“The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day.” “It MUST come sometimes to jam to-day,” Alice objected.
Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
Having our cake and eating it!
Poor Alice, she was understandably frustrated at the seeming impossibility of getting her hands on any jam today.
Like Alice, I prefer to have my jam today (and I also like having my cake and eating it!), but it takes a lot of practice to not fall into the trap of always waiting until tomorrow to enjoy our jam, especially when it comes to dealing with our Important Work.
A working pattern to avoid
Do you recognise this pattern of working? You have lots of wonderful ideas for things you’d like to do? You pick one (or maybe more than one!) and rush at it, picturing how wonderful it will be to get it finished, how finishing it will make you feel like you’ve accomplished something grand.
You finally dot the last “i” and cross the last “t” of your opus, but before you’ve given yourself a chance to enjoy your achievement you’re on to the next great idea, the one that will make you feel like you’re really achieved something?
The jam in our working lives is the taking of pleasure in the things we’re doing and the things we’ve done. It isn’t the about focusing on the next great idea and getting it finished. There will always be a next great idea waiting to be finished.
We need an incentive to keep on with our Important Work
Constantly living in the future, hoping for our teaspoon of jam tomorrow, is disheartening. It’s saying to ourselves that all the effort we’ve put into something doesn’t count for anything. That’s hardly an incentive to get on with our Important Work!
A feast of our accomplishments
Instead, picture a tea table groaning under the weight of jam and bread and butter and cakes and sandwiches. Give yourself permission to sit at the table now and enjoy the feast.
That feast is everything you’ve accomplished to date, plus whatever your working on right now. How does that feel? Isn’t it a treat to see everything you’re done spread out before you to enjoy and appreciate?
Savouring our achievements
Perhaps there are one or two items on the table that give you even greater pleasure to see than everything else. Why not give them pride of place on a tall cake stand. Cut a slice of your achievement and savour it. Now sit back and think how seeing and enjoying all you have achieved makes you want to continue with your Important Work.
Looking back at what we’ve achieved and enjoying what we’re working on now is by far the best way to keep ourselves on creative track. In contrast, the promise of jam tomorrow will wear thin very quickly and simply leave us disenchanted and exhausted.