8. A little bit of pain is so worthwhile.

Delayed gratification! What a concept. The very idea that by not saying “yes” to what we want right now – to what is in front of us in the moment – we are saying “yes” to what we really want in the long-term.

How many of us have allowed ourselves to fall victim to the perilous habit of immediate gratification?

If we were to take an honest look back over our lifetimes, many of us will experience extreme discomfort in seeing ourselves repeatedly robbing ourselves of what we truly wanted by rationalizing that it was okay to succumb to the temptation of doing what we shouldn’t be doing, or not doing what we should be doing, in order to appease an immediate desire to eat that chocolate cake or to cater to that feeling that was telling us it didn’t want to go to the gym.

And each time we did that we were stealing from our future in order to satisfy our present.

Imagine how your life might be different today had you understood the enormity of the damage you were doing to yourself by repeating those very same behaviors of disappointment over and over again.

The irony, for many of us, is that some of the battles we face today could well have been won many years ago had we realized at the time the true cost of deferring gratification.

A man named Richard called me after reading last week’s blog to tell me how much frustration he has brought into his own life by repeatedly setting out to achieve the same goals over and over again only to constantly sabotage his own efforts by succumbing to short-term desires.

Richard told me that he had suspended his career advancement by at least 10 years because of his overwhelming fear of rejection.

He told me that on numerous occasions his peers had presented new ideas to the organization that had been implemented and had earned them promotions and that, in many cases, he had thought of these ideas months ahead of his colleagues and yet had not allowed himself to present these ideas for fear of ridicule.

To Richard, immediate gratification meant setting aside those ideas and convincing himself they were unworthy of further investigation and thereby there was no need to take them forward.

He told me that each time he convinced himself to “shelve” an idea the sense of relief was so powerful and so cathartic as to convince him that he had made the right decision.

He went on to say that each time “his” idea was presented by a coworker at some later date he was overcome by the crushing weight of self-loathing that came from knowing he had “done it to himself again.”

And yet all that pain was not enough to prevent him from allowing his next idea to be seen and heard by the leaders of his organization.

Richard did eventually learn the power of delaying gratification and once he did, began to move upwards through the company. A few years ago he was head-hunted by a competitor where he is today thriving every moment in his position as a Senior Vice President.

He pointed out that he was able to do this by altering his perspective around two things: time and pain.

He explained it this way: let’s say you set a goal for yourself to do something rather difficult for a predetermined amount of time. You know that doing this will be an uphill battle but that the results will give you what you have long wanted.

For example, you have decided to eliminate all processed food from your diet for a period of 90 days and also committed to walking 3 miles every day.

Richard’s point is this: regardless of whether you honour your commitment or not, the 90 days will pass.

If throughout this period you have succumbed to temptation, deviated from your chosen diet, not kept your pledge to walk 3 miles each day, then at the end of 90 days your life will be exactly as it was prior to the beginning of the 90 days.

If, on the other hand, you steadfastly resisted those urges to cheat on your diet and had “toughed it out” and walked 3 miles each day even when every cell in your body was begging you to stay indoors on the couch, then at the end of the 90 days all the pain from each of those times you had pushed temptation aside and said “no” to all those goodies you really wanted and had said “yes” to those 3 mile walks would be long forgotten, and you would be basking in the pleasure that can only come from success.

Richard’s message to us all is that the pain of “sucking it up” by delaying gratification lasts for only a short period of time – time which will pass regardless of what we do – whereas the pleasure that we derive from the results of “sucking it up” will be with us for a long, long time.

Short-term pain = long-term pleasure.

Seems like a worthwhile habit to acquire, doesn’t it?

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

P.S. If you haven’t yet subscribed to this blog, please do so by clicking here. You can also check out, or subscribe to my other blog by clicking here.

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7. Say “No” now and enjoy saying “Yes” later.

Many of us are familiar with the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment that was conducted in the early 1970s.

A marshmallow was offered to each child participating in the experiment and he/she was told that they would receive a second marshmallow if they could resist eating the first marshmallow for a period of time.

The researchers then observed these kids to determine which of them was able to wait until they received the second marshmallow and which ones could not resist the temptation to eat the marshmallow that was in front of them.

How many of us have repeatedly conducted the Marshmallow Experiment on ourselves?

How many of us have chosen to eat that one marshmallow because it was right there in front of us right now rather than wait a little while and be rewarded with two marshmallows.

The habit of delaying gratification is perhaps one of the strongest signs that point to the likelihood of achieving success in many endeavors. It determines the degree to which we will put off doing/not doing something we want to do/not do right now in order to enjoy a much bigger prize at some later point in the future.

It is been said that one of the common characteristics of highly successful people is that they have learned to “suck it up” when faced with choices that will move them away from their desired goals.

On many occasions, in my other blog, we have discussed the notion that everything we do, we do for only one of two reasons: we do what we do in order to gain pleasure or in order to avoid pain. And it is our willingness to endure immediate pain that will frequently lead us to the realization of pleasure – our goals – in the future.

The classic example of immediate or instant gratification versus delayed or deferred gratification is one with which many of us are all too familiar. Losing weight seems to occupy the minds and goals of many people and, as I have worked over the years with so many people for whom weight loss has been a primary goal, I have heard the familiar tale of instant gratification getting in the way of goal realization time after time after time.

The typical scenario unfolds like this: you are out at a social event, you have been diligently sticking to some weight loss plan and you are feeling good about your success, your progress.

The host brings out the most tantalizing and delicious looking chocolate mousse you ever laid eyes on and a little voice inside deep inside of you begins a conversation that goes something like this:

“I’m really going to be good and say ‘No,’ but boy does it look like fabulous and the smell, well the smell of that chocolate mousse is just amazing.”

“Would it be such a terrible thing if I had just a little taste right now and I’ll be extra vigilant tomorrow? “

D”on’t do it! You’ll be mad at yourself later”

“Really? Just a tiny taste? Will it makes such a big difference?”

 “Tell you what I will have some right now and I will be doubly diligent tomorrow and for all of the next month.”

And so you convince yourself to have that “tiny, little” piece. And afterwards you feel guilty, angry, disillusioned and depressed.

And then you repeat the very same activity the next time temptation steps in front us.

What we have done is made the common error that comes from losing the battle in choosing instant satisfaction over delayed gratification. We have chosen to sacrifice what we really want for what we really want right now. We’ve chosen to eat the marshmallow that is right in front of us rather than waiting – sucking it up – and having two marshmallows to enjoy a little later on.

Sadly, this is a real cause of long-term pain for many of us. In our quest to avoid immediate pain we frequently sentence ourselves to a life of far greater, long term pain and guilt.

The old adage that “no pain, no gain” has a great deal of truth in the pursuit of our goals. We simply need to do what we know we need to do rather than repeatedly convince ourselves that it is OK not to do what we know we need to do.

We must acquire the habit of enduring the pain – delaying gratification – that is present if we are to have any hope of achieving the pleasure of realizing our dreams.

The pain of repeatedly failing to achieve our goals is infinitely more damaging to our psyche than the pain of saying “No” to that chocolate mousse right now.

That pain (of saying “No”) will be forgotten very quickly while the other pain will last a lifetime.

Those of us who have struggled with weight loss, joined a gym and never shown up, made countless resolution after resolution to make change in our lives and have not successfully done so have allowed ourselves to become victims of the same sad habit. We have taught ourselves the habit of instant gratification – staying home and devouring potato chips on the couch instead of going to the gym, putting off making tough decisions, avoiding making that awkward call – are all classic examples of caving in to immediate and present pain while pushing the joy of success further and further away.

The challenge with not delaying gratification is that we achieve the very opposite of what we’re trying to achieve by putting off doing those things we should be doing.

Yes, maybe granting ourselves instant gratification by eating the chocolate mousse, or not making that difficult call, or putting off making an unpleasant decision, does ease the pain right now but, and you all know I’m right, the more we avoid pain this way, the more we guarantee ourselves greater pain in the future.  

The age of the kids in the Marshmallow Experiment ranged from three years and six months to five years and six months. This tells us they had acquired their immediate versus delayed gratification habits at a very tender age and the same is true for us.

This means – assuming we are older than those kids – that we have had many, many years to master the habit of instant gratification and, for many of us, seeking immediate reward has become our default behaviour.  If this is true for you, you will benefit enormously by acquiring the habit of focusing on your goals and delaying gratification in order to reach them.

This is a habit that will be painful to acquire in the short term and will bring years of joy to our lives if we “Just do it.”

I know of only one way to change a habit and that is to begin adopting the new one. This may be difficult, it may introduce some stress into your life as the old one fights to regain its position of prominence, but if for any reason the old habit is not producing results that you want, then this short term difficulty and stress is but a small price to pay.

If we give in to temptation each time it presents itself to us in the form of chocolate mousse or feelings of discomfort then we resign ourselves to regret-filled lives of mediocrity.

Let’s all pledge to endure small bits of short-term pain in order that we may enjoy long-term lives filled with success and accomplishment.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

P.S. If you haven’t yet subscribed to this blog, please do so by clicking here. You can also check out, or subscribe to my other blog by clicking here.

P.P.S. I have a question for those of you who are reading this blog and for those of you who have accepted my “30 day challenge” from earlier blogs.

Would you be interested in connecting over the Internet via a live webcast to your computer?  This would enable us to have meaningful 2-way dialogue and to discuss far more than is permitted in the limited space of a blog.
If you are interested in participating in a live webcast, please send me an email to rael@raelkalley.com and I will get back to you with details fairly soon.

Also, please give some thought to being a guest blogger. If you, or someone you know, have a compelling story, please share your story with us. Stories inspire, and perhaps through your story, someone’s life will change in a way they never dreamed possible. Please email me at rael@raelkalley.com with your story.

6. Forgiveness = Instant Gratification.

For the past two weeks we have been talking about the gift of catharsis that forgiveness presents to us and yet during this period I have had several discussions with people who have called to tell me of their struggles in allowing themselves to forgive the transgressions of others.

I certainly lack the wisdom to be able to steer these folks towards the enlightenment they seek and I was feeling frustrated at my inability to do so when my new friend Greg called.

Greg’s story goes like this.

Some 25 years ago his mother fell victim to a drunk driver. She was killed when he blew through a red traffic light while driving at twice the legal limit and while having a blood alcohol level of three times the legal limit.

Greg’s family was devastated by the suddenness and violence of the loss and he vowed to do everything in his power to see that this person received the maximum punishment permissible under the law.

He sat in the courtroom through each day of the trial, all the while staring with intense hatred at the man who killed his mother and experienced massive disappointment at the menial sentence handed out by the judge.

Greg spent the next fifteen years consumed with anger and hatred. After the man was released from prison Greg frequently found himself driving by his house – unsure of what he hoped to accomplish in the event he saw him –  and when he learned where this person was working he harbored many thoughts of visiting his place of employment and informing his boss and co-workers that he was a murderer.

The impact of all of us took a huge toll on him. He changed from being a gregarious and happy soul to a morose and brooding one. Over time his friends gave up on him and moved on with their lives and his existence became a bare and solitary one.

Prior to his mother’s death he had been ambitious in his career pursuits and that ambition was replaced by simply doing the minimum necessary to keep his job without much hope of upward progression in his company.

After many years of trying, his father finally convinced him to seek help and he sought out a psychologist for counseling. At his first session she asked him a very poignant question; had he ever thought of forgiving this man.

He told me that when she first asked this question his initial thought was to respond with great anger but, instead, he held himself in check.

She went on to tell him that by hating this man he was allowing him to be more than the man who had taken away his mother. His hatred was a chain that was keeping him connected to a man he despised. He was sharing part of his life with this person he so hated. He was empowering this person to rob him of a meaningful and happy life and that by forgiving him he would be exacting ultimate revenge by banishing him forever.

Greg had gone home and thought long and hard about what she had said to him and had decided to give it a try.

He told me he didn’t even know how to forgive and called the psychologist to ask. She had told him that the act of forgiveness is simple. All he needed to do was to reach inside himself and say to this man “I forgive you.”

Greg had done as she suggested and told me that the effect was almost immediate. Right away he felt all the anger begin to flow out from his body. He felt in control for the first time in 15 years. He felt the power that comes from knowing that we are masters of our own fate and most importantly he felt free from being tethered to this man he had spent so many years despising.

That was more than 10 years ago and since then his life has been enriched by a loving marriage, blessed with two beautiful children, and fulfilled by a career that is constantly taking him to new heights.

Greg asked me to tell his story in this week’s blog and to end the blog with this paragraph:

“If you choose not to forgive, you are harming yourself and no-one else. Hatred is the donating of your soul to the very person who hurt you, forgiveness is the reclaiming of ownership of your soul.”

Wise words indeed, Greg. Thank you

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

P.S. If you haven’t yet subscribed to this blog, please do so by clicking here. You can also check out, or subscribe to my other blog by clicking here.

P.P.S. I have a question for those of you who are reading this blog and for those of you who have accepted my “30 day challenge.”

Would you be interested in connecting over the Internet via a live webcast to your computer?  This would enable us to have meaningful 2-way dialogue and to discuss far more than is permitted in the limited space of a blog.

If you are interested in participating in a live webcast, please send me an email to rael@raelkalley.com and I will get back to you with details very soon.

Also, please give some thought to being a guest blogger. If you, or someone you know, have a compelling story, please share your story with us. Stories inspire, and perhaps through your story, someone’s life will change in a way they never dreamed possible. Please email me at rael@raelkalley.com with your story.

5. Let go, live better.

The morning after I posted my blog last week on the topic of forgiveness I received a phone call from a man I have never met before. He told me that his sister had forwarded my blog to him and it had really resonated with him.

Tom and his sister grew up in a home with a father who was a physically and verbally abusive alcoholic. His mother was the stereotypical “little woman” who lived in fear of his father’s frequent tirades.

Childhood, for both of them was fear-filled time spent constantly trying to stay out of dad’s way and not do anything that would set him off.

As Tom moved from his teens into early adulthood his feelings for his father began to shift from fear to intense hatred.

Tom’s mother died suddenly from a brain aneurysm when he was 15 and, as a single parent, his father became even more mean-spirited and verbally abusive.

Somewhere around the time of his 20th birthday both Tom and his sister decided to never again have any contact with their father as he was the cause of their lost childhoods and everything else that was wrong in their lives.

Tom believed his upbringing caused him to become somewhat socially awkward. He has had great difficulties with relationships and finds it very difficult to trust anyone. His sister’s many damaged relationships very closely mirror his own.

Their dad died six years ago and neither of them attended his funeral.

For many years Tom viewed life as an unfriendly and hopeless experience and blamed his father for everything that did not work out the way he had hoped.

He saw many of his father’s behaviours in himself which further added to his resentment.

Eighteen months ago Tom’s life radically changed. It had been years since he had last attended a church service but when a friend invited him to join her at church one Sunday he had reluctantly gone along.   

That morning the pastor gave a sermon on the power of forgiveness. He said many of the same things that were mentioned in last week’s blog and as Tom listened to him speak he felt a strong need to go back in time and forgive his father for all his terrible deeds in order that he could begin to start living his own life free of the burden of anger.

He developed some sense of empathy for his father when he realized that his father’s life was spent battling the demons which resided on the inside of a bottle.

Tom told me that forgiving his father completely changed his perspective on life. He realized that his father was a severely flawed man, ravaged by the disease of alcoholism, whose outward expressions of anger towards his family were probably fueled by his inner feelings of self-loathing and disgust.

Forgiving his father removed an enormous weight from Tom. For the first time he felt free of the outpouring of negative energy that had consumed him for many years and he realized that rather than blaming his father for his own shortcomings he chose instead to use his father as a really good example of a really bad example and he began to make more positive choices in his own life.

He told me that he actually felt a sense of gratitude to his father for allowing him to experience firsthand the outcome of aberrant behavior and for showing him how not to be.

Tom told me that by forgiving his father he was not in any way condoning his father’s egregious behavior but it was allowing him to set aside the anger and resentment that was causing so much stress in his own life. He realized that the only person being harmed by all those years of carrying those destructive negative emotions was himself.

After hearing Tom’s story I asked his permission to write about it. He granted permission but asked me not to use his real name. He told me that, while he and I have never met, his sister works in an organization where I have done some work and knows me quite well. She is embarrassed by her upbringing and would not like her friends or colleagues to know that she is the sister referred to throughout this story.

Tom’s only regret is that his sister is unwilling to follow his lead. She refuses to forgive her father and thus the guilt feelings she harbors for him are wreaking a destructive path through her life.

I do not know who Tom’s sister is but I hope she reads this blog and follows her brother’s lead. Letting go of the pain caused by years of carrying around hatred may well become the greatest gift she will ever give herself.

And Tom will be much happier too.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

P.S. If you haven’t yet subscribed to this blog, please do so by clicking here. You can also check out, or subscribe to my other blog by clicking here.

P.P.S. I have a question for those of you who are reading this blog and for those of you who have accepted my “30 day challenge.”

Would you be interested in connecting over the Internet via a live webcast?  This would enable us to have meaningful 2-way dialogue and to discuss far more than is permitted in the limited space of a blog.
If you are interested in participating in a live webcast, please send me an email to rael@raelkalley.com and I will get back to you with details fairly soon.

Also, please give some thought to being a guest blogger. If you, or someone you know, has struggled with letting go of anger or bitterness, or if you, or they, have experienced the freedom that forgiveness brings, please share your story. Stories inspire, and perhaps through your story, someone’s life will change in a way they never dreamed possible. Please email me at rael@raelkalley.com with your story.