Monday, August 18, 2008
A wise teacher of mine introduced me to the concept of weighing my cravings up against my desires. (His name is Colin Campbell and I can provide details of how to get hold of him should anyone be interested.) I realised that in my life I am constantly being presented with a choice between a craving (instant gratification) or my desire (long term goal). For example: It is my desire to be in a mutually beneficial relationship with a man that I love and respect and who will stimulate me both mentally and physically (duh!) But it is often my craving to get “jiggy” with Mr. Dark-horse on the dance floor who is clearly 100 miles of bad road. Mr Dark-horse is not going to improve my life in any lasting way. He might provide one supercharged and electric (if not shady) experience and then prove to be emotionally unavailable and spiritually ill in all other aspects. But God he is soooooo HOT! And sometimes that which we know is not good for us is irresistible, like that cream stuffed chocolate éclair which they clearly seemed to forget to mention was allowed in the Abs diet.
Daniel Goleman, Author of Emotional Intelligence, talks about a test that was conducted on hundreds of small children to determine whether or not they would prove to be successful in life. It was called the marshmallow test and was more accurate in determining a successful future than IQ tests and whatever the socio-economic backgrounds of the kids were. It was not their intelligence, nor their level of education and financial situations that determined whether or not they would succeed in life. But rather, whether or not they were able to delay their gratification over a period of time which set them apart as overall winners. The test involved presenting each child with a marshmallow and then leaving them on their own after being told that if they were able to wait until an adult returned that they would then be rewarded with an additional marshmallow. If they could not wait, they were allowed to eat the marshmallow but, then would not get another one. Follow up research found that all the children that were prepared to wait were the highest percentage of achievers out of all the other tests that were taken. The recipe for success therefore seems to involve huge lashings of delayed gratification. That means I have to tell Mr Dark-horse to giddy up and keep my éclair in the fridge until Sunday (International cheat eating day.) I wonder if there is any value in buying a pack of marshmallows and storing them in my cupboard for a few weeks to remind myself to focus more on my desire rather than constantly indulging in my cravings. Weird thing is that I really don’t like marshmallows unless they are in a chocolate Easter egg or melting in a mug of hot chocolate. Why is it that we are attracted to so many things that could do us such serious harm over a period of time? Why do I crave bad foods, bad relationships and bad thinking habits? I suppose a goal is that much more satisfying to achieve if it is achieved after great effort. It seems so simple in theory. Say no to today’s pork sausage and so, say yes to tomorrows perfect six pack. But in practise these things are deceptively challenging. Lust is very good at overriding the brains mainframe as is the stomachs argument for a whole slab of whole nut chocolate. In essence I guess I need to reclaim my goals and desires by owning every decision I make along the way. Every bite I take or flirt I make with the wrong slice of cake (be it chocolate or beef) is one step closer or further away from who I want to be and who I want to be with. As my friend Catherine says: “Baby steps.” Baby steps indeed Cath.