Encore: The Carrot at the End of the Stick

he carrot at the end of the stick. Why is it that little “treats” or indulgences we promise ourselves always make mundane or overwhelming tasks more manageable?

When I was a kid I took piano lessons. I didn’t like practicing AT ALL. When I couldn’t sneak into the kitchen without my mother catching me and moving the timer on the stove ahead a few minutes, I’d sneak into the freezer and steal a cookie. Promising myself “after this scale” or “when you finish this piece you can go and get a treat” made the torturous practice all the more bearable.

That is until my mom notices a significant depletion in her baked goods and then wrapped her Tupperware mummy-like with tape and wrote using big imposing letters “DO NOT EAT OR ELSE”.

And then there were midterms and final exams when the junk food and soda pop aisles at grocery stores stood empty. Fellow students, with the same “reward” mentality as mine purchasing”essentials” not only for the necessity of the sugar/caffeine buzz, but also for the affordable reward factor.

Now I dangle another sort of carrot in front of me when unpleasant tasks are at hand. If I have a mountain of marking to do I work on five to ten papers then “allow” myself a round or an attempt at a level on my Game boy (dated I know) or iPad. After a game I go back to the marking.

House cleaning day sometime lasts all day when I decide to power clean only during the commercial breaks of my favourite television show. Something that can’t be done when you’re playing a DVD so I have to choose my cleaning fare carefully.

I dangle a pretty blouse as incentive to lose those final few pounds.

Why is it that I can’t just appreciate the task for what it is, even if it is an unpleasant one?

There is a quote in the movie The Last Samurai that says “to know life in every breath, every cup of tea, from the moment [you] wake, to devote [yourself] to the perfection of whatever [you] pursue.” I wonder why I find this difficult. I often feel entitled to reward myself for accomplishing tasks that are anything but astronomical or monumental

but are merely normal, every day tasks.

So I’m going to try to pay attention to the small things; actions, thought processes, small feelings of accomplishment, instead of keeping myself blind and focusing on the prize at the end. Then maybe I won’t dread certain responsibilities as much, or feel sorry for myself if I have to spend a Saturday working.

I’ll let you know how it goes, in the meantime I’ve got a couple of bags of kettle corn and sour cream and onion potato chips stashed in my pantry just in case.

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