– “F***ing business man!”
One of the guys working next door used to complain about a certain fellow…
– “Always food delivered in the office… He works two blocks away for f***’s sake!”
He hated deliver him sushi. Apparently it made him skip his cigarette break, or never leaved a tip, God only knows…
– “Always with his fancy suit…”
Not that I cared much but I do remember asking him once: why do you think he doesn’t get a table at the restaurant? Overwhelmingly busy?
– “With an office like that he must be the boss or something!”
Ok. Now I was interested. I mean, if he’s the boss in a place like that then he shouldn’t have problems taking a break!
The first explanation that I was able to give myself? Greed. What other reason could there possibly be? Who would even consider sushi in box over a three-course meal? Above all if you can afford the choice! Only an evil capitalist would sacrifice the little things in life right? For what, to buy a new suit?
Coming from a country that celebrates meals as no other cultures in the world, the conclusion seemed obvious.
– “We Italians like to do things properly!”
I’ve always been told as a kid. If I even deared as a kid to eat something as simple as an orange in my room, my mother would consider it a crime worth Capital Punishment…
– “No dear! Put something underneath that immidiately!”
Growing up in Italy setting up the table was a sacred ritual. Table colth, napkins, cutlery, glasses, water, wine, bred and spices of any sort regardless of the occasion.
– “Meals are the most important part of the day dear!”
Ok. A nutritionist would probably agree with that. But, I mean… The MOST important? I always felt there was something wrong with that, but it did took me 27 years to do the math…
Because I never took any responsabilities before. I never really had a purpose. I didn’t know what I know now; when you what you want from life, sacrifice is your daily diet.
At school, at church, or on books, we’ve all heard of the peculiar acts apparently done by our ancestors in the name of God.
But there is one in particular that has always caused plenty of controversy.
The question rises spontaneously;
– “What the bloody hell was wrong with those idiots?”
Whether you look at it metaphorically or not, you can’t help but ask yourself the same thing.
But let’s say they really took place. Why do we assume they were foolish? Essentially there is no proof that we’re smarter today than they were yesterday…
So let’s try to step into their shoes for a minute;
2018. We have never been richer than today. The world – whether you believe it or not- is as wealthy as it has ever been. But poverty was a serious thing back then. How many times do you think a father had to leave one of his child behind to garantee the survival of the family? How many times did they had to sacrifice the thing that they valued the most to make a pact with reality?
– “Let one go, to save three…”
I don’t know you, but to me it doesn’t sound that crazy after all.
Today we give for granted the existance of tomorrow, every second that goes is proof of it. But someone must have discover it some point. How?
Now, whether those stories are actually true it doesn’t matter. That’s not the point here. The point is that although the idea of sacrifice is often criticized, is actually implemented every single day by each of us. It doesn’t require an ax, a goat, or God knows what strange ritual. It isn’t blood to be poured, but sweat.
The conceptualization of God as a personality that you can bargain with takes shape today in our daily actions. The opportunity to sacrifice the present for the future has become a clichè. What kind of sacrifice am I talking about?
Work. Is the act of getting up in the morning despite the desire of doing the opposite.
– “Do something today that your future self will thank you for…”
Only a lazy idiot would call that a bad idea.
You know that Simpsons episode where Homer downs half a bottle of Vodka and Mayonnaise at the same time and then goes:
– “Now that’s a problem for Future Homer! Man I sure don’t envy that guy…”
That was me.
For the vast majority of my life – until not long ago – I’ve often choosed to perform the opposite sacrifice. The opportunity to sacrifice the future for the present has always looked more appealing. The Snooze function of the alarm has always got the upper hand. I’m sure you’re all familiar with that feeling…
– “No bloody way I’m getting up!”
– “Oh just get off your ass and go do something with your life!”
What makes people say that to themselves? Or better, what makes people DON’T say that to themselves?
Neurologists have always been interested in that question. After many researches they’ve identified the dopaminergic system as responsible for producing the kind of positive emotion that work, if done properly, gives. They call it: Incentive reward.
Ever felt great after crossing everything out of your shopping list?
That’s the one. And guess what? The more of it you do, the more it produces.
Now here’s the paradox.
Lazyness – if “done properly” too – activates the same system mentioned above by releasing the exact same organic compound.
– “No way! Let’s hit the snooze button…”
Dopamine kicks in.
– “Already?! Screw it… Let’s hit it again”
Neurologists call it: Consumatory reward. The disturbing part?
Everytime you fall into the instant gratification temptation the system not only releases the same compound but it makes the circuit associated with the act growing…
– “Oh to hell with it! Let’s hit it one more time…”
Ever wondered what makes quitting smoke so hard?
– “What!? Quit smoking is the easiest thing in the world! I’ve done it like a hundred times…”
The thought of lighting up a cigarette in a context abitually associated with the act, clues in a series of artificially constructed thoughts – fake emotions – producing an intense craving that, once satisfied? Kick.
Once, twice, three times, and soon you can call yourself a smoker. The sequence of thoughts becomes automatic, the neurological circuit grows stronger, the more it grows the more it clings into your character, until it becomes a part of you. Until it becomes a personality that likes to say…
– “Oh, to hell with it!”
Do not practise what you don’t wanna become.
– “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
God if I hated that question…
– “Just check out my CV and stop being a pain in the ass!”
Yet, it turns out that if there is one way to resist the many temptations of the present to attain the great benefits of tomorrow, is the following:
Know the Answer to That Question. Decide what your going to do with your life. Type it in, save the document, print it, and hang it next to your calendar…
Let the game begin.
– “Yes! I finally got the answer… Wait, where’s the winning strategy?”
The first time I looked at my goal I ended up pretty disappointed. No combinations of moves that made me scream: Chess Mate!
The game had just begun and I had no idea how to play, nor what the rules were.
But something unexpected happened. A little voice in my head told me what the first move was…
– “Better clean up your desk kiddo!”
Not exactly what you expected is it? But is not as bad as you think. Why?
Because depending on what you focus on, your perception will orient towards the goal itself dismissing everything irrelevant in order to make you see the necessary steps. Your vision will clear up in order to light up the path. If you ask for help reality will come aid you, and show you what the next move is…
– “Take pen and paper out.”
Setting a goal creates a Hierarchy of Values.
There are things who need to be done that require your attention. Silly things? Maybe. But as silly as they may seem they will still move you forward…
– “Unless of course you can afford new socks every day better learn how to do your laundry first!”
The Hierarchy will signal some of your actions as an absolute priority, others secondary and ignorable.
– “Should I have a cigarette now or should I finish writing the article?”
Fine! I’ll start writing the first sentence.
Do you want to change the world?
Start by making your bed.
For the vast majority of my life secondary values always had the priority. I craved for that little toxic kick of dopamine, and I’ve grabbed it every time I had the chance.
But after the question was always the same: what now? Now that I had my cigarette what should I do?
– “Well I am kind of hungry so… Let’s see what’s in the fridge!”
And so I fed myself every time I had the chance to. The problem?
A big one. Wanting merely to close the whole in the stomach the only value in the Hierarchy was: EAT.
The act itself eliminated the structure on which I was operating on, leaving me withouth a clue of what was supposed to be up next. The entire Hierarchy conseguently collapsed the moment I digested. And so…
– “Down on the couch, pick up your phone and… WhatsApp?”
Now that’s a bad idea…
But if you know exactly where you’re going in life, the Hierarchy never collapses.
A goal far into the future always requires an action in the present. If you really ask the question and you want to know the answer, the next move will shine before your eyes.
A little mess will appear and ask for your attention. The chaos in your bedroom will suddenly appear as important, the order in your fridge will become irrelevant.
Where there is Chaos, there is potential. Where there is Order…
– “Well, what’s the point of snooping there?”
Most people look at Chaos and see nothing but suffering, unnecessary sweat. Sacrifice is often associated with the lack of meaning.
And so they still suffer but atleast they eat and sleep any time they want. The advantage?
They have no responsabilities.
But Meaning can be found in suffering. If you set a goal in life, the future will look brighter. Getting up in the morning will become a piece of cake. The more responsabilities you accept, the richer your life will be.
But the Hierarchy will often require a sacrifice. Some Higher Value will need your priority when you least want it to. The next move is not always as pleasant as you’d like it to be.
Sometimes a little voice will tell you…
– “Listen ‘Business Man’ … Forget the beef fillet. Eat some fish in a box, go back in the office, finish the project, earn the promotion, pay off the mortgage, and provide for your family.”
The price to pay?
Now the future is in your hands…
What’s the next move?
Thanks for reading.
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