I struggle with the notion of having things I should do. On the one hand, I am at the point in life where I am trying to move beyond the “should.” Doing things because I should do them, rather than truly wanting to do them seems to be what creates so much stress in my life. The thoughts that bang around in my head about things I should do are often based on things that other people may want, or impressions I think I need to make, rather than things I really want to do. (This is sometimes referred to as “shoulding on one’s self”). I really find I am a better person when I focus more on the moment and let the onslaught of shoulds dissolve in my mind.
On the other hand . . .
I find I need something to keep me on a path to healthy behavior. I have this fear that if I dismiss all of the shoulds and simply live in the moment, I may find myself neglecting things like exercise and reaching out to friends in need, in favor of things that simply feel good in the moment, like eating fried foods or feeding my ego. It is often said that delayed gratification can leads to a better life. Does that contradict my “live in the moment philosophy”?
I hope not, because I need both. I really need to stay in the moment more and to avoid worrying about what may lie around the bend. I have found that focusing on the present moment, and accepting the moment, is one of the most powerful tools for a life of peace and satisfaction. Yet, I know that I need something in my world that helps me do what I need to do, even when I am not in the mood. I shudder at the word, discipline but I do recognize that a certain amount of self discipline is needed to run my life.
I had this conversation with a group of friends last week and it was interesting to hear different perspectives. I think we all struggle with this tension in many ways. The next morning one of those friends sent me an email that contained a Daily Reflection on this point. The reflection contained many wise ideas, including the following:
“Discipline is part of an enjoyable life. Meditation teacher Stephan Bodian defines discipline as ‘the capacity to do something again and again.’ What is worth repeating? Certainly those things generating joy, peace, love, and clarity.”
The email from my friend was helpful at two levels. First, the words in the reflection were quite meaningful and gave me new insights that helped me gain some insight. Second, and perhaps even more importantly, her very act of sending me the email seemed like a glowing example of the idea I was trying to grasp. After reading the email, I shifted from sitting around wondering what to do to actively working on this blog (something I truly enjoy but cannot get myself to do out of a sense of should.)
I wrote about this awhile back when I mentioned needing a “nudge” to do things at time. I am not crazy about the word nudge but it is the best I could come up with; it suggests something active but short of a shove. The email from the friend, which I guess ended up being my nudge, is probably better thought of as a simple act of kindness. It was just enough. Maybe that’s all the idea of a nudge really is, a simple act of kindness that sets the wheels in motion. I can see how it might work internally as well. A simple act of kindness, directed to myself, might be all the nudge I need.
Maybe I should give that some thought.