You can have it all but you will be exhausted!


There are so many books on how to get what you want as soon as you can without much effort. You simply “put it out there”, wherever there is, and voila it is manifested. Techniques include writing down your affirmation, imagining yourself doing it, and sharing it with those close to you. The later could be problematic because they will probably ask you if you did “it” until you want to avoid them at all costs.You also become at the mercy of those individuals who are hell bent to never address the possibility that you may not have the where with all to accomplish your affirmation, or a plan to execute it. Their primary goal is to endlessly cheer you on which leaves you feeling guilty and having a strong desire to throw them off a cliff.

Lately a few researchers in the field of Positive Psychology have begun to question the merits of thinking positive without a good dose of reality. After all I can write,” I am tall and thin” all I want, but I am short and somewhat pudgy and unless I put myself on a rack and reduce my calories it is unlikely to happen.

What seems to have lost traction is the idea that attaining a goal takes time and patience and the ability to assess ones strengths and weaknesses. The ability to tolerate frustration is also part of the process. Unfortunately “ the art of waiting has become less and less available in a society that loves instant gratification.

“ In the late sixties and early 1970s a psychologist Walter Mischel, then a professor at Stanford University, created a series of studies on delayed gratification. Children were offered one small reward provided immediately or two small rewards if they waited for about 15 minutes, during which the tester left the room and then returned. The reward was  sometimes a marshmallow, but often a cookie or a pretzel. In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index (BMI), and life measures.”

Once again, I feel that the research simply defines what is obvious. If we can learn to enjoy the process of reaching our goals, our ability to be patient and our anxiety levels are reduced. So much of our culture is predicated on going from one task to another in a mindless fashion. Stress is at an all time high since the motto, “You can have it all” became part of our cultural dialogue. Having it all is exhausting! The ability to savor each step of our journey toward a goal is as important as attaining it and it is certainly less frantic.

 

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Just Shut Up and Wise Up!


Over the years I have witnessed our culture going from one that was more invested in worrying about the outcomes of their behavior than of gratifying their every desire. We do seem to have moved into a time where “wanting” has overshadowed “judging” as to whether what we “want” makes sense. The ability to be wise about the decisions we make in our own behalf or those near and dear to us seems to be a lost art. Being able to develop wisdom is not something our educational system teaches, and we definitely don’t get it from the media. The great philosophers often made commentaries on wisdom and saw it as one of life’s greatest assets. It has become more and more difficult to access wisdom, due to the fact that we have become more interested in immediate gratification. Ads pummel us daily insisting that whatever their selling is something we “must” have. Their relentless marketing hypes have seeped into our unconscious and made us feel that even when we get the desired object, we are not happy with it for long for there will soon be something better on the horizon. These ads are developed with the help of scientists who now know that baiting people with the need for stuff releases dopamine, a substance in the brain that gives us pleasure. Unfortunately, when we access dopamine too frequently we need more and more to get the same response, and so we become addicted to “wanting and having”, “getting and then wanting more”. This is similar to being hooked on alcohol or drugs. Learning to be wise increases our capabilities to have self-control, which is a necessary factor in becoming a mature, evolved human being. My mother often reminded me that I had to learn to “think about what I was thinking about”.  I used to rail against this statement, but now I realize that we would all be better off if we embraced her metaphor for wise living. Wisdom is important for peace, economic prudence, political leadership, and health. Without it we will continue to be at the mercy of the rewards of bad habits, self-indulgence, and immediate gratification. We are witnessing these very things everyday and it is leading us into a dark abyss. I think it’s time we all “wised up”!