Eat Dessert First

Wednesday May 12, 2021

“You can’t have any ice cream until you’ve eaten your vegetables.”

“No going out to play until you’ve finished your homework.”

“I’ll go for that walk after I’ve washed the kitchen floor.”

How many of you recognise that way of thinking? How many of you use it yourself?

There is a well-known book called “Eat That Frog.” In it, author Brian Tracy recommends that if one has an unpleasant task to do, it’s best to get it over with first thing, rather than procrastinate and delay. The task does not become easier or less unpleasant if you ignore it: frog-tasks have a habit of growing bigger and uglier the longer you leave them undone. He also says, if you have two frogs, eat the biggest one first. I’m glad these are only figurative frogs, as the thought makes me feel slightly nauseous.

Most of us would agree with this philosophy. Another well known technique for improving one’s motivation to do unpleasant tasks or chores, is the concept of rewarding oneself on the completion of the task or chore by doing something more pleasant.

I find there is a problem with this. You see, the unpleasant tasks or chores seem to go on forever, and it’s never time for the reward. It’s always jam tomorrow but never jam today.

I’ve given the matter some thought over the past week or so. The concept of delayed gratification can be taken too far. In fact, it can be so severely delayed, there is no gratification left when one reaches the point where it was to be enjoyed.

One of the “rewards” I give myself is crafting time. If I have completed everything on my to do list, then I can retire to my paper, glue and ribbons, and create. But, somehow, that to do list is rarely completed and, if it ever is, I am too tired to do anything but slump on the sofa and watch mindless TV. Creativity takes energy.

That to do list is also subject to mission creep; it grows longer and longer. I’ve just counted and my list of fourteen tasks I wrote down this morning has grown to twenty-three! At what point do I declare it’s time for my reward? There are always more and more tasks that can be added and that reward drifts further and further away.

I know a man who served in the military. He saw combat and was more than once injured in the line of duty; he saw friends killed in action. He has no time for delayed gratification; he wants everything today as there is no promise of tomorrow. Given his history, I understand.

I am going to borrow a little of his philosophy; I’m going to make sure of my reward.

Brian Tracy is right – we do need to eat that frog first; but we don’t need to eat every frog on the plate before we have dessert.

Chocolate fudge cake, anyone?

A Moodscope member.

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