This idea of rewarding a reward was recently brought to my forefront during one of the therapy sessions I was lucky to hold space, within the past few weeks.
The patient in question noted that after he/she finished his/her shift at work she/he rewarded himself/herself with a drink. As often times it does (if you get to experience therapy with me, lol), this exposition, launched us into an introspective and philosophical discussion about social norms and constructs around our so called reward system and happiness barometer.
I posed the question: "Couldn’t the reward of finishing your work day be finishing your work day?" -- seems pretty insightful, aye? Is it an American concept, or a more global idea that we should reward certain acts with additional bounty -- especially when the act itself should already be rewarding? Take a mental note of how many times you’ve rewarded a difficult day, a big pay check, weight loss, etc. with a glass of wine (or several, for that matter).
I’m sure the majority of us fall in line with this "logic." I myself have looked forward to finishing my week on a Friday, and then found myself thinking about how I would celebrate, often times with food or libations. I now realize the reward, first in foremost, is that I get to do something I love (even if you loathe your job, you have a job!); and that I am able to do so freely, providing for myself and living my life without much constriction from society or the constructs put in place. I’m not saying this is a criminal offense, but rather asking you to considering this notion (it must just help you integrate joy and appreciation into your life).
After my time in India in 2019, I came back to the states with a new sense of gratitude and compassion – grateful for the privileges I had (that I never even realized were considered privileges and fortunes), and compassion for both myself and others, experiencing any form of darkness (aka suffering) in their lives. [SIDE NOTE: I will never do that pilgrimage to India justice, it terms of the powerful transformation it provided for me and my lens on this human experience; nor will I even try to articulate any expression of such with the space of one or a dozen blogs].
Regardless, while there, in the Himalayan mountains, I never once "celebrated" being there. The celebration was THE EXPERIENCE and the memories, time, and connection was all I needed.
Imagine if we apply this same logic to some of our already rewarding experiences. What if when we finished our work day, the reward was coming home and relaxing, or taking a yoga class or cooking ourselves dinner? What if we could change our mindset, that the next time we accomplished something that was the very reward -- that IS THE MOMENT? An additional reward is not needed, nor does it make the case that we are a society that aims to bask in contentment rather than excess.
I am not saying we don’t celebrate our successes. But allowing the actual success to be your reward might just change the game on your own ability to experience present momentness, joy and genuine appreciation. Of course, share your success with you loved ones and your tribe. Feel a sense of accomplishment and bathe in it's light. The magical part is in the process and the finished product, not the aftermath.
In closing, I ask you, can you stay present, focus on the actual reward at hand – find gratitude, and contentment in that very moment, or will you continue to overindulge, essentially stealing the true essence of completion and accomplishment from yourself?
As always, the choice is yours.