cause you to feel the need to cheat in order to succeed is the best solution.

Definition 2: To avoid (something undesirable) by luck or skill.

As for the word and action of cheating, I consider this the more-desirable definition. If you’re going to cheat, cheat the undesirable. Cheat the feelings of guilt or shame, by releasing the negative ideas of cheating. Cheat the statistics of divorce by being forthright about who you are. Cheat the systems that have been set up to use shame as a motivator to keep your true self hidden behind the imagined ideals of perfection.

With both definitions in mind, here are some scenarios where we most commonly encounter cheating.

Fitness Cheating: There are all sorts of diet and exercise programs that encourage a “cheat day.” And the premise of this program is that you cannot and will not be able to eat an extremely rigorous diet every day for the rest of your life. Fitness gurus know that it is impossible to exert your physical energy with extensive workouts without injuring yourself or eventually burning out. So the cheat day was created to give you a break. The intention is to let you have a day off from being perfect so you won’t quit.

The first step for success in the gym is to let go of the subconscious idea that cheating is bad. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to enjoy your day off without guilt or shame (we all know the Sunday morning social media selfies of you sweating it out at the gym were taken earlier in the week, anyway).

When you plan to make a day off part of your routine and it’s not longer cheating. Whether you call it your “day off” or your “I-work-out-so-I-can-look-this-good-while-scarfing-down-chicken-and-waffles approach,” it’s no longer dishonest or deceiving when you allow yourself to be less than impeccable every day of your fitness regime. So, when you’re sleeping off Saturday’s shenanigans and gearing up for #SundayFunday, own it.

Life Cheating: In life, you don’t get to take a day off. However, you’ve entered relationships and jobs with the expectation that the person you were on those first dates, or the model employee you presented at your job interview, will be the person you are going to be all the time. And, let’s be honest, we’re not always the put-together, organic-eating, perfect catch or corporate professional that we believe we are in those initial impressions. Again, stop engaging in the idea that you must be perfect all the time. Being yourself shouldn’t feel like cheating.

As for the most common association with the word cheating, if you don’t believe in monogamy, don’t pretend you do. If you are not in agreement with your current or future partner on matters such as this, you will end up cheating. Conversely, when the two of you agree that an open relationship is the best plan for you, and eliminate the option of cheating, you can diminish the chances of temptation, dishonesty or betrayal.

Regardless of whether it’s fitness or other aspects of life, the lesson is that if you are unwilling to be forthright about who you are and what you believe, you will end up cheating. Not the good kind.

Do you smoke but pretend not to, to impress cutie pie? You’ll end up sneaking around for a quick cigarette, hiding Fabreze in your trunk and always carrying breath mints in your pocket. That’s cheating too.

Photo courtesy of The Dinah

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