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

Motivational Mondays – 21/09/20

Hello fine readers and welcome back to my weekly Motivational Mondays Post!

The only newsletter to force feed you your recommended 5 a day before offering you a cupcake…

Following a 4:3:2:1 approach, it contains 4 exceptional thoughts from me (ha), 3 admittedly better quotes from others, and 2 things I’ve been reading and/or listening to this week that have helped me grow.

As always I’ve finished with 1 something silly to lighten your Monday blues… 

Much Love,

AP2 X


4 x Thoughts From Me:

The cost of convenience is your resilience.

The trick is not to think win or lose. The trick is not to think success or failure. The trick it is not to trick good or bad. The trick is to think about being better because every single one of us always can be. 

Anger as an emotion is intimately linked to our “fight, flight or freeze response.” It’s about survival. This is why reacting to it is inappropriate in most situations. When it comes to anger, thinking high emotions = low intelligence is a good rule of thumb. I wonder though, when it comes to the survival of our planet if it’s not entirely justified – if we’re not angry enough? After all, the power of action one can harness from such an emotion is enormous. It can drive us in a way that few other emotions can. Instead of ignoring our anger about climate change, maybe we need to consider how to use it instead? People forget that anger, if responded to mindfully, can be used constructively. Anger can be used to make positive changes. The caveat, of course, is that we need to allow ourselves to feel it. We need to accept it as a valid emotion.

Competition is meant to be about pushing each other to improve. It’s about personal and collective growth. When we glorify it and make it about ‘winning at all costs’ we turn many people away. This defeats the purpose. Not only are those who still compete weaker because they have less competition, those who don’t compete lose the ability to better themselves altogether. Don’t compete to win, compete to grow.


3 x Quotes From Others:

“One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching” ― Gerard Way

“Most people think they lack motivation when they really lack clarity.”James Clear

“Women will only have true equality when men share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.” ― Ruth Bader Ginsburg


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This Tim Ferris Podcast episode My Healing Journey After Childhood Abuse with Debbie Millman. This might be the most important Tim Ferris episode I’ve ever listened to. To come out and publicly share what happened to him takes an enormous amount of courage – more courage than I suspect most of us will ever know. I would implore anyone to give this episode a listen, but especially those who have previously experienced sexual abuse. The list of resources available – as he and Debbie talk about extensively – extend well beyond conventional therapy. Please look under the list of resources via the link above for more information on a number of potential tools and reading for help to deal with trauma.

2 QUOTES FROM THE POD:

Your path to the healing is very much your own in the same way that you have your own path to love or to family or to success.”

Debbie Millman

“There is only one question that matters and this is, what are you unwilling to feel?”

Tara Brach

2 – This brilliant Happiness Lab Podcast with Dr. Laurie SantosHappiness Lessons of The Ancients: Aristotle. In this episode Dr. Laurie Santos talks to Yale professor Tamar Gendler about “Aristotle’s wellbeing insights and how he recommended taking daily “baby steps” towards becoming the sort of happy, moderate person we aspire to be. A kind of ancient “fake it, ’til you make it” ethos.” Notes and quotes below.

MY PERSONAL NOTES AND QUOTES:

  • Aristotle and other Greek philosophers were given free reign to pursue the question, what makes humans flourish, as their profession. As a result they were able to come to a greater understanding about it than many others have at different times during our history. 
  • Aristotle can be looked at as the father of modern positive psychology. – He was brought to Athens at the age of 17 to study. He liked school so much he stayed for another 20 years! 
  • He was one of the greatest polymath thinkers of any generation. He was the inverter of physics as a field. Biology as a field. He was a great theorist of poetry and theatre. 
  • 2 distinct notions of happiness. 1 hedonistic happiness. The indulgence of short lived happiness or pleasures. Eating or sex. This is an important of what it means to be human. To take pleasure in the physical world around you. 
  • 2 Aristotle was interested in a richer and more robust and lasting notion of what happiness is. 
  • He philosophised that in the same way a knife is designed to cut our primary function as humans was to express virtue and reason.  This is a lasting rather than short lived happiness. 
  • We are getting the same insights Aristotle did 2000 years ago from behavioural science and modern psychology about what it is that gives us lasting fufillment and happiness. 
  • Being clear that indulging in great food, having sex and watching NETFLIX isn’t what will make you happy long term is important. If anything an overindulgence in these kind of activities leaves people feeling empty. 
  • Theoretical wisdom vs practical wisdom. Theoretical wisdom comes from reading about something like the science of psychology to understand what makes us happy or not. This isn’t enough. 
  • Aristotle said we need something called practical wisdom – this is the skill that comes from practising the activity in which you want to make progress. 
  • The way we find this deeper level of thriving in Aristotle’s opinion comes from a strategy of practicing being the kind of person who is virtuous and takes pleasure in being virtuous. 
  • Self education project. You make yourself into the person you want to be. The soul you want to inhibit. You practise being the kind of person you want to become and then the act of practicing becomes pleasurable to you. 
  • The same way you want to learn the violin or raise good children you have to put the work the same applies to bumping up your happiness. You engage with it and build it up like a skill set from the ground up. 
  • We become just by doing just actions. We become temperate by acting so. Brave by doing brave actions. This is how we come to having practical wisdom. We practice the skills we want to inhibit until they become natural to us. 
  • Aristotle was interested in developing a moderate character in the right ways.  What does he mean? Taking braving as an example. One extreme is being a coward. Another is being reckless. In between is braver. The perfect moderate virtue. Humour. You can be a Baffoon or somber or someone with a good sense of humour. 
  • If you want to be a brave person, act the way a brave person acts and you will start to manifest bravery and you will be reinforced in your experience about how pleasurable and possible it is for you to act bravely. 
  • Virtuous life – life is not just a moral life but brings happiness and thriving – how to live well morally, happily and part of harmonious society.
  • The data suggests that if you want to live a happy life you want to live a moral life. For Aristotle pleasure is derived from seeing others around them doing well.
  • Friendship is incredibly important – the young need it to prevent them for error – the old need it for protection and companionship, to look after them – those in their prime need it to do fine actions.
  • 3 different kinds. 1 shallow utility based – we both gain something from one another – a service or product. 2 we enjoy each others company. 3 based on mutual deep appreciation of one another’s morals. The latter provides self reinforcing cycle. Aristotle calls this kind of friend “a second self.
  • Surrounding yourself with those who are committed to same things – the same values. Put yourself in a setting where others are trying to achieve the same kind of spiritual transcendence.
  • Acting as if you already have the virtues you wish to embody is incredibly powerful and liberating. Having a second self available makes you much more likely to stick to those values – to hold you accountable.

1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

Struggling for a story this week folks so thought I’d leave you with this rejected New Yorker cartoon that made me chuckle.


Till next week…

Have a Happy Monday Everybody!

P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!

One bonus question for you all:

What is one thing you can do for the environment today that will help it tomorrow?

(As always thank you ALL so much for reading. If you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas about today’s weekly post I’d love to hear from you in the comments at the bottom.)