The Horizontal Line Approach

I am a planner. I do well with structure, but for the sake of spontaneity. I strongly dislike routine, but I depend upon a routine to be in place in order that I can disrupt it. I love to know my options, I feel comfort upon the dependency of others.

Above all, I love to “earn things”. I feel so much satisfaction in going for a long run and then slowly savoring a peanut-butter-oatmeal  breakfast, or working all day at some dirt-infused job, only to come in, sunburned and slightly blistered, to a wonderful, majestic bubble bath with some Miles Davis serenading me from the background. I am a big fan of the rewards of delayed gratification.

This is what they tell you to work towards, isn’t it? Becoming obsessed with delayed gratification.

“Sonny!” they shout at you. “Sonny, no no no, learn to work before you learn to eat” as they swipe the toast right out of your freshly washed hands and thrust a dirty shovel toward you.

“Oh, child,” muses the wise. “Child, true satisfaction comes after true trial”.

Girl, you will eat your vegetables before you have your dessert.”

Learning to appreciate and chase after delayed gratification has transformed both me as a person and my life as an entity. I have become someone who values discipline and hard work, and am afraid of neither in the pursuit of my goals and dreams.

However, this has come with a price.

I have this newfound tendency to look at each day like a vertical line; a never-ending summit to reach some expectation that will yield disappointment, because it isn’t as exciting and special as I imagined. Allow me to explain.

Table 1

Verticle Line Day

 

 

 

START: a good, hard run

|

Go to classes to learn

|

Eat a delicious, well deserved lunch

|

Do homework

|

Hang with residents

|

Eat a delicious well deserved dinner

|

Read, homework, relax

|

Get ready for bed

|

Go to sleep

|

END: Repeat

I run so that I can eat a delicious breakfast so that I can pay attention during class (and so that the learning process is as relatively pain-free as possible) so that I can eat a well deserved lunch so that I can think about my homework and learn some more so that I can finish and be with residents so that I can eat a well deserved dinner so that I can have options so that I can get ready for bed at whatever time I want so that I can go to sleep, so that I can…repeat?

Do you see? It’s this never ending “so that” attached with every part of my day, leading up to the great finale of…repeat. I’m not truly enjoying any of my activities, instead I am mindlessly waiting until that activity is done, because my primary motivator for the activity is to progress to the next one.

This model renders it close to impossible to maintain the moment and to appreciate each aspect of the day for what it is worth. And yet, while I know this and am fully aware of this, I am nevertheless often trapped in this mindset. And with this mindset, I have no other option but to be inevitably disappointed, because there isn’t anything satisfying in simply” repeating”.

If you find that you are like me in this aspect, and that you struggle with maintaining the moment, I propose for both you and I that we train ourselves to look at the day from the horizontal line approach.

(I’m going to go ahead and casually copyright that now, so that if one day I lost all hope of obtaining the career I desire, I can fall back on inspirational novels and write a non-fiction. I think it would look something like the following:)

The Horizontal Line Apprach

Table 2

Horizontal Line Day

Enjoy Run Enjoy breakfast Enjoy learning Enjoy lunch Do homework Enjoy time with Residents Enjoy dinner

 

Relax and/or be productive Get ready for bed

In this way, I am able to separate and individualize each moment of my day. The purpose of my run ceases to become for a better breakfast, likewise the motivation for hanging out with my beautiful residents and friends and doing homework ceases to become “in order to eat a better dinner”.

Above all, the “height” of my day ceases entirely to become repeat, deeming it a much, much less disappointing day where I truly lived in each moment each activity.

Steps To Achieve this Perspective

I’m a visualizer, so it helps for me to write out the plan for the day literally in a horizontal fashion. Planners, with good reason, give the day vertically, so I simply turn it to the horizontal and write my day likewise, the time of day being the x-axis.

Being mindful also helps. Recognizing when the urge to not be present in each moment arises, and then talking yourself down. Describe to yourself the current moment, and pay special attention to it. Don’t neglect the current moment for the next, instead, treat it as a child. Give it the attention it deserves.

Delayed gratification is a marvelous, beautiful thing. It has the ability to open one up to a myriad of newfound satisfaction with life, because truly the struggles of life are what make the pleasures so great. However. Allowing delayed gratification to rule and shape your day could lead to an inability to be in the present; one begins to always look forward to some reward or some event, and miss out on the moments that shape us.

Above all, don’t let your plans for the day dictate your actual day; spontaneity is what wiggles into our concrete and unyielding lives and makes us the playful humans that we are.

 

 

Let me know if you have any other tricks or perspectives shift that have helped you with the dilemma of staying present in the moment, I would love to hear about them!

 

 

Peace and Blessings,

Josie

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