Stop Waiting for Inspiration

I’ve been staring at a blank screen for an hour and twenty-two minutes. My weekly blog post is due, the kids will wake up soon, and I’ve got nothing.

This is the problem with inspiration. It’s not available on demand. She might be tapping on someone else’s shoulder right now, whispering words of wisdom in their ear … but for me, she didn’t stop by today.

So what do I do?

Do I close the computer and skip this week’s article?

Should I dwell on the fact that I don’t have 26 articles written and ready to go like my blogger friends told me to?

Or do I distract myself with busy work so I have the false illusion that I’m being productive?

Everything seems easier with inspiration, whether you’re working, writing, speaking, painting, eating healthy, exercising—heck, it’s even easier to love when you’re feeling inspired.

The key word here being: Feeling.

Feelings are fickle and sometimes we just don’t feel like doing what we’re supposed to be doing.

It’s like going to the gym. Most people know it’s good for them and they’ll feel great after they exercise. But when that alarm clock starts beeping at 5am, they don’t feel like getting out of bed.

A friend of mine told me once how he tackles that problem:  “I want to run but I know I’m not going to feel like running, so I don’t think about the run. I focus on putting on my running shoes and walking outside. I tell myself that once I’m on the street, if I don’t feel like running, I can turn around and go back inside. But I never do. So long as I can get my shoes on and get on the road, I’ll run.”

What about having sex with your partner. We all know that couples who have sex regularly are happier in their relationships. And yet after a long, stressful day, sex doesn’t sound like a good idea. You feel tired, stressed or annoyed. You don’t feel like it. Then it becomes a vicious cycle. The less you have sex, the less you want to have sex with your partner, and the more the relationship starts deteriorating. I asked a friend of mine who was having marital problems how their sex life was going.

“I can’t remember the last time we had sex,” she replied.

“Maybe if you two have sex, things will improve.” I suggested.

“Ugh, I know.” She took a deep breath as her eyes met the floor. “But I just don’t feel like it.”

“Do you want to get a divorce?” I asked.

“No!” She said without hesitating. “I still love him, It’s just things haven’t been going well and I’m not in the mood.”

I pressed her. “Then, do it anyway. Go home tonight and have sex. You might be surprised how you feel afterwards.”

She called me a month later and said “I did what you suggested and all I could think was: why didn’t I do this sooner? We’ve been having sex regularly and our relationship has improved so much in the last few weeks.”

That’s the difference between successful people and unsuccessful people. They’re not solely driven by their emotions.

Do it anyway.

I closed my eyes and set an intention. I’m not sure what I’m going to write today, but please let it serve someone who needs to read my words.

The next thing I did was look back at my old blogposts to see what I wrote about during this time last year. I wrote one post about lessons I learned from a simple story my cousin shared at her father’s funeral and another about lessons I learned as we confronted Hurricane Irma.

I took a moment to express gratitude that I’m no longer facing these difficult times, even if it means I’m drawing a writer’s blank.

But then it hit me. It’s so obvious. Back then I only wrote when I was inspired, which made my writing a hobby, not a profession.  But I’ve made a decision to go pro. And that means this article has to go out—no matter what.

We all face this struggle.  We want to be consistent, produce good work, and get good results. But that means we have to show up even when we don’t want to.

By focusing on my intention of serving others, I realized my lack of inspiration was inspiring a post about lack of inspiration!

Inspiration is nothing more than a feeling. Successful people are willing to do things that unsuccessful people are not willing to do—even when they don’t feel like it.

So what do you do when you’re feelings get in the way of what you’re supposed to do?

Put on your running shoes.

Kiss your spouse.

Look up a healthy recipe on the internet.

Register for that course.

Sit in front of the blank computer screen.

Do something.

A Moment of Clarity

The key is to take action regardless of how you feel. And stop worrying about inspiration. Once she realizes you’re not waiting around for her anymore, she’ll come find you. Isn’t that ironic?

Are You A Turtle or A Hare?

Do you remember the old story of the turtle and the hare? The turtle challenged the hare to a race. The hare ran so fast that it was impossible for the turtle to win. Because he was so ahead in the race, the hare stopped to rest and gloat. But guess what? He fell asleep. Slowly and steadily, the turtle kept walking, inching his way toward the finish line. The animals who were watching cheered so loudly for the turtle that they woke up the hare. The hare began running again, but it was too late–the turtle had already crossed the finish line. 

The moral of the story: “Don’t brag about your lightning pace, for Slow and Steady won the race!”

In real life it can feel quite frustrating to feel like you’re the turtle. Looking around, people appear to be making more money than you, have a larger social media following than you, are more successful than you, have bigger homes, nicer cars, and slimmer bodies. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking there’s something wrong with you and everyone else has it all figured out.  In moments when you’re feeling like everyone else has more talent, physical ability, and resources than you have–remember that it pays to be slow and steady. 

Three years ago, a group of us got together to hold each other accountable to exercise. I created a chat for the crew and the challenge was that we each post pictures or proof of daily workouts. We all started strong, exercising daily and showing each other our progress. One of our girlfriends agreed to join the chat but didn’t seem as motivated as the rest of us were. She didn’t go out and buy new workout clothes or running shoes.  She made no proclamations of exercising daily. Walking around her neighborhood a few times a week was about as much as she was willing to commit too. Even though she didn’t go “all in” at once, she was pretty consistent about her walks. 

After a while, I noticed she was posting pictures on the chat on a more frequent basis. She was definitely thinner and she’d joined a gym.  Slowly and steadily, this friend of mine became increasingly committed to her exercise routine and even started making some dietary changes.  Today, she looks amazing. She’s managed to lose weight, keep it off and maintain her lifestyle. She probably goes to the gym more than almost every one of us on the chat.  

My friend is a turtle. 

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t get excited about a new project or venture. It’s fun to start something new and I love the enthusiasm that comes with it. But often times we get caught up in the thrill of the new at first and then taper down.  We behave like the hare. We may be talented, or have all the skills necessary to succeed – but we lose motivation and momentum …and essentially, we fall asleep. We want quick results and when we don’t see them, we quit. Hares are marshmallow eaters.

We often confuse turtles for hares. Like Lin Manuel Miranda who wrote the wildly successful “Hamilton” musical. At a glance, this young man seems like he got lucky and struck gold with a Broadway play–but that’s because we don’t see the six years he spent writing the play. Did you know it took him one year to write just one song? We see the super-star athletes making millions of dollars but we don’t see the sacrifice, commitment and time they spent working to get where they are. 

With the exception of some unicorns, most really successful people are turtles in disguise. They deliberately move forward, overcoming obstacles, gaining momentum, and thwarting distractions.  They stay in the race even when everyone around is passing them. 

But we don’t see that. We see them as hares because we only see them when they’re rich and famous or have made it.  

So what does this mean to you?  It’s great to use other’s success as motivation for the goals you’re working toward but it is not useful to use those comparisons as a measure of your inadequacy. If that’s the case, stop comparing. Don’t eat the marshmallow!

A Moment of Clarity

 Invest your time and energy in your work. Build your foundation. Be frugal and save your money. Stay focused on your goals. Prioritize your values. Strengthen your core. Keep moving forward. Stay in the game. Don’t be ashamed if you feel like a turtle. 

One day, someone might even confuse you for a hare. 

 

Accepting Responsibility

In life, you must take responsibility for what happens to you. There are some events in life that we can control, and others that we cannot. We definitely cannot control other people or their behavior. But we can control ourselves. Through our example, we will be respected by others and will influence them as a result. How to Survive Among Piranhas

Last week I encountered a rough patch with my husband. He’d been in an unpleasant mood and seemed generally unhappy with me. I didn’t know why, so I pointed it out.

“Orlando you’re cranky and unpleasant lately and it’s no fun being around you,” I said, expecting him to apologize and readjust.

“Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t think you’ve been acting like a very good wife, lately,” he said matter of factly.

Immediately my brain went into defense mode: What? How could you possibly think I’m not a good wife? I live for you! 

But that’s not what I told him. Instead, I asked, “Why would you say that?”

“Because you’ve watched me drowning with the move and trying to run my business and you’ve done nothing to help. You know I can’t stand things being incomplete and yet you know I have frames on the floor, I’m missing furniture, and you don’t care.”

Let me tell you the backstory:

Orlando moved offices a couple of weeks ago. You know how many moving parts go into a move. Foreseeing how stressful this was going to be and knowing that neither Orlando nor I are good at or enjoy decorating or shopping, (he’s better at it than I am, actually),  I suggested we hire our girlfriend who is an interior designer to decorate the office. Sure, it would cost us more money but it’d be done quickly and beautifully. Orlando refused.  “It’s a small office, not our home,” he said. He didn’t think it was necessary to spend additional money on an interior designer. I knew he was wrong, so I figured: Well, if that’s how you feel then you can do it yourself. 

As I suspected, I’d seen him struggling with choosing a desk and furniture, what color to paint the office,  what to hang on the walls and what to put where. But I had an I told you so attitude because this wouldn’t have happened if he’d listened to me.

And now he was angry with me.

I started to defend myself, “Orlando, I told you we needed to hire an interior decorator and all of this would’ve been avoided.”

He didn’t back down, “I needed YOU.”

The truth is that my husband does a lot for our family. He runs a very demanding criminal law practice, buys groceries for our home, cooks dinner almost every night, and helps a lot with the kids. He’s been supportive of my giving up my law practice to focus on my writing and speaking career. He needed to feel that I had his back, like he has mine.

The next day I stepped up to the plate. I put my pride aside, took responsibility, and focused on helping my husband finish his office so he could work in peace. I spent the next week doing everything I could to relieve stress and move things along. It wasn’t all smooth, but what matters is that my husband saw that I listened, I understood, and I took action.

Why am I sharing this uncomfortable story with you?

Because our argument could’ve gone another way. I could’ve been insulted and pointed out all that I do for our family. I could’ve maintained my position that I was right and he was wrong. I could’ve accused him of being unreasonable and unfair and searched through my mental rolodex for times I felt let down by him. That’s what we often do in the heat of the moment, don’t we? We search for the reasons we’re right, we stand our ground, and we aim to win the argument at whatever cost.

I was raised in a family that’s full of divorces, so logic suggests that my marriage would fail. But so far, we’ve maintained a healthy, strong marriage. I attribute my part of our success to the principles I’ve been learning my entire life.

I was grateful that my husband was honest and open about his feelings in a stressful time, instead of silently building resentment towards me. We often want our spouses to read our minds and fix their behavior without us having to tell them what’s bothering us. But that’s a recipe for disaster. I didn’t really know how much it upset my husband that I wasn’t involved in this project.  Once he told me what he felt, I stopped talking and adjusted my behavior. I accepted responsibility.

For years, I sat in the front row of my father’s seminars hearing him deliver speeches and workshops. I must’ve heard him tell his Ghandi story on accepting responsibility a thousand times. The more you listen, read, and study a set of principles, the more they are ingrained in your cells, becoming a part of who you are.

In this case, I couldn’t control how my husband felt. The only thing I could control was how I reacted to his feelings. I looked inward and changed my behavior.  The marriage thrives.

And so it goes in love and life.

A Moment of Clarity

Invest in your personal development. Read, study, listen, over and over again. Before you know it, these skills will help you thrive in your relationships, and your life.

What Successful People Are Willing To Do…

Let’s say you play soccer. And let’s say you belong to a team that hired David Beckham to coach you. Would you take advantage of that opportunity?

I assume your answer is: “Of course I would!”

I’ve been shocked to see how many people let opportunities like this slip through their fingers.

My kids play chess. This summer, they were invited to participate in a competitive five-week chess training program, which included competing in the 2018 Southern Open Chess Tournament. This intensive training was taught by an International Grand Master, currently ranked 165 in the world. Considering that there are roughly six hundred million people who play chess, being ranked in the top two hundred players worldwide is pretty remarkable. This guy even won a gold medal in the Olympics!

It would be an incredible opportunity for any chess player to spend five weeks learning from this master. My sons’ chess school has hundreds of enrollees, and of that group, only thirty-eight were invited to participate in this elite track. But of those 38, only 17 kids participated. This small group included several kids who had spent their entire scholastic year working towards the goal of getting invited to play and yet their parents didn’t register them.

An opportunity lost.

After the tournament ended, we learned that our grand master has been given a full scholarship to an American university where he will play on its chess team. So, unfortunately for us, our kids only have one more month to learn from him. Yesterday’s class was designed to review the games the kids played at the tournament – to see what they did correctly, what they did wrong, and how they can improve. Of the seventeen kids who participated in the program, only three showed up to class (and two of them were mine) even though this type of exercise is one of the keys to improving your chess skills.

Another opportunity lost.

Of course, the kids have no say in this matter. Their parents are in charge of enrolling them, paying for them, and driving them to activities. Kids only decide whether they like it or not. And to some parents, that’s equally irrelevant because you don’t enroll your child in a sports program, so they make it their career.  After all, it is highly unlikely that your kid is going to be the next Yankee baseball player or prima ballerina or international grand chess master. Instead, you enroll them in sports programs to develop mentally and physically, to entertain them, to explore their talents, to keep them busy, to teach them discipline, and to help them discover their passions.

But this article is not about playing second base for the Yankees or doing plies at the Met. And it’s certainly not about playing chess or becoming a grand master.

This article is about life.

It’s about training.

Sure, the boys learned some good chess techniques with this teacher and their games have improved. But that is the least important of their training.

 What really matters is that they learned that this grand master has been studying chess five hours a day for twenty years. They learned that it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, what matters is your progress. They learned that no matter how much higher someone is ranked above you, you can beat them if you play a particular game better than they do. They learned that to succeed you need self-discipline. They learned that their talent only makes up about 20% of their success, the other 80% is consistent dedication, discipline, and hard work. They learned that when you are amongst the best in anything you do, you have more possibilities (like this master who received a full scholarship and room and board for his family at a prestigious university.) These are lessons they can apply to anything they do.

I don’t care if my kids excel in chess or not. I want them to succeed in life.  As “Dilbert” creator, Scott Adams, said, “You can’t control luck, but you can move from a game with bad odds to one with better odds. You can make it easier for luck to find you.”

I know we all want our kids to be successful, which is why I was so surprised to see how few of the kids who enjoy playing chess were allowed to take advantage of this rare chance. Maybe the school didn’t communicate the magnitude of this program effectively or maybe there were some legitimate reasons for some parents not to enroll their child in the program. But regardless of what the reasons were, it reinforced a valuable lesson that I learned a long time ago…

A Moment of Clarity

Successful people are willing to do things that unsuccessful people are not willing to do. And sometimes that simply means showing up.

What Are You Thankful For?

Are you always repeating yourself with your kids?

“Brush your teeth.”

“Comb your hair.”

“Do your homework.”

Sometimes the repetition can be exhausting. But there is actually a reason why we parents have to do this. In order for anyone to learn a new concept or adopt a habit, repetition and consistency is key. It stands to reason that our little ones need this reinforcement – even if we sound like a broken record. Parents often wonder: will it stick?

Parenting is delayed gratification in its truest form.  We invest and invest in our kids, without knowing what the end result is going to be.  And we never really know if we’re doing any of it correctly.

But every once in a while, we are rewarded for our efforts.

I drive my kids every morning either to school or camp. The first thing I do when we’re all buckled in is ask my kids what each of them are grateful for. This is not always easy to do. Sometimes they’re extra cranky because they didn’t sleep enough. Sometimes we’re just recovering from a yelling match because they were fighting or they weren’t cooperating in the morning and I lost it. Mornings with three small boys can be rough. But no matter how frustrating our morning is, I take a deep breath and say, “Okay, what are you thankful for? Who’s going first?”

I want the practice of gratitude to be a part of my sons’ daily routine. And no matter how frustrated or angry we are, I want to teach them that we have the power to change our attitude and our mood at any moment.

There have been days my boys have challenged me.

“We should do this at bedtime, Mom. It’s too early to know if there’s anything to be grateful for,” or

“I don’t have anything to be grateful for.”

And my response is: “Oh, that’s precisely why we do this first thing in the morning. How about saying thank you for being alive, or waking up this morning in our beautiful home, or thanking the universe for our wonderful family and that we’re all healthy? How about being thankful for the sun or for nature or for oxygen? There is so much to be grateful for that has nothing to do with how your day goes.”

Some days it’s easy. Some days it feels like I’m pulling teeth. But day after day, I ask them to express gratitude. And then I leave town.

One of the things I dislike about traveling is the disruption to the routine. It’s that control-freak mom syndrome where you feel like nothing is done correctly unless you’re the one doing it. I’m constantly asking my husband if the kids brushed their teeth or if they made their beds. They have way much more fun with their father! But they are loved and cared for and that’s what matters most. I’ve learned to accept that life is going to look a little different when the enforcer has left the fort.

The last time I was away, the most wonderful thing happened. I left before my kids woke up. When I landed, I called my husband to let him know I’d arrived. He was driving my sons to camp. We were connected via bluetooth so we could all hear each other. We said our usual “I love you” and I miss you” and then I said, “Okay guys, I have to get going so I can request an Uber to the hotel.”

“Mommy, wait!” Justin interrupted hurriedly, “What are you thankful for?”

My heart melted.

It hadn’t occurred to me to have gratitude mornings on the phone! Justin was now the enforcer and all I could think was: Oh my God, it stuck! Justin was even teaching his dad how we do mornings. And the best part of it all, my son sh0wed me that I am there even when I’m not.

“What are you thankful for, Mommy?” He repeated after a few seconds of my silence.

“I’m thankful for you buddy. So thankful for you.”

A Moment of Clarity:

For those of you who are working hard to create meaningful relationships with your kids: Keep doing what you’re doing. Be consistent and repetitious. You may think sometimes that your kids aren’t listening or paying attention. They may not respond immediately, but they are paying attention. When you least expect it, they’ll remind you what an impact you’re making in their lives and how deeply ingrained you are in them…even when you’re not around.  There is no greater reward than that.

The Dentist Visit That Changed A Mom’s Life

Suzy left her husband after enduring an unhappy marriage for 15 years. Angered by her decision, her ex-husband invested all his resources in taking Suzy to court.  Without money for competent counsel, Suzy was beaten by the legal system, leaving her penniless and losing primary custody of her two children.

 The parental plan allowed for the kids to sleepover at Suzy’s house twice a week. But her job was so far from the school the father chose for them that she couldn’t get the kids to school in the morning and be back in time to clock in for work. So the kids had to sleep at their dad’s on her weeknights.

This was a terrible time for Suzy, and by the time she came to see me, she confessed if she’d known she could lose her kids, she would never have gotten a divorce. Here was a woman who loved her children deeply and wanted to have a relationship with them, but her ex-husband constantly sabotaged her efforts and logistics made matters worse.

I began working with Suzy to develop a Be There Even When You’re Not mindset. There were many things she couldn’t control, so we focused on what she could control. She started to show up when she could – surprising her kids at soccer games and school– stopping by even if for a minute to give them a kiss. I told her to schedule a FaceTime call with them every evening before bed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that she didn’t think of FaceTiming them in the evenings but whenever she did, they would end up crying because they missed her. She felt she was doing them more harm by calling.

“At least if I’m out of sight, I’m out of mind,” she’d say, sobbing. But I explained that if she didn’t call, they could confuse that with not caring or remembering them. This was an opportunity for her to reframe the situation. She began finding ways to make the FaceTime call a happy one that they’d look forward to eventually.

And then one day Suzy came to see me and she was as happy as I’d ever seen her.

“You’re never going to believe what happened yesterday,” she said.

“Tell me!” I responded.

“I got a call from my kids’ dentist on Monday asking me to confirm their appointment. I had no idea they even had a dentist appointment. As you know my husband doesn’t tell me anything he does with the kids. I don’t even know how the dentist office got my number but for some reason it was in their records.”

She kept talking faster and faster trying to keep up with the thoughts running through her head.

“So I said, yes, I can confirm the appointment but please give me the date, time and address?” Her eyes lit up.

“I couldn’t be sure they would be going to the appointment or if my ex would forget since they called me for the confirmation. But I decided to risk it and go there to see my kids. So on Wednesday, I took a late lunch from work, and I went to the dentist and sat in the waiting room.”

“Oh my God, what happened? I asked.

“I was so nervous –I could feel my hands trembling. I waited for about ten minutes praying they’d come. Then the door opened and I saw them walk in! They arrived fifteen minutes before their appointment time.”

“What did you do when they walked in?” My heart raced.

“I just smiled and said ‘Surprise!’ They saw me immediately, yelled ‘Mommy,’ and ran over to hug me. ‘What are you doing here?’ they asked. I told them I just wanted to  spend a few minutes with them. They were thrilled! They each sat on either side of me and held my hand and we chit chatted about their day.”

“Was your ex-husband there?” I asked, wondering what kind of reaction he had.

“Yes, he was! He was so shocked to see me that he didn’t react. He just nodded his head, sat on the opposite side of the waiting room and never said a word. When the nurse called their names, I gave them one last kiss and hug and slipped out the door to head back to work. Caroline, it was one of the happiest moments I’ve had in a long time.”

That evening Suzy’s kids were beyond thrilled to get on FaceTime with her and relive the surprise from that afternoon. They told her they got their teeth cleaned and they didn’t have any cavities. Before they were ready to shut the computer off and go to bed, her daughter looked straight into the camera and said “Thanks, Mommy. It was really awesome to see you today.”

Just like that, Suzy stopped being a victim of her circumstances. She started playing by her own rules and showed her ex and her kids that she wasn’t going anywhere. She would do anything and everything to be there for her kids, even if it meant a late lunch, a fifteen minute playdate at the dentist office, and driving both ways.

We’ll never know why the dentist’s office called her instead of their father that day, but let’s just chalk it up to the Universe had her back. She was so very grateful for that.

A Moment of Clarity:

Parental alienation is real and can make it very difficult for a parent to reach their child. But keep trying. Show up in any way you can and let your kids know that you will always be there for them–even if it means popping in for a quick visit at the dentist!

 

The Hardest Promise To Keep- A lesson in Delaying Gratification

Do you ever set a goal like quitting smoking, losing weight, or writing a book, and then decide not tell anyone about it? We all do that. Do you know why? Because it’s easier to make excuses when no one else is counting on us or expecting us to keep our word.   

The hardest promises to keep are the ones we make to ourselves. My seven year old, Justin, was confronted with a promise that was hard to keep, and his experience taught me a lot about parenting and self -control.

I’ve invested a lot of time teaching my three boys to eat healthy although they love pizza, fries, chips and desserts like other kids. Justin, however, is the one who has most taken to a healthy lifestyle. Lately I’ve found him more conscious of his food choices. He’s learned to read the ingredients of anything with a label on it and he knows whole foods are best, even though he still treats himself to the unhealthy stuff.

We were vacationing in Asheville, North Carolina when we unexpectedly ran into Nick and Chris, Orly and Justin’s best friends from school. They were staying in a cabin in Black Mountain and their parents invited us to come spend the night. The boys had a blast eating Oreo cookies, pizza, chips, and any other treats they could find.  We allowed them to let loose because we were on vacation— but Justin knew exactly what he was doing.

In the midst of hide-and-go-seek games and running around like lunatics, Justin took me aside and whispered quietly, “Mommy, I’ve eaten a lot of junk today so, as of tomorrow, I’m not going to eat anything with sugar for two days. Okay, mommy!”  And off he went to play again. I admit I didn’t take Justin seriously or thought he’d follow through with his promise.

The next morning was New Year’s Eve. I woke up and went upstairs to make my coffee and write. Our friends were making breakfast, and a delicious aroma of bacon and warm croissants wafted through the house. Eventually, I heard voices echoing and little feet stomping downstairs.

“Mommy,”Justin said proudly as he came upstairs. “Nick gave all the kids Oreo cookies this morning, but I didn’t even have one.”

“That’s great, Justy,” I smiled.

He insisted. “Remember I told you I wasn’t going to eat sugar for two days, Mommy? That’s why I refused to eat the Oreo cookie.”

“Yes, Justy, I’m very impressed that you’re sticking to your promise. Great job, buddy.” Pleased, he went off to find his friends.

Moments later, a yell sounded from the kitchen: “Boys, breakfast is ready.” The kids gathered around the kitchen island and took their seats. Eggs, bacon, potatoes and chocolate-filled croissants were arrayed on the table. Everyone migrated towards the croissants. Justin stared at them with a pained expression.

“How are you doing, buddy?” I asked.

“Those croissants look so delicious,” he licked his lips. 

I could tell he really wanted one. I wondered if he regretted ever telling me about his pledge to avoid sugar. Would he feel judged by me for quitting? He’s only seven years old, I thought. I’m not going to make him feel bad if he wants to eat one little croissant.

“Justy,” I said gently as I stroked his arm, “Don’t worry about the promise you made not to eat sugar. It’s New Year’s Eve; You’re with your friends; We’re on vacation; Maybe today was not a good day to make that promise. Eat the croissant.”

Justin stared at it. His little lips tightened as he thought about it. “No, mommy. I’m not going to eat any.”

 “Justin, you realize you didn’t make this promise to me. You made this promise to yourself. I won’t be disappointed at all if you eat the croissant. I want you to be happy and enjoy yourself.”

“I know mommy. Can I have some eggs and bacon please?”

I was amazed. My little boy was showing self-discipline and strength. I put a generous serving of eggs and bacon on his plate and handed it to him. “Justin, the hardest promises to keep in life are the ones we make to ourselves. The fact that you’re keeping this promise to yourself shows me that you can do anything. You’re going to be successful in everything you do, son.”

A huge smile came across his face. He enjoyed his eggs and bacon.

Delayed gratification means you resist the temptation for an immediate reward in order to receive a later reward. This concept was proven many years ago by a psychological study known as “The Marshmallow Test.”  My dad popularized this test with his book, “Don’t Eat The Marshmallow…Yet!” Delaying gratification is something anyone can learn to do, but it’s not always easy.

Although I’m a big proponent of “not eating the marshmallow” the way my dad taught me, here I was encouraging Justin to do just that. I didn’t want him to feel deprived of something he wanted on his vacation, nor did I want to see him suffer. I reassured him that I would not judge him if made an exception to his promise. I used every excuse in the book, and then realized, those are the justifications we all use when we want instant gratification. We spend more money than we should, we eat things we should avoid, we sleep in and don’t make it to the gym. And we justify our actions with acceptable excuses like:

“I’m on vacation,” or

“This is a special occasion,” or

“You only live once.”

True or not,  those are all excuses.  

Justin missed eating that croissant for five minutes, but what he gained in exchange will last him a lifetime. He felt empowered by following through on his choice, and that made him happy.

It’s hard to keep promises we make to ourselves because it’s easy to talk ourselves out of it. That’s why you should always have an accountability partner when trying to reach goals. But even your accountability partners can enable you to make excuses for yourself, like I did with Justin.  

Next time you want to break a promise you’ve made to yourself, and no one is watching—or someone is encouraging you to do it— remember you have the power to delay gratification. The more mindful you are about it, the more control you can take over your own actions. See yourself empowered by your own self-control. Even if it doesn’t come naturally to you, you can develop self-control. It’s the little wins that set you up for the big wins.

A Moment of Clarity

With every choice we make, we create our own success story.

My little boy taught me that.