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.

 

Being in the Moment Isn’t Always Easy. Just Breathe!

I often heard my mother discuss the fact that she felt time was going more quickly as she aged. I often thought it couldn’t go quick enough. But then I was young and rarely reflected on the fact that we are not here on a permanent basis. Lately I find myself connecting to many of my mothers’ statements especially the ones around how life seems to whoosh by with each passing year. It seems that I just had Thanksgiving dinner and now it’s here again. How did that happen? And Christmas is just around the corner. Of course it’s not easy to forget either holiday since the media relentlessly feeds us their ads to buy, buy, buy starting in late August.  Christmas decorations are already up and we haven’t even cleared the Thanksgiving dinner. Black Friday is closing in on us, but now there’s some stores that will be open at 9Pm Thanksgiving night in case you have an obsessive need to go to a store and leave your guests in the living room. Forget hanging out and reflecting on the day’s gathering. It’s much better to think about what you’ll be going to purchase while you’re chewing  on a drumstick. We have turned life into a constant need to access the future without living in the present. This shift in how our culture lives their lives creates a great deal of stress  My mother and her generation seemed to savor each holiday without feeling obligated to discuss the one coming. I have talked to many people about this phenomenon and it may be time to reflect on spending more time honoring the moments we’re in rather than anticipating or dreading the ones that are coming. This is not an easy practice in a society that has come to value “doing” rather than “being”.  However, perhaps the gift you may want to access this season is reminding yourself throughout the day to just breathe. When you’re stressed out you breathe more rapidly. The simple act of inhaling and exhaling slowly and purposefully allows you to be aware of the present moment. Every moment that we honor with a deep breath allows us to feel more peaceful by helping to quell the inner critics that never stop reminding us of “what’s next”.Try it when you’re at the Thanksgiving dinner table and Aunt Hattie tells you the turkey is dry, or when you’re lying in bed worried about how you’re going to get all your shopping done, or in dozens of stressful situations that pass and soon become part of the tapestry of life. Just breathe!