Delayed Gratification

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Delayed gratification, aka deferred gratification. Somehow neither term sounds very fun to me. And probably to a lot of other folks in this instant access, info and connections at your fingertips world we live in, the word doesn’t sound too positive either.

Have you heard of it before? If not, let me fill you in briefly. Delayed/deferred gratification is having the ability to resist an immediate reward because you know you’ll get one (maybe even an bigger one) later down the road.

Here’s the wiki definition, which I found quite enlightening—and led to a bit of self-evaluation on my part.
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delayed_gratification

Whether you’ve heard the exact term before or not, it’s a concept that you’re probably familiar with. As parents, we might be interested in the studies that prove the higher success rates of kids and adults who have mastered the skill of delayed gratification. Check out this article I found interesting: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/happiness-in-world/201207/the-power-delaying-gratification

I like that the author mentions a term I’ve used when talking about raising kids and in reference to myself: impulse control.

Sure, we’ve probably all talked with our kids about it in a general way. As in, “No, sweetie, you can’t have dessert now. You need to finish your dinner first.” Or, “I’m sure you want that toy today, but maybe you should put it on your Santa list, instead.”

But when I read the study referenced below, I took a mental step back. Had one of those “Ah-ha” moments that validated the meaning behind the saying: patience is a virtue. Something I’ve said to my girls probably far more often than they’d like.

As an individual, the self-evaluation I did after reading the wiki definition, and again after reading the study information, made me realize that even as an adult, I still struggle with delayed gratification from time to time. It’s not easy. Whether it’s the dessert I don’t need, not because it’ll ruin my dinner but because my jeans are already a little tight. Or, when I find that dress or pair of shoes I’ve just got to have, even though I’m trying to save for a writer’s conference or a family vacation.

What I loved about the article on the study is that it offers tips on how to improve your delayed gratification skills. Much like I try to do as a mom, or when I critique a fellow writer’s work, rather than simply point out how something is wrong or problematic, this article shared ideas for how I as an individual can work on improving in this area. Tips that, as a parent and as a college administrator, I can share with those around me, especially those I mentor.

The tip or trick the article offers? Distraction.

Again, it’s something I did with my kids when they were younger. When they wanted something they couldn’t, I pulled toy or snack from the diaper bag to switch their attention. But somehow, I got distracted by life and this simple trick often seemed to get lost in the shuffle. That’s when I tend to show my lack of delayed gratification skills.
:-)

So, I’ve discovered another area of my life where I can improve. Another area I can provide some insight to my kids and students.

When I want to snack on something I really shouldn’t, I’ll be practicing ways to distract myself—maybe go for a walk, or pop in an exercise video. All in the name of improving my delayed gratification skills. And at the same time, continuing with one of my new year resolutions: get healthier; lose fat, gain muscle. I’ll delay eating that cookie, trying to remind myself that a much bigger reward is feeling good about myself and being healthier all around—and fitting into that little black dress again.

It’ll be a way for me to model what I’m espousing to others. Sure, I won’t always be a perfect example of delayed gratification mastery. I know myself too well to say that. But, I’ll be working at it. And just like I tell my kids, your best effort is all anyone can ask for. :-)

Do you have an area or an issue that requires better delayed gratification skills on your part? If so, what’s a good distraction for you to use?

I’m all for sharing distraction ideas. Let’s see what you’ve got! :-)

100 Happy Days Challenge

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Many of us started off the new year with a new mantra or a list of resolutions. Maybe we decided to take better care of ourselves or lose weight.

And, maybe we haven’t done too well at keeping those resolutions or remembering that mantra.

But that’s okay. I firmly believe that no matter what’s happened in the past, we have the power to influence our present and our future.

So, even though it’s past the time when most folks are thinking and talking about resolutions, I’ve come up with another one.  And this is one you can share with your whole family.

It’s a potentially attitude-changing, focus-inducing resolution that revolves around being happy.  I’m talking about the 100 Happy Days Challenge. Have you heard of it?

http://100happydays.com/

My niece told me about it via Facebook—I love the way FB is helping me connect with family and friends all across the globe. When my niece “shared” the info on the 100 Happy Days Challenge, she said she could really see me enjoying it. And she’s totally right. I love taking pics of what makes me happy. Or taking a pic I think would make someone else happy and sending it to them.

That’s what you’re supposed to do with the 100 Happy Day Challenge—take a daily pic of something that made you happy THAT day. Post it on either FB or Twitter or another social media site using #100HappyDaysChallenge. Or, if you want to keep it private, you can email them directly.  At the end of your 100 days, you’ll have a collage of your happy moments.

Sure life isn’t always good times and smiles. Life’s tough. No matter what age you are. Sometimes we focus on the negative, allowing it to drag us down. This challenge is intended to flip that thinking upside down. Get you focusing on what’s good in your life today, in THIS moment.

Doesn’t that sounds like perfect dinner table conversation for you and your family? Sharing your pics or just sharing the moment that made you smile, even in the midst of a trying day.

So, I’m taking the 100 Happy Days Challenge, and I encourage you to join me.  I’ll be posting mine via Twitter using the #100HappyDaysChallenge tag. Find me via @prisakiss.

100 days from now, let’s see how we did. More importantly, let’s see how our outlook has changed for the positive.

I’m in, are you?

Love Notes

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Friday is Valentine’s Day; a day that celebrates love. But here’s a thought, why wait ‘til February 14th to show your loved ones you care?

It doesn’t have to be in big ways. Sometimes all you need is a gesture, a word, a smile… or a simple love note.

When my girls were younger and I left for a trip, I’d grab a dry erase marker and write a note on their bathroom mirror. That way, every time they looked in the mirror while I was away they’d see my message: Make good choices, XOXO, Mom or Love & miss you, XOXO, Mom. And they’d know I was thinking of them.

Occasionally I’d drop a note in their lunch boxes—even when they were teenagers and pulling out a napkin with a big red heart on it might not look cool. These notes might say something like: A+ Effort, XOXO, Mom or You’re awesome! XOXO, Mom or You ROCK! XOXO, Mom.

In high school I snuck love notes in their cheerleading or show choir travel bags, and later, when they later headed off to college and study abroad opportunities, I snuck notes in their suitcases. Messages like: Break a leg, superstar! XOXO, Mom or Have fun, be safe and know I love you! XOXO, Mom or The world awaits your greatness! XOXO,Mom.

It was a simple way to let my girls know that while I wasn’t with them physically in that moment, I’d always carry them in my heart and thoughts. My note was a tangible connection to home—where they are always welcome, always loved and always cherished.

Last month, at the end of the Christmas holiday, when my middle daughter returned to her graduate program up North, she left a few surprises for me. As I crawled into bed that first evening, sad because all my girls had gone back to their own lives, I pulled back my bed covers to find a love note on my pillow.  The next morning I moved aside a bauble on my vanity tabletop and found another one. When I tugged open my armoire doors, I discovered another.  Later, hiding amongst my jewelry boxes, yet another.

Over the next few days I discovered a total of seven love notes hidden throughout my room. Notes that read:

IMG_6341 IMG_6342 IMG_6343 IMG_6609

I’ll admit it, I cried when I found the first one. And the second. Then actually giggled with glee when I found the third. By the fourth it was a delightful game.

As moms we try hard to pass along our positive values and beliefs. I strive to show my girls that family is important, and you have to let them know it in words and actions.

My daughter’s surprise love notes brought tears to my eyes for multiple reasons. One, just ‘cuz they show she loves me. Two, because it shows she “gets” it—even the small things make a big difference. Three, because I’m sappy about emotional moments. Four, because I love her so darn much. Five, because it was proof of the circle of love I’ve been trying so hard to create with my girls.

So what about you, have you left love notes for your loved ones? Or what do you do to show them how you feel in simple ways?

Exercise: it does a body, mind and soul good!

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Okay, so I’m sure we’ve all heard something similar to the title of this blog at some point in our lives. Either a friend’s told us, or we’ve read a magazine article about it, or maybe even our family doctor has shared this sage advice.

 

We know the physical benefits of exercising—improve heart health, increase muscle strength, ward off disease, etc. But we often forget the mental benefits of exercising.

 

For me, going out for a run is usually a great way to unwind. It allows me time away from other distractions to think, or to plug into my music and let the worries slip away. I come home tired, yet energized. My mood is lifted. I feel empowered. I feel stronger—mentally and physically.

 

As a mom who’s been called “other-focused”, I admit that I have a tendency to take care of others before myself. Trying my best to ensure that others have what they need.

 

Just the other day someone tried to explain why it’s important for me to make sure I have what I need emotionally and physically, too. 

 

She said:

“It’s good for your health and well-being.”

“No one else will take care of you as well as you should take care of yourself.”

“It’s good for you to model for you daughters that taking care of yourself is important.”

 

My friend and I both chuckled when I admitted that if there’s one thing that would motivate me to do my best to be healthy, it’s that last reason she gave. I’ll do almost anything if it’ll benefit my girls. Of course, my friend smirked a little as she reminded me that with “other-focused” people, explaining how their actions might benefit someone else can be the best motivator.  :-)

 

So, this past weekend, I took some time for myself. Sure, it’s a little easier for me since I’m a single mom and my girls are all out of the house now. But my schedule is so jam-packed, I almost backed out of the weekend. Nearly convinced myself I had too much to do. Too many projects at work and at home to warrant going away for a long weekend.  But ultimately, I hit the road and the ocean.

 

I made the drive to Ft. Myers, Florida from my current home town, hopped the Key West Express ferry shuttle, and sailed to my old home town to run the Key West half marathon.

 

Mind you, I hadn’t trained since I spontaneously decided to register for the race less than a month ago when an old high school friend let me know she was running. Hence one of the arguments I tried to use during my “should I-shouldn’t I go” debate—13.1 miles without training, are you crazy?

 

But I challenged myself to compete, justifying it as a chance to set my benchmark for 2014. Let this race time be a starting time for 2014, with my goal being to improve by the end of the year. Just like I’ve set a 2014 goal to improve in other areas of life.

 

And guess what, not only did I finish, but I finished in one of my best race times ever! Granted, it wasn’t a personal record and I did finish a little less than an hour after the #1 female racer, but my time of 2 hours, 19 minutes, 43 seconds was definitely respectable. In my eyes anyway.

 

I finished that race much like I finish a regular run—feeling energized, empowered and stronger. What better example can I set for my daughters? What better example can I set for myself?

 

Two days earlier my girlfriend had met me at the ferry landing holding up a sign that read: Priscilla Awesome Runner.  We had laughed together as we hugged hello. Post-race, we grinned as she bragged about how prophetic her sign had proven to be.

 

Awesome Runner isn’t a bad title to have. For me though, it’s more important to be Awesome Mom or Awesome Person. Regular exercise, staying healthy allows me to constantly strive for both.

 

What about you? Is running your go-to exercise? Or what do you regularly do to help your physical and mental well-being?

Let It Go!

If you haven’t seen the movie “Frozen,” my advice is to get your weekend matinee tickets right now! My girls and I saw it multiple times over the holidays and have really taken a liking to the soundtrack. Lyrics have even been texted back and forth between us at opportune moments.

“Do You Wanna Build a Snowman” tugs at my heart every time—yes, I’m a sappy mom, but it’s hard not to feel for the young girl who simply longs for a connection with her once beloved sister. I’ll say no more about the song to avoid giving away too much of the plot. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, go see the movie. :-)

But there’s another song whose lyrics and underlying message have struck a note inside me. I’m talking about “Let It Go.”

In this song a character sings about being true to who she is. About no longer being the person she’s expected to be. About letting a painful past slip away so she can reach for a future where she feels free to embrace her true essence. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moSFlvxnbgk 

As moms we want our kids to be the best they can be. To achieve whatever it is that will make them happy. We encourage them to go for their dreams.

Yet oftentimes, as we champion our kids, we forget to champion ourselves. As we care for them, we neglect ourselves. Honestly, that’s not good for our kids or for us. One of the best pieces of parenting advice given to me was that I needed to make the time to work on a dream of my own because by doing so I’d model the importance of self-value to my girls.  I’d demonstrate the ability to balance self and family.

The idea was that if I carved time out for what was important to me, while at the same time striving to show my girls that I valued what was important to them, they would learn that caring for your own well-being is equally as important as caring for the well-being of others. And that doing both is possible.

I have to admit that while I was given this advice, I haven’t always followed it.  Rather, more often I’ve tried to be this Super Mom who can take care of any and everything for almost everyone else.

But really, being a successful Super Mom just isn’t reasonable. Sometimes, I’ve made mistakes.  When those mistakes have involved my kids or a parenting or relationship decision, it’s hard to stomach. That’s when my good ol’ Catholic girl guilt kicks into overdrive.

Intellectually I know those feelings aren’t healthy because nine out of ten times I was just trying to do the right thing. Emotionally though… let’s just say that sometimes it’s harder for me to get past the guilt because I want only good for my kids. (I know, that’s not quite reasonable. But, there you go.)

I think I identify with this song because it speaks to what I really want to do in 2014: Let it go.

Let go of the need to be Super Mom. Let go of residual guilt from past failures. Let go of anything that’s weighing me down.

Last week Ellie blogged about having a one-word resolution for 2014. If you missed her post, I recommend you go back and read it. She did a fabulous job getting me to think about what I want for my 2014. That led me to come up with my one-word resolution: Persevere.

This week I decided upon a mantra for 2014: PERSEVERE and let it go!

When I say this I see myself standing at the top of a mountain, just like Elsa in “Frozen.” Only, my arms are open wide, my head tilted up to feel the sun on my face. I’m ready to go for what I want. To champion myself as much as my loved ones.

How about you? Do you have a mantra for 2014 you’d care to share with us?

And if you’ve seen Frozen, did you love the movie as much as my girls and I did?

Oh, and if it’s snowing in your area, have you built a snowman? 😀

2018 RWA® RITA® double finalist
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Represented by Rebecca Strauss DeFiore & Company

rebecca@defliterary.com

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