The Sweetie Draw

When I was about 8 years old, my family and I went over to our next-door neighbour’s house for dinner. After dinner, their daughter offered me a sweet for dessert. So, she led me into her room and opened up her “sweetie draw.” 

What she had done was save her sweets over months and months to fill up this draw with all of her favourite goodies. It was a big draw. Skittles, liquorice allsorts, gummy bears, gobstoppers… you name it, she had it.

The thought of it now makes me salivate. 

It made such an impression, I decided to build my own. So, while we were out shopping the next day, I pleaded with my mum to buy me some sweets. I remember getting a packet of chewy fruit mentos. I vowed not to eat it but to save it for my very own sweetie draw. 

On the way home, however, I couldn’t help myself. I bargained with myself, “It’s ok if I eat a few. I can save the rest of the packet for my sweetie draw!” By the car ride home, I’d eaten most of the packet.

After we got home, I placed this mostly eaten mentos packet in my bedside drawer. Of course, it didn’t last long. The thought of it continued to eat away at me. Eventually, I gave in and consumed the rest.

But do you know what? Do you know how I felt after this crushing defeat? Well, nothing really. I didn’t care. I simply moved on with my life. 

Now, I’m sure you’ve most of you have heard of the famous marshmallow experiment. For those who haven’t, it was a study conducted by psychologist Walter Mischel, where children were offered a choice between one marshmallow now or two marshmallows if they waited for a period of time.

Years later, researchers found that the 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 other life measures.”

I bring it up because every time I read about it, it always made me feel kinda bad. Because I know I would have been one of the kids who “failed” that experiment. Just like I failed to build that sweetie draw.

Still, I realize something is up because, by most of those metrics, I am “successful.” Not as successful as some, but I could have done worse. How much of this “success” has to do with my skin colour, sex, or other advantages I take for granted, is up for debate. I feel it would be remiss not to mention that. 

Either way, I know I’m still that kid inside. 

My wife has no problem eating in moderation. On the other hand, given half the chance, I will consume an entire box of Oreos in one sitting. This is why I ask my wife not to buy treaty things when she goes shopping. She once asked, “What if I hide them?” I told her in my best Liam Neeson impression, “That I will find them, and I will eat them.” 

None of this is to say I haven’t learned to delay gratification. I believe I have. My finances are in good order. I eat a balanced diet (at home). I’m fit and healthy. It’s just, none of this is really achieved through willpower. I’m not sitting on my hands, trying to distract myself from eating the marshmallow in front of me.

I’ve learned that designing my environment is a FAR more effective way to control my impulsivity. I’m better off with no marshmallows than I am trying to get two. And this, I’ve figured out, is my superpower. It’s not the ability to delay gratification so I can get what I want. It’s not wanting it in the first place. 

I can’t help but wonder, what if, many of those kids – the ones who weren’t “capable” of delaying gratification – were misunderstood. What if they were happy being who they were until society placed a spotlight on the “successful” people of this world and told them this is who you should be and what you should have? Until society showed them the sweetie draw and said, “look at this!”  

Of course, that same society also teaches us that our wants and desire “are the root of all evil.” That may well be true, but what happens when you hate on your own wants and desires? What happens when you hate yourself for being human? What happens when you resist or hate anything? Of course, you give those parts of yourself control. You give those things strength. (That applies to the political party and leader you hate too!)

But people don’t build sweetie draws because of their ability to delay gratification. They find the act of building a sweetie draw gratifying. They love collecting. They love saving up. Similarly, people don’t get up at 5 am to exercise because of their incredible willpower. People obsessed with health and fitness are simply obsessed with health and wellness. 

They have made those things part of their identity. It’s who they are.

Of course, we can learn to make those things part of our identity too. We can put the habits in place that reinforce the identity we wish to build. We can learn to visualise our goals and “surf the urge” whenever we find ourselves tempted to dig into the packet of mentos. 

These things are worth working on.

But if you’re going about it to make up for the fact that you don’t currently have a sweetie draw. If you’re trying to make up for feelings of inadequacy, it’s going to be hard, if not impossible. If you ask me, self-discipline is an illusion. The real secret to self-improvement is self-acceptance. It’s when you learn to understand, love and work with the person you are, that things become easier.

And you should take the time to ask yourself who you are and what it is you really want.. Maybe you want the second marshmallow, or, maybe you don’t one in the first place?

Personally, I love going with the flow. I don’t care so much for stuff. I tend to think that security is overrated. If I’m being brutally honest, I’ve found having three mortgages, keeping up with several different investment portfolios, etc., somewhat imprisoning. I’m looking to drastically simplify my finances over the next couple of years for that reason.

The older I get, the more I realise how much happier I am giving away my marshmallow than I am trying to save for a second. I realise there will never be a sweetie draw in my household and do you know what?

I don’t care.

***

You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

24 thoughts on “The Sweetie Draw

  • Hi AP2. I truly love reading your posts because you give us so much valuable content to consider. I could relate to so much of what you shared–of probably being that guy who would have eaten the mentos candy and at one time, either felt like a failure, or later, accepted that that was “my” way of being in the world–in other words, accepting myself. I’ve never liked the idea of being a carbon copy of anyone else. I do like, however, being aware of the behaviour that arises through this body-temple named “Art.” One of the ways that I changed some of my habits for “me” related to cigarettes, when smoking was a strong habit about thirty years ago. If I gave in and bought a pack, I would have a couple then squash the pack. Sounds ridiculous–some would say, “but you’re wasting money!” My logic informed me that the money was wasted, whether the cigarettes were smoked or not. Knowing that if I “gave in” again and bought another pack that I was only going to squash the pack again, I soon just stopped buying them all together. Right for everyone? Probably not, but being aware enough to choose is a benefit, at least in my way of thinking.

    Anyway, thanks again–big time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Art. Thank you so much for your kind words. Becoming aware is half the battle. The other half is acceptance. I can see why that tactic worked. Having an incentive that costs us often works better than the idea of a potential reward. Wishing you the very best Art. 🙏🙂

      Like

  • With the marshmallow example, my life is not made better by having 2 marshmallows instead of 1, so I would eat the single marshmallow and move on with my life. On the other hand, if waiting could get me $10 rather than $5 and I could do more with $10, that’s reason enough for me to wait.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a good question to ask yourself. Why do you want more of that thing? It’s human nature to want more even when we already have more than enough. Thanks Ashley. I appreciate your thoughts. Wishing you well 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

    • 🤣. Exactly. Perhaps the problem was these kids were made to care. And because they were made to care about being something they weren’t they started to hate themselves for failing to delay gratification, which made doing that even more difficult as time passed. Something to to think about anyway. Thank you friend 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

  • I think you highlighted a wonderful insight about life: there are different metrics of success and there is no one definitive path to achieving success. It’s also what you as an individual value.

    I personally am someone who delays gratification but it works for me. There’s a lot to be said about also eating 1 marshmallow instead of 2 for less sugar intake, so there ya go! 😆

    Liked by 1 person

    • Delaying gratification is an important skill for longer term success. I often wonder though, when is it enough? Why are always saving up for more when we already have enough? The people who struggle to delay gratification are those who often hate themselves for their inability to do so. It becomes self fulfilling. When my mood is off I’m more susceptible to impulsivity and distraction. That’s why I keep goodies out of the house. When I feel good about myself however I have far less trouble resisting temptation. Thanks Ab. I appreciate your thoughts. 🙏

      Liked by 1 person

      • I get and see where you are coming from. It definitely reinforces to me that it’s about what works best for the individual. I agree about the dangers of over delaying gratification as it’s also important to live in the here and now. 🙏

        Liked by 1 person

    • Those two things. Self-acceptance and understanding what we really want. That’s the secret to delaying gratification/willpower. Thank you firefly! It’s great to hear from you! I hope you’re well 🙂🙏

      Liked by 1 person

  • I’m one of those who like saving the best for last. It doesn’t matter what it is, I still want to save it for a later time. Is it that I want to wait until one of those moments when I need an emotional boost? Perhaps that’s it, although those moments don’t happen often for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  • I’ve grown more and more aware that stuff doesn’t make me happy either. To be cliche, it’s what’s inside that gives me the most contentment at the end of the day. Pushed myself to achieve goals that are meaningful to me? Awesome. Saved up for a pen I like because it’s my hobby? The novelty wears away after a week or so.

    But we all have our paths to discover. And you certainly seem like you’ve found yours. Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 2 people

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