Do you ever find yourself wrestling with the paradoxical challenge of immediate versus delayed gratification? Have you ever sacrificed your present well-being in favor of some golden ring in the future only to wind up being disappointed? Have you ever succumbed to the temptation of satisfying your desires now, only to find them short-lived?
The problem with the juxtaposition and either/or conflict posed by immediate vs. delayed is that neither one works! True gratification is neither immediate nor is it delayed. True gratification is an odd combination of both, an ongoing experience of fulfillment that combines what is in front of you with your larger aspirations in life. Like all things ongoing, there are ebbs and flows to your experience, yet if you were able to somehow quantify your experience and put it on a graph of some kind, you would notice a trend line of increasing gratification, of increasing fulfillment -- a bit like the old two steps forward, one back story.
Your Source of True Gratification
True gratification comes not from temporal pleasures or distant objectives, but more as a result of how you go through your daily choices. You can eat that piece of cake or purchase the bright, shiny object and experience a short term bubble of what masquerades as fulfillment, satisfaction or gratification. However, haven't you noticed that pretty soon, the shine fades, the hunger returns, that the good feelings bubbles burst? Of course you have.
The problem with that burst of pleasure or satisfaction is that the short term focus appears to work, but only for possessed a few moments. Some part of us then tries to latch onto the experience much like the child who tries to capture the butterfly. The innate beauty and fulfillment cannot be captured or, but only experienced in the process of creating and experiencing in an ongoing way.
The other side of the equation, however, does not work much better. Surely you have experienced the disappointment of wanting something ever so badly, working your tail off to get it, and then wondering why you ever wanted it in the first place. The tricky aspect to both immediate and delayed gratification lies in figuring out what it is that you truly want out of life vs. what you settle for instead. My very first post here three years ago addressed this question in a simple but elegant manner and might be worth reading now.
So, if the answer is not to be found in immediate satisfaction, nor in delayed fulfillment, where do you find the answer?
The Role of the Soul
The answer turns out to be rather Zen-like. The fulfillment you seek is already present. You may have turned away from its source which is right there inside of you. If you have been following these articles the past few weeks, you will have noted the recurrent theme of Self-Talk vs. Soul-Talk.
Soul-Talk presumes that a deeper aspect of who you truly are is persistently but quietly seeking to guide your awareness and your choices.
Self-Talk arises from your prior life experiences and accumulated beliefs, what many would call your programming or conditioning.
If your upbringing was more of the "eat, drink and be merry" type, then you may have spent a lot of time trying to find fulfillment right now, only to discover that it takes yet another round of "eating, drinking and being merry" to keep you going. That's hard to keep up because that cup is never full.
If you come from the school of hard knocks and "life is a series of sacrifices," then you may be of the mind that today is for suffering or denying yourself so that fulfillment can be achieved later in life. This one, too, leads to disappointment in that later may not turn out to be all it was cracked up to be.
So if your programming and cajoling won't get you into choices that ultimately work, what then is the answer? That's where your Soul-Talk comes into play.
Your soul is already complete, it is already happy, it is already at peace, and it is already in joy. How do I know this? The same way you do. By direct experience.
Haven't you ever found yourself so engaged in what you are doing that you completely lose track of time, of the world and its cares, of anything that might be troubling you? If you have, and I would submit that surely you have had this experience many times in your life, then you will have experienced the phenomenon of what I call "Peace is present." Which can also be stated as "fulfillment is present." Or gratification is present. The ultimate question is not about how to find peace, fulfillment or gratification elsewhere in time and space, but of discovering how your focus changes your experience.
If you have ever been in your own state of peace, fulfillment or gratification, then you will have found sooner or later that you left that experience because you changed your focus. It's not that peace or fulfillment left you. It's that you changed your focus and in so doing, left your experience of peace or fulfillment.
You may have noticed that in order to wind up leaving your experience of peace or fulfillment, you have to start paying attention to your Self-Talk again. Self-Talk shows up as an inner, nagging voice telling you that you should be doing something different, that what you are experiencing right now is somehow inadequate or even wrong. Your Self-Talk instructs you to leave the simplicity of the moment for the illusion of something greater, something better, either now (instant gratification) or in the future (delayed gratification).
Your Soul-Talk, however, appears as a quiet voice simply reminding you that right this moment, all is well, even when circumstances may not appear to be all that well. You have to quiet yourself in order to hear this inner voice, but if you do, you will discover that you can have peace and fulfillment even when circumstances appear to be lined up against you.
We will build on this theme next week, looking more deeply at the dynamic state of well-being that comes from knowing where you are right now, and what your Soul-Talk aspires for you to become. Of course, the paradoxical part as already alluded to is that your Soul simply aspires to be that which it already is. How's that for Zen?
I'd love to hear from you about what disturbs your peace and how you have found ways to return to your peace. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.
If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my new book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.
You can buy Workarounds That Work here.
Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at www.RussellBishop.com. You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.