I was watching a TED talk about the key to self control and he was talking about acknowledging cravings or feelings and then not acting on them and suddenly, I had an epiphany: Our society teaches us that all desires and feelings must be acted on. And this premise, this teaching, it’s the key to our unhappiness.
Not only is acting on all your cravings and impulses an unhealthy way to live, and ultimately unsatisfying, it prevents any of us from actually achieving what we want to achieve.
Have you ever been at an afternoon tea and someone says they really want cake, but they shouldn’t have it? Of course you have. And what was the reaction of everyone around you?
Oh, just have the damn cake!
You deserve it.
You want it.
One piece of cake won’t hurt.
And if they stand firm in their convictions, we lose interest. If they do it enough times, we bitch about it: Killjoy. Fun police. Too healthy. Don’t they ever want to just let it go?
I’ve noticed a lot of that when I complain I want to eat the cake/chocolate/whatever. “Just eat it!” And even a few times “You’re thin enough” and the less direct, but more loaded, “you can afford to”.
I say I’m not allowed, not able to, can’t. I’m asked why. I explain I’m on a restricted diet for medical reasons. People nod sympathetically, then they move on to something else, having lost interest in trying to convince me I should, actually, eat the damn cake.
Yet when someone says “I’m trying to be healthy” or “I’m trying to lose weight”, people don’t stop. They don’t lose interest. “It’s just one piece of cake!”
But this way of thinking may be the underlying cause of our dissatisfaction. We are too used to reacting to every feeling – preventing discomfort, responding to cravings to really appreciate how good we have it.
I’ve heard it said you have to be cold to appreciate the warmth, and although I agreed I never fully appreciated what that meant.
The Viking never feels the cold, I tell people. He corrects me “I feel it, it just doesn’t bother me”.
This is the key. The heart of mindfulness. The key to our dissatisfaction epidemic:
You don’t have to react to everything you feel.
Feel it, then move on.
Want the cake, and just don’t have it. Feel the cold, but don’t try to change it. Acknowledge what is happening, but don’t react. Feel it, then let it go.
The key to motivation is investing in your future self. Before you do something, stop and ask: Is this helping future me?
Do you get asked about your food choices? Do you respond to everything you feel?