Thursday, September 5, 2013

Delaying Gratification - Why I'm Doing the Dishes Right Now & Thinking of Buddha

A friend of mine loaned me a very famous book (which I had never heard of) called The Road Less Traveled by Dr. M. Scott Peck.  It is a "self-help" book from the 70's, and I never would have picked it up off the Barnes & Noble shelf on my own.  The cover is boring, and the subtitle ("A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values, and Spiritual Growth") speaks to me in zero ways.  However (and it's a big however)... However, it's truly changed my life, and I've only read the first half of it!  Just wait to see how enlightened I get when I'm finished!

Peck postulates that the main reason we're all so miserable is a lack of discipline.  There are four elements to discipline, which are: delaying gratification, acceptance of responsibility, dedication to truth, and balance.  In this entry, I'm focusing on that first one.  I'm a major procrastinator.  It's been a problem my entire life.  Now, I'm sure if Dr. Peck was alive and willing to visit West Hollywood, he would psychoanalyze me and somehow blame my parents, but I accept responsibility for this negative trait.

In the book he asks, Would you rather spend the first hour of your work day tackling the least desirable task and leave the rest of the day to accomplish more satisfying jobs?  Or would you rather procrastinate that task until the last hour of the day, which fills the first seven hours with guilt and dread?  That struck close to home.  The latter portion perfectly described most of my work days - and some days at home too.  In conjunction with the other three steps of discipline, I've made some real progress with my procrastination.

Suddenly, I'm washing dishes as soon as I get home from work, grading papers first thing in the morning, and the biggest boost of it all - I'm noticeably happier.  The people closest to me in life have commented on it.  I must've been a real sad sack of potatoes before.

The last piece of this incredible (partially complete) transformation is my Buddhist mantra, which I've been saying for almost a year now.  The Buddha said that all of man's suffering is a result of his desire for control, but that control is an illusion.  I cannot control whether or not kids turn in homework.  I can't control my boyfriend's schedule.  I certainly can't control traffic in Los Angeles.  BUT, I can use self-discipline to get my dishes done, eat properly, and honestly assess my decisions.

I don't claim to be Buddhist, or an expert in psychology, or even marginally enlightened.  I'm just glad that I wake up, am happy to go to work, and I've got clean plates.

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