What do you do when you receive a gift? You open it, of course! With excitement and anticipation! With gratitude to the giver!
Recently I mailed a package with 4 small, wrapped presents inside, to my friend across the country. I was excited to surprise her and eagerly tracked its journey to its destination. I wanted to see her excitement of receiving them as I had so much fun putting them together. A few days later, I checked in and was surprised that she hadn’t opened the presents yet. She said she was saving them to reward herself when she completed a project later in the week.
Wait to open a gift? That takes discipline. But wait, not enjoy a gift as it's presented? That seems sad to me. Why do we do this? Why do we delay gratification and not embrace the kindness of the sender? Nothing “fun” seems to be allowed to happen until an appropriate amount of “work” had been accomplished. Fun and amusement have become rewards.
Instead of rewards we should start thinking of the diversions from our daily grinds as treats. Rather than a reward for completing a project we can offer ourselves a treat as a thank you to ourselves for finishing that step or that task, and to encourage us to the next step. You don’t have to enjoy every moment of every day, but every day should have at least a moment of enjoyment and something to look forward to.
Too often we hold on to the idea that unless something is accomplished, that time is wasted. But time is never wasted. Every minute of every day is a cherished gift, meant to be unwrapped, not saved for later. Some even feel participation awards for children eliminate their sense of accomplishment when there are no winners or losers. The argument may be valid on a baseball diamond or tennis court, but not in life. In life, participating is the reward. We are allowed to have fun days without first logging in so many work hours to feel you deserve a break. Routines may be broken for time spent cuddling with a loved one and there should always be time to listen to a story told from a friend’s heart.
The reward is being able to do something because we have mastered how to enjoy life. When we don’t take the time to stop and live, we are not the only ones affected. When we don’t take time to cuddle on the couch with our children, our children also miss an opportunity to connect with us. When we cut short the storyteller’s tale to return to work, we send the message that work is more important than friendship (of course, the boss may think so!).
Unwrap the gift and savor the present. When it comes to life, don’t be afraid to anticipate and participate in the little things that make life fun. Unwrap the gift because someone thought of you, and thinks you are special. There is no need to prove your worth to be rewarded. Your participation in life is your reward, and the gift is wrapped in what we mean to each other!