It’s Time to Eat the Marshmallow

It is always fascinating to me when a topic hits me in multiple ways. Time has been that topic recently. How am I thinking about time? How I am spending the time I have now? Because as we all know, there is not unlimited time ahead of us.

Time – Take 1 – Busyness

I saw the term “toxic productivity” recently.  It is the mindset (and strong USA cultural belief) of the importance of productivity. It’s the need to fill up your time, but not necessarily appreciate time. It’s feeling bad about not getting to all the items on your Must-do lists, of not having enough time. It’s a sense of pride in displaying the Badge of Busyness. It’s the belief that hard work is the solution to any problem (ex. an individual’s work ethic can solve societal structural issues).  It’s the belief your worth is connected to what you’ve most recently done (your work) and not just being you. 

How does one change a deep-seated cultural belief?  In realism terms:

  • How do I stop feeling bad about not regularly mopping the floor, dusting the window slats, or having a neat & tidy house?
  • How do I continue the shift from a must-do guilt-inducing list to a want-to-do set of possibilities?
  • How do I stop feeling guilty for letting go of (probably perceived) obligations? 
  • How do I celebrate moments in the flow state, savor the quiet elements spent in nature, ritualize the things that bring joy and contentment?
  • How do I get out of the sand trap of regular scrolling on social media?

I want to read the book, comment on blogs, water the plants, do the crossword, watch the sun glisten on the water, and feel like that’s enough for the day!  Not a busy day, but a full day. Not wasting time, just appreciating time. Yes – a shift from a mindset of “toxic productivity” guilt to feeling an exhilaration of time abundance!

Time – Take 2 – What time is it?

As I was crafting my Fall Possibilities list, I had a need to know, “When does Fall really begin?”    Yes, this was vitally important to this structure & planning girl!

Sept 1st? Labor day? Re-start of school?  When the public pools close?  Sept 22nd?  When the temperatures cool down or the trees change color? When wearing white is taboo? When pumpkin-spice everything shows up in the stores?

When I was young, Labor Day, pool shut down, and school start coincided. Since moving to Florida, I’ve noticed school starts back up in August, the pools never close, the temps don’t cool down until October (hopefully!), and everyone wears white (and flip flops) most of the year.

For many the fall season is a signal of new beginnings with the start of a new school year.  The new beginning was ingrained in our psyche with our own school years and then reiterated with kids, friend’s kids, teachers we know, being a teacher. The concept of new beginnings even came up in my Fall Tarot read!  I began to realize that every day, every week, every season is an opportunity for new beginnings and for re-starting habit changes (mind-set shifts) desired.  Not resolutions like New Year, but a refresh and re-energize of the path I want to be on.

And for your information, September 1st is technically the meteorological start to Fall, while the astrological start to Fall is September 22nd (this year), which coincides with the Fall Equinox.   

So I’m claiming that my summer is over and my Fall Possibilities List has begun.  Here’s to new beginnings.

Time – Take 3 – Why do I put things off?

I wondered if an article from Oprah.com on excuses (link here) would help me with the why some things remain on my to-do list forever.  I list these items as “Someday I Will” and continue to wonder why I just don’t do them!

The implication in the article was your excuses are “bad beliefs” and you need to get over them (not that there was anything on how to do that!).  While the article listed eight basic brands of excuses, a few of them really made me consider my own whys.

  • The Don’t-Care Excuse. You convince yourself that you don’t want or need whatever it was anyway (implying you really do want or need it).  Is this why travel planning has not happened? Do I want to travel or not?
  • The Genetic Excuse. You were born this way and can’t possibly behave any differently. Is my belief that I am not athletic (nature), the reality of living years with a heart condition (nurture), having a bad genetic health profile (nature), and not being raised in family that pushed exercise nor sports engagement (nurture) all just a genetic excuse for not engaging in some more active activities?  Or do I really not want to do them?
  • The Done-Enough Excuse. No one should ask you for more than you’ve already done.  Yeah, this one hit hard!  I do feel like I’ve done enough and shouldn’t need to do more in some areas.  Do I need to be doing more?

Yes, one should never believe everything one reads, and the “’not enough” one I’ll need to ignore.  But the other excuses?  I am pushing my thinking on my Someday I Will list – Do I really want to do them or not?

Time – Take 4 – Delayed Gratification

I know I’ve lived with a delayed gratification mindset for years.  Now I wonder, is this part of the why I continue to put things off?  Is it part of keeping a Someday I Will list, not savoring and fully living in the moment, a barrier to really understanding my own wants?

I do believe a delayed gratification mindset is not the right mindset for living today, but I wonder, do I need to understand the why behind my own in order to change it?  Was my delayed gratification mindset a result of my being raised with a strong Puritan work ethic in a middle class family?  Although we now have a very solid financial foundation, I still look for the BOGOs when food shopping, go right to the clearance racks when I clothing shop, wait for the on-line sales with free shipping, go for the low-cost hotels, and never buy the expensive items on the menu, even if they sound yummy.

I simply need to change my mindset! Now is the time to Eat the Marshmallow. 

This is a reference to the 1970’s classic psychological experiment (and others that followed) about the importance of delayed gratification in childhood development. The brief folk-story element is: children were given the option to eat the marshmallow treat now or wait (not eat it) and get something better in the future. Children who waited (delayed gratification) grew up more resilient and with higher self-esteem.  See full summary here of these studies if interested; it also disproves some of the folk-story while supporting other elements. 

I’m all grown up. There’s not that much future time for delaying what I want to do!  Don’t put things off.  Enjoy every single moment in the now. Eat the marshmallow.

So my new self-talk about time is:

Stop worrying about what others think about your “productivity”. Figure out what YOU really WANT to do. Focus on filling your days with things that bring you joy, that fit with your retirement lifestyle vision statement (Active Body, Connected Heart, Creative Spirit, Contemplative Mind), and that align to your Putting Positive Psychology into Practice tenets (link here). And above all else, Eat the Marshmallow!

Picture: A sunrise this week.

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23 thoughts on “It’s Time to Eat the Marshmallow

  1. When circumstances change and mindsets remain the same internal conflict is a certain result. Good for you for analyzing your personal situation and making adjustments to align your lifestyle with your philosophy. Life is so much fuller when you ‘eat the marshmallow.’ At this stage of life, we have earned that right.

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    1. I think it’s been a status symbol for years. Being able to slow down and appreciate doing nothing has been a wonderful part of retirement. Letting go of having the status symbol to brag about has been tougher.

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  2. Oh boy, this is so me in so many aspects. I fight the time thing all the time. But I’m actually getting a little better. I can spend a day getting “nothing” done and feel ok. I put that in quotes because I am actually accomplishing something, just not the things I want to do. And it’s not that I don’t want to do them – maybe a bad choice of words- but I’m not getting the “me” time I need. I feel so selfish with my time, often at the expense of other equally enjoyable activities. It’s a quandary.

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    1. I’ve spent a lot of time this week reading what I often refer to as “trash novels”. And not getting other things done. But, then I told myself, why not? I’m enjoying it! Yes other things might be enjoyable as well, but this must have been what I needed to do this week.

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  3. I’m really trying to fight the busyness/toxic productivity trap. I always set myself fake deadlines for when I feel I should accomplish things by. I just end up stressing myself out for no reason at all, only my own perceived need to achieve stuff. I’ve stopped worrying about cleaning – I’m never going to say on my deathbed “I wish I had cleaned more!”. I’m taking time to walk by the ocean and enjoy a coffee looking at the sea. When I do I feel my life is far more abundant and fulfilling. Another great article!

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    1. I laughed out loud at the “I wish I had cleaned more”! Thanks for making me feel like I’m not alone in that. It’s so hard to give us the busyness trap – it’s both a cultural thing and a habitual thing, isn’t it?! I continue to work on being OK with not getting everything done on my to-do list.

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  4. Like they say, life is too short for cheap wine. I believe that’s the adult equivalent to eating the marshmallow. Glad you’ve seen the light. Do what you can in a way that makes you happy, and forget about the guilt.

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    1. Ally, I was raised on guilt! Guilt and worry and meeting expectations were foundational elements of my life. I’m working on releasing all of that and a quirky phrase like “eat the marshmallow” will help!

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  5. My version of “eat the marshmallow” is “Drink the good wine. What are you saving it for?” In the vernacular, YOLO. 🤣 I still look for bargains, but if I occasionally want a really good bottle of wine or an expensive cut of meat, I don’t hesitate.

    I struggle with the productivity thing too. I am more conscious of the ticking of the clock with every passing year. My remaining time is limited, but unknown, so I am trying to choose well how I spend it. You can’t possibly do everything, so you might as well choose fulfilling activities. I do spend a little too much time on social media. I am trying to back off somewhat.

    As you well know, I don’t give a darn about what anyone thinks of me and how I live my life. It is very freeing to have that outlook.

    I also prune and edit my Someday/Maybe lists. Just because I put something on there in a fit of inspiration, doesn’t mean it’s permanent. Sometimes I’ll even look at an item and ask myself, “what was I thinking when I put that on there?” 😂

    Be gentle with yourself and try not to overthink.

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    1. Bob – so great to hear from you! I do think choosing how to spend my time has helped me be much happier about life in general. I chuckled about the “what was I thinking”… it is why I’ve been OK with x-ing out things on the possibilities list. But really… you telling me to not overthink? I need to join Over-thinkers Anonymous for that! And yes, life is too short not to drink the good wine…. or eat the marshmallow!

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  6. Hi Pat, you’ve made another thought provoking post!! Since retiring in April I’ve purposely tried to ‘slow down’ and allow myself to use my time however I want. It’s been a bit of a struggle because that voice in my head keeps trying to tell me what I “should be” doing, and I have FOMO (fear of missing out) because I can get indecisive about what I want to do right now as I might enjoy something else more – it can be so frustrating!! I also think some of this comes down to ‘worthy-ness’… do I feel I’m worthy of doing what I want to do. Ugh, sometimes our minds can be our worst enemies!!!

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    1. Sharon – Ah yes, that voice! I hear the “should” everywhere. I’m better at stopping it and asking myself if it’s something I really want to do. Sometimes, the answer is still not clear! But I can say that I’ve really enjoyed slowing life down, adding in things I love to do right now, taking time to connect with people, and being open to new experiences. My gratitude practice has also helped me be-in-the-moment more…savor this moment for what it is bringing and trusting that it’s what I need at that moment.

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  7. Another great post Pat! Time and how to use it is such a helpful topic! I’m struggling with wondering whether I’m obsessed with being productive, as you mention here, or simply struggling to find the right fit to replace my “work” slot — ie., a direction, my contribution, way to express myself in the world. I do think that, for me, it’s the latter, but that it’s also a very tricky niche for me to fill and I’ve been putting too much time into trying to find it. So, with that, I think the best use of time is to give equal time to all those “slices” of your life pie chart that you need. Because they all keep you feeling whole! I’d also like to invite you to check out my blog: http://www.retirementcommentaries.com

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    1. Judi, I was looking at an article on time-blocking today and realized that working was 9-10 hours of everyday, which is more than 50% of your awake time! …that’s a lot of time to fill in! I know I’ve filled it with lots of slices of life pie – and in fact feel like my life is much more “whole” now! I’m off to check out your blog – thanks for the link.

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  8. Oh Pat, there’s so much of me in the busy/productive self-worth category – and that’s why I was so impacted by the Unbusy movement – that it’s okay to slow down a little. Still do that needs doing, but balance it with plenty of things that I enjoy doing too. It’s so good for my mental health.

    And Eat the Marshmallow resonated because I told my family the other day that I need to be more generous with myself and do less of the bargain hunting etc – if I really like it then I should just get it. The example I gave was the savoury muffin that our local cafe took off the coffee special and charged more for. Of course…I stopped buying it – but I LOVE that muffin! So I’m going to spend an extra two whole dollars now and then and have it! So my slogan is “Just Buy the Savoury Muffin!” 😀

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    1. Leanne, I laughed at the muffin story and totally got it! I’ve really enjoyed slowing life down, taking time to savor things, doing things I enjoy. But I’ve found I still hesitate on things that I know will being me joy… finding the phrase “eat the marshmallow” to say to myself will help me lean in and do things I want to do!

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