To eat the cookie or not eat the cookie – that is the question…

My husband and I recently bought a 1,000 piece puzzle for our family.

Excitedly, all five of us began working on it.  But one by one, everyone got bored and wandered away.  Everyone, except me.  I really love a challenging puzzle.  I think I spent almost that entire first Saturday in happy puzzle-building bliss.

The next day, I made my morning coffee and sat down at the puzzle.  When I looked up, not only was my coffee gone, but so was an hour and a half!  My mind went straight to scolding myself for wasting time and being unproductive.

The next time I sat down at the puzzle, I promised myself I would only work until I finished this one little bit, but I spent the whole time worrying that it was taking too long.  Here I was doing something that I genuinely enjoy, but not enjoying a second of it.  What?!

This is just like what I call the cookie problem.

What’s the fun in eating a cookie if you feel guilty for it?

Life SHOULD be filled with pleasure, but NOT guilty pleasure.  So what’s the difference?

  • A guilty pleasure is one that leaves you feeling guilty because it is harmful to yourself or someone else.  Even if it is just mental harm.
  • A guilt-free pleasure is one that doesn’t.  It is the difference between a cookie and a box of cookies.  A few minutes with a puzzle and calling in sick to work until the puzzle is completed.

Now, I am all for being disciplined, for setting goals, for making sacrifices to stay on course and reach those goals.

But I also know myself well.  I know that if I am too restrictive, I will ultimately rebel against my own authority.  Then it’s going to be the whole box of cookies or a full-blown mom strike.

To avoid that, I sometimes indulge in guilt-free pleasure.

And for me, that is all about being mindful and setting an intention.  

In the simplest terms…eat the cookie or don’t eat the cookie.

  • If you just absolutely cannot live with the guilt that goes with that cookie, do yourself a favor and don’t eat the cookie.
  • But if you ARE going to eat the cookie, do it intentionally.  Love that cookie, every delicious bite, and promise yourself before you take the first one that you will give yourself absolute guilt-free permission to do so.

And so, I decided to apply the cookie principle to my puzzle dilemma.  Even though I’m a big fan of using my leisure time to further my goals, this was a rare opportunity.  I hadn’t had the pleasure of tackling a puzzle in about a decade, so I wasn’t going to rob myself of the joy.  I decided to give myself a little time every day to work on a section without guilt, worry, or judgement.

A week later, I finished the puzzle and can say that once I gave myself permission, it was pure, unadulterated pleasure!