There was a study that was done some years ago involving children and a cookie. They took young children and placed them individually in a room and placed a cookie in front of them. The child was told that if he or she waited till after the person came back they would get a second cookie, but if they ate the cookie that would be the only cookie they received. The interesting thing about this study is that they followed these children as they got older to see if there was any difference between those who ate the cookie and those that waited for the second cookie. The study showed that those that waited for the second cookie were more successful than those who didn’t.
The ability to delay immediate gratification is a powerful attribute, but I think the flip side is also true. There may be some value in eating the cookie. There are those, if you will allow me to take this story and make it a metaphor, who will sit in front of the two cookies for fear that a third is on its way.
Unlike the patient planners, we all know people who simply live in the now. They don’t plan for the future; don’t seem to worry about the consequences down the road, simply enjoying life as it comes. Life in America doesn’t tend to reward those individuals and many times we see the pitfalls of their lifestyle better than the individuals themselves.
It is the fear of getting caught in the moment, not planning ahead, ending up finding out that we have wasted our years, that propels many to sit and wait for the third cookie. And for those with powerful planning skills and a strong capacity for delayed gratification, armed with a fear of being a drifter, there is the possibility that the joyous moments are lost and the “now” is never captured. For those individuals, the risk-taker, impetuous, trickster parts of themselves need to be re-claimed.
Yes, there is a danger in eating the first cookie, but at times the danger can also be in waiting. Within each of us is often a tension between two polar opposites- parts of ourselves that really can never make peace with one another. We often resolve that tension by trying to hack off one side or the other, but that is never the answer. There is a place for the pragmatic and the hero in each of our hearts. There is a place for the lazy romantic and focused builder. Discover which side of the coin you’ve been living under and explore its opposite for a while.
Anxiety is natural, its why you’ve avoided that part of yourself. There is a fear that touching on that part will bring destruction. If I allow myself to rest in the moment, calamity will strike, nothing will get done, I’ll be a deadbeat, etc… But these extremes are hardly an issue for someone who has lived so far on the other side. Allow yourself a moment to sit and not worry about the future or what needs to be done, meditate on the joy of the now, let the list pile and take some risks. Life rewards both sides of the coin.