Most years, I forget that April Fools’ Day is coming – I’m usually the April Fool. Even if I had the foresight, I certainly don’t have the skill to pull off a prank. It’s unfortunate.
But I started thinking about what it means to be a fool, and how we fool ourselves.
The topic brings me back to my first big job after college. Vying for the first full-time job I could get my hands on, I wound up chasing a sales position. I squirmed nervously in the office of one of the company’s higher-ups during my second interview, answering philosophical questions that seemed largely unrelated to the job. To close the interview, the interviewer asked, “Why do people do things that are bad for them?” My answer was one that stuck with me ever since.
I told him that many bad decisions are made not because of a lack of understanding, but because of a deeper desire or fear that is strong enough to trigger our ability to justify that bad can be good and good can be bad.
On April Fools’ Day, other people prey on our naiveté and assumptions through pranks. It’s a holiday devoted to making a fool of others in silly, harmless ways for the most part. But the far more harmful prank comes from how we fool ourselves on a more constant basis.
How many times do we convince ourselves of something other than the truth? How many times do we justify the relationships and jobs that make us unhappy? How many times do we justify making purchases we can’t afford? How many times do we justify eating things that don’t fuel us to be our best?
When we justify, all we are doing is lying to ourselves to make life a little easier in this moment. We get the instant gratification instead of a truly rewarding life. We are so afraid to feel the intermittent pain of taking life’s most gratifying path that we settle for what feels good right now. We make fools of ourselves.
There are lies I tell myself to make me feel more comfortable about where I am now, and to mitigate the pain of what feels like inevitable failure when I go for what I want. These lies are the voice of my fear, and when I allow the voice of my fear to be the voice of reason, I make a fool of myself.
I don’t think there’s any quick cure for the way we make a fool of ourselves – these kinds of doubts and lies are just part of the obstacle course we have to traverse on the way to our goals. The challenge is deciding to confront the misguided logic that holds us in place – we can’t move forward while functioning under these delusions.
Whether it’s from a prank or a little introspection, I hope that April Fools’ Day can serve as a reminder that anyone can play the fool, even by their own doing.