So I’ve realised I have been fighting with time lately. The symptoms came in the form of anger, frustration and resentment. It took a couple of confronting statements from my husband and a great book to help me see that.
We all are faced with challenges throughout our life, and as Buddha so eloquently puts it “life is suffering”. Seems a like a depressing quote from such a great man. What Buddha is trying to help us achieve however, is acceptance. We all need to accept the fact, and yes it is fact, that life has its challenges, its suffering – there is no way to avoid it (though most of us do try).
In order to grow spiritually, emotionally and intellectually we must first accept the challenges life hands us, confront them and one by one overcome them. Avoiding these problems, according to psychiatrist M.Scott Peck, is the primary cause of mental illness. As most of us avoid problems to some extent we are all mentally ill to the same extent, usually manifested through stress, depression and anxiety.
So what I have come to understand is that I need to delay gratification. By this I mean not shortcutting the problem to gain reward, if I do this the real problem is still there, plaguing the back of my mind, still causing stress. If I solve the problem I can truly enjoy the reward without worry of the problem reappearing. Think of the child who cleans his room by cramming all his toys and mess under the bed. He can go and play outside now, but may still worry his parents will find out, he didn’t solve the problem properly, he took the shortcut, and so he can’t relax.
The beautiful thing I learnt on the weekend was that I am capable of solving all problems, yes all, if I give them the time. To give you an example I have found it challenging settling my daughter to sleep. I find myself becoming frustrated with the time it takes, thinking of the things I could be doing instead. I realised the opportunity to achieve these other things while my daughter sleeps peacefully is the reward for solving the problem of an unsettled, tired baby. I have been using a baby rocker to assist in getting her to sleep. My daughter has reflux and while the rocker usually gets her to sleep quicker, it results in a shorter sleep because the motion causes her to be uncomfortable, vomit and therefore wake up prematurely. This shortcut is in actual fact a band-aid that assists temporarily without delivering a solution. I now spend that extra 15minutes with her until she is asleep, and this has allowed her to sleep for up to an hour longer. Giving time to overcome the challenge has certainly improved the reward.
M.Scott Peck defines delaying gratification as “…a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with. It is the only decent way to live” So eat the cake first and then the icing, you will enjoy the icing so much more when you are rid of the boring old cake :p
Have you noticed the move in society toward instant gratification? Buy now pay later. Our credit cards buy us what we want now without the challenge of having to save. How about the drugs that give us instant happiness instead of working through the real causes of our thoughts and emotions. Instant gratification, instant happiness, followed by a life of financial challenges or dependency on medication. These are only a couple examples of our attempt to avoid or delay our problems.
What you need to consider now is your priorities. You too can work through any problem if it is important to you. If you want to be healthy, you should do it, this may take time to research and implement your plan before you can get your reward but don’t get frustrated, because if this is important to you then you choose to willingly invest your time into the challenge knowing it will deliver the reward. Nothing comes for free and solutions are rarely immediate. Remove the problem and it won’t hang in the back of your mind festering, draining all your energy, preventing you from fully enjoying your pleasures. On the other hand, if it is not a priority, then do not waste your time. However understand that if you choose not to invest time into the problem, than you must accept that you will not see the reward.
There is a very strong link between delaying gratification and success in life. Now is the time to start. What are your non negotiable priorities that you will choose to invest your time in? Your challenge should you choose to accept it, is to work through the most challenging items in your day or week, first, before the fun stuff. Remove your problems or harder tasks and go on to enjoy your day and week, free from the mental burden, light and full of energy, Enlightened.