STRIKING OUT AT THE INN

                                            "A goal without a plan is just a wish."                                                         Antoine de Saint-Exupery
'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through my wallet I felt not a single; nor did any change jingle. So foolish was I when last May I did read, Of opportune Christmas fund banking, indeed. But who can think Christmas, come on now it's May. With Mother's Day, Father's Day not far away. And summertime clothing and camp bills to pay. I'll think about Christmastime some other day...

Later. A most valued time in our lives for getting things done. Fear of failure, loss; or threat of punishment: the most cherished reason for getting things done. Right?
It is not uncommon among human beings to delay engaging in any behavior which is not immediately gratifying. Sometimes this is called, "procrastinating." The consequences may, at times, become unpleasant. Perhaps a few less nights at the mall-- particularly the movies-- this year could have resulted in more Christmas money. Do any of these sound familiar?
"Honey, we're lost!" "Relax, I'll find it-- I know we're close. Just look for a lot of cars, Pete is quite famous for his Christmas parties."
"So why didn't you call for directions before we left the house... or tune in the six o'clock news?"
How about, "Mom, chill! I know I have some homework, but Christmas vacation is coming and I have plenty of time to get it done."
"You know, I have a ton of paperwork at the office. But, it's The Holidays-- everybody is partying, nobody is working. I'll just do it after New Year's. And as far as paying these bills is concerned..."
Why was there, no room at the Inn? Obviously, someone forgot to make reservations!
In each instance for which something is put off until later, the implicit assumption is that there is something occurring right now which has a greater impact on my behavior. Behavior is most influenced by immediate consequences. Those which follow desirable behavior, often "rewards", increase the likelihood of that behavior in the future. Consequences which immediately follow undesirable behavior, often "punishment", may decrease its occurrence. However, consequences which are distant and poorly arranged have little bearing on the future of a given behavior. Attempts at making long-term consequences more immediate and, therefore, more powerful have typically involved focusing on "what's missing" (or could be). That is, failure or loss-- the absence of a presence!
The Insurance Business provides an interesting illustration. Purchasing insurance is often not a high-probability behavior. Until a salesman graciously illustrates what could happen to you if you are not insured. Imagine that among the visual aids he shows you, in its entire colorful splendor, is a beautiful family picture with the caption, "What if next year you are not in the picture?"
Similarly, parental discipline, chores, saving money for Christmas; or for taxes, home repairs (during the weekend), and occasionally...adequate preparations for adult entertainment, are remotely controlled by long-term consequences; harbingers of doom, a fifth horseman of the Apocalypse: Bad outcomes! Does this mean you have to go through life using the "back- against-the-wall" method of accomplishing unpleasant tasks?
A desirable alternative is to generate more positive consequences for engaging in unlikely behaviors and arrange for them to occur in closer proximity to the occurrence of those behaviors. This Christmas, imagine giving yourselves a present that will last long after the wrapping paper has been recycled: The desire and ability to "get on with it!" An essential ingredient in this present is your consideration of "what's present"; a vital contrast in thinking from, "what's missing". Vividly imagine three ways you would benefit right now from having already accomplished a task. Be sure to step into each experience-- be there! Pay attention to any sounds and feelings that occur. Before performing a particular task, be sure to allow yourself the pleasure of deciding which of the three benefits was the most powerful. Then go for it. Happy holidays!