Put A Carrot on That Stick: TorahCycle Eikev

EikevHow to live so your choices don’t lead to remorse? How to stay conscious enough to live by your values, keep your vows, and move towards your goal?

Too often we get blind-sided by immediate gratification. Fall for the distraction of cheap bait, no matter how lofty our aims. Our vision blurs, or we blink, because our destination seems far off. A blessing perhaps out of reach.

How can you get where you wanna go without compromising too often along the way?

It’s a fine line between goal orientation and incentives for progress. Not just a mythical reward, but something to see in the short run, while you walk your road. The carrot on your stick, just out of reach but always in sight.

I understand that the journey matters. That the process itself is powerful, transformative, transformational. Etc, etc, etc. Your Jewish Fairy Godmother’s Commandment 9 is Enjoy the ride as much as the win.

But as much fun as anticipation can be, it’s hard to keep striving for something you’ve never experienced. Most of us need a taste of success, pleasure, or both along the way. It makes the road a little easier and our step a little lighter and faster.

Because we don’t know what’s on the other side of all our striving. Even if reaching goal, whatever it is, would more satisfying than anything you’ve ever experienced, how could you know? You haven’t been there yet. We act on faith. On hope. On trust. And try to stay motivated along the way.

Most of us also choose interim rewards. As in, If I make it to point X, then I get Y. X can be anything from finishing a project or a degree, to losing weight or lasting a week or month without gluten or sugar. The carrot might be new duds, a concert ticket, or a vacation.

If it keeps you moving towards your goal, your carrot is dong its work. And treats feel so much better than beating oneself with that stick, to the familiar drumbeat of remorse that failure engenders.

The trick is the right carrot. Not too many brownies now when you really want weight loss later. Instant gratification is the bane of many a seeker. And we all blow it far too often, out of impatience, frustration, or in response to other unfilled longings.

So how can you use your imagination to harness your spiritual, emotional, and physical energies? To keep your goal in front of you in a way that motivates but doesn’t distract or derail you?

Moses describes the Promised Land as flowing with milk and honey, and abundant with “seven kinds” of growing things that represent divine blessings (wheat, barley, grapevines, figs, pomegranates, dates, and olives for oil).

Things to think about this week: What would make you feel your world overflowed with whatever’s your version of milk and honey? What’re your seven kinds, the elements that sustain you and make you appreciate life’s sweet and savory? How can you use them in a healthy way on your journey? To motivate and inspire you? To treat yourself? To help fuel your practice with awareness and intention?