Delayed gratification, a pleasurable approach?

I’ve updated this post, which I originally wrote  five years ago. It still rings true and was a great reminder for me when I read it this week. Hope it is for you, too.

One of the worst and the best things about being in Peace Corps, is you get to experience delayed gratification at a entirely new level. So many things you once took for granted are out of your reach, but not out of your mind. It’s easy to find yourself day dreaming about your favorite foods, TV shows, movies, stores, restaurants and hundreds of other things that were always there for you.

The good news is: pleasure is in the mind of the beholder. Doing without can be a great way to go within. And, oddly enough the wait for a specific treat, item or service can end-up being even more rewarding than the item or service being craved!

We’ve touched on delayed gratification before, remember the famous marshmallow test with kids? Well, just for fun, I’m suggesting you create mini-marshmallow tests of your own in January with a twist – you don’t get to pick the circumstances, you just get to respond to them. I call these sweet treats “Forced Delayed Gratification”.

The next time, you are dying for something or impatiently waiting – instead of focusing on your desire or discomfort, simply say to yourself:

“Oh, this is a Forced Delayed Gratification situation. Hmm, what are my options here?”

By asking a question, you pull yourself into the moment (within) and away from the situation. Your brain immediately jumps to your aide and begins releasing different hormones and chemicals, which may start connecting to new neurons: Broaden and Build vs Flight or Fight. One little question can flip a switch in your brain and start you on an entirely new neural pathway.

So, what happens after you question your options?

You realize you have lots more options! You can try a distraction technique and begin looking around to notice your surroundings. This will start you down another new mental path as you begin noticing the who, what when, where of the moment.

Or, you can spend a few minutes thinking about something special that happened to you in the past, or something special you are anticipating in the future. This option may sound  silly, but it is much more relaxing and mentally rewarding than feeling stressed, impatient or deprived, and it can actually begin building new positive neural pathways in your brain, which , overtime, can lead to all sorts of positive benefits.

The choice is yours, and here’s the clincher, the choice is always yours. You can flip the switch in your brain anytime. Just like a toddler, your brain can be redirected with a little creativity and gentle nudging.

Try some Forced Delayed Gratifications in the days ahead. With a bit of practice, you’ll be astounded how little you really need to be happy and content and how quickly you can move from one state of mind to another. And, remember the goal is not necessarily to do without, but to spend a few minutes going within. We’re delaying gratification not denying it!

( From 2006-20013, I served three times in the United States Peace Corps and practiced forced delayed gratification almost daily, which gave me plenty of time for positive reverie and new adventures! It was a true blessing in disguise and one I quickly learned to embrace. To read more a bit about my adventures, click here, here, and here!)

You can do it!

Journey of a lifetime

Patrice BitolaWishful Thinking Works

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to change your life dramatically? To try something terribly new and scary, but truly heartfelt – all on your own? To do more and learn more than you ever thought possible?

I did, and I am sharing the experiences of my amazing adventure in Macedonia as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer from 2006-2009 at a program for the Fort Myers Beach Library on March 30 at 1:30 p.m.

Only 450 people over the age of 50 serve in the Peace Corps each year, I was lucky enough to be one of them. I was 53 years old when I decided to take the biggest risk of my life, and ended-up on an remarkable journey serving in a tiny, ancient, mountainous, wine-soaked country just north of Greece. It truly is my personal “Eat, Pray, Love” story.

You are never too old – or too young – to decide who you want to be!

My journey really began in 2004 when I started looking at my life through a new lens. I spent less time “doing” and more time reflecting and thinking about how I wanted my life to look, feel and be. During that time I discovered three things:

  1. I wanted to “touch the face” of the people I was helping. I am a visual thinker and that was my way of saying I knew I wanted to work one-on-one with folks. I had risen as far as I could in management within my field, and although I loved my job and was impacting my community in a way I wanted to, I knew I had more to learn and give at a personal, one-on-one level.
  2. I knew there were more people I was supposed to know in this world – not just to meet, but to know. Luckily I was right, and made friends for life on my journey.
  3. And, I knew I wanted  to live in Europe. Didn’t know how or why, but knew I wanted to live within another country and culture.

During my two years of introspection and months of research, Peace Corps (PC) rose to the surface. Joining PC was never planned, but popped-up while searching Internet options that would allow me to live as I realized I wanted to. And, and as sad as this is to admit, I had no clue where Macedonia was until I started exploring serving in the Peace Corps in Eastern Europe.

You are never too old – or too young – to become who you want to be!

During my presentation you will find out what it is like to pack two suitcases and leave behind everything else you love – family, friends, your home and your job to volunteer in a country where you must learn a new language, work in a new job and make new friends, while trying to understand and meld into a culture that is foreign to you.

Through photos and stories I will share how this wonderful trek enriched my life and broaden my understanding of myself, others and the world around me.

Postscript:

I returned to Macedonia in 2010, 2011 to visit and for projects and in 2012 for a short Response Corps Peace Corps (RCPC) assignment. In 2011, I served in the Republic of Georgia on another short RCPC project. This summer, I will be visiting Macedonia for a month; it is time to introduce my new husband to my second home. 

 

The learning and the fun never has to end!

Learning to check your expectations with your luggage!

Chaska, Macedonia 2013 Mountain Road

An unplanned journey, and a day I will remember always – near Chaska, Macedonia.

I’m finishing-up my third Peace Corps assignment, and will be heading back to the States on Valentine’s Day – a sweet treat for sure. I served with the Peace Corps from 2006-2009 in the Republic of Macedonia, 3.5 months in the Republic of Georgia, 2011-2012, and I’m now finishing a 3.5 month assignment in Macedonia.

A big part of the joy I have experienced in my work here and in Georgia has to do with being open to exploring and understanding different cultures. So, earlier this week, when I opened my email and read an e-newsletter about “Cultural Intelligence”, I started thinking about what I’ve learned by living and traveling abroad and how those lessons have shaped my life.

My favorite line in the article is . . . “The last part of cultural intelligence relates to how you behave, and, in particular, how well you adapt when things don’t go according to plan.”

While living abroad I quickly learned that some of my richest and most rewarding moments were dependent on how well I adapted when things turned out differently than I expected, which led to an even more valuable lesson – to be truly happy abroad – it’s best to check your expectations with your luggage!

And, guess what? The amazing part of that lesson is it works just as well at home as it does abroad! Letting go of your expectations, is one of the keys to being truly happy – anywhere, anytime. When we let go of what we expect to happen and how we expect others to act and react, the happier and more fulfilling our lives become.

Expectations take-up a great deal of room in our hearts and in our heads and require loads of effort to maintain, which leaves very little space and energy for understanding, communication,  growth, and happiness.

Think about it.

  • How many times a day do you get frustrated with the actions or non-actions of yourself or others?
  • How many times in your life have you look backward or forward through a very narrow lens, shaped almost entirely by your or other’s expectations, and felt embarrassed, sad or stressed?
  • Wouldn’t it be nice to leave all that behind?

Why not give yourself a special gift this Valentine’s Day and lessen your expectations for yourself and others (past, present and future) and increase the likelihood that happiness will find a special place in your heart and grow to become the sweetest part of your life?

“Sreken pat” or happy journey, as they say to travelers in Macedonia, and may your happiest journey be your life.

Elephants never forget . . .

I’ve been thinking how lucky I am to have such warm and wonderful friends here in Macedonia and in the States, and since my Peace Corps Response project is at the Bitola Zoo, it seemed like a good time to share with you this video that my best friend from junior and senior high school, Sally, recently posted on Facebook.

Tarra, the best friend a dog could have.

Tarra, the best friend a dog could have.

The video features the unusual and enduring friendship of an 8,700 pound Asian elephant, Tarra, and a tiny stray dog, Bella, who live at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Besides playing and enjoying their daily walks through the 2,700 acre sanctuary, Tarra showed her deep devotion to Bella by keeping vigil for three weeks when Bella had a spinal cord injury in 2010 and had to stay inside the clinic on the sanctuary grounds. The elephants at the sanctuary usually befriend another elephant and shy away from the dogs, but Tarra was different. She was not concerned about her little friend’s size or the sound of his bark, only the connection they somehow felt. Unfortunately Bella, passed away in 2011, but before she died, she and Tarra had spent almost everyday together for 8 years! It’s a heartwarming tale, and a touching reminder that elephants never forget  – a friend, and we shouldn’t either.

The holidays are a great time to call old friends and let them know just how much they mean to us. Many of us call or write at this time of year to say “Hi” and share what’s been happening, but why not take a moment or two to let the folks you care about know how much their friendship has meant to you. It’s a super, sweet, holiday treat that doesn’t require shopping, ordering, baking or mailing!

I’ll be calling Sally cross-continents to let her know, don’t forget to call someone you care about, too.

Choices and change

Creating the life you want involves choices. 

I made a wonderful choice a few months ago, and I am now back in the United States Peace Corps as a Response Corps Volunteer in the beautiful  country of Macedonia. I spent three years in Macedonia from 2006-2009 as a Peace Corps Volunteer living and working in the Municipality of Bitola. I’ve been lucky enough to journey back here for pleasure and projects each fall since then.

When the opportunity to serve again with the Peace Corps in Macedonia arose earlier this year, I decided to give it a go. Response Corps and I are good friends. Last year, after visiting Macedonia for 6 weeks, I flew to the Republic of Georgia to serve as a Response Corps Volunteer at the Ministry of Environment for three and a half months. As always, I had a great time, learned a lot about myself and the world and lived with an amazing host family in TbilisiResponse Corps offers short-term, very focused assignments to former Peace Corps Volunteers, and now for the public, as well.

I invite you to follow and share my three month journey – I will be posting photos and more about Macedonia in the weeks ahead, along with my Wishful Thinking Works posts.

Creating the life you want takes couragecommitment and change. What have you been thinking about doing? What excites and inspires you? Why not spend a few minutes this week, exploring what’s ahead for you? Click here for easy to use sheets that can help you explore your dreams – big or small.

Then check out the The Power of Fortune Telling to take your dreams to the next stage!

PS Rest assured your dreams are possible, there was a time when I believed living and working abroad was an impossible dream for me, and I have happily proved myself wrong time and time again. And, I’ve seen my clients change their lives in ways they never thought possible.

Challenge the limits you’ve set for yourself – push the boundaries of your dreams. Take a risk in the direction of your dreams.

Wishful Thinking Works!

PS Here is a post about one of my favorite places in Macedonia, the nearby village of Dihovo.

A brief glimpse back

Sadly, this is my final week in the Republic of Georgia. Today is my last day at the Ministry of Environment where I have spent the past three and a half months as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer working with great people on interesting PR projects. My Peace Corps reports are finished and waiting to be signed, and hundreds of my photos are sitting in my files waiting to be shared with you! Since I only have a little time left here, I’m letting myself get further and further behind in posting my memories so I can spend time with my Georgian host family, who are absolutely wonderful and so much fun!

I promise to catch-up soon on my photos. I’m sure it will take me a few weeks to sort through all the photos I’ve already taken and the hundreds more I plan to take in my remaining three days. Until I get my photographic act together, I thought I would share a brief glimpse of one of my favorite holiday traditions here.

These sweet little trees were for sale in markets and along streets before the holidays. I’d never seen anything like them and quickly fell under their ancient holiday spell.

Chichilaki are made from young walnut or hazelnut tree branches that are shaved, and curl naturally during the process. (I have been told that only hazelnut trees are used and just as adamantly told that only walnut trees are used. As yet I have no final verification if one or the other or both are acceptable!) I can confirm that they range in size from 10 inches to four feet!

Once bought, these blonde beauties are given an important place on the table during New Year’s celebrations. They are decorated with candies, and are said to absorb all the bad memories accumulated in the home during the year. On the eve of Epiphany they are burnt as a way of symbolically reducing bad memories to ashes. I like that. 

To read and see more about how Chichilaki are made, click here. To see more photos of my wonderful days in Georgia return often to Wishful Thinking Works.

Just before this door closes

When a door closes, a window opens . . .

In September of last year I headed from Florida to Macedonia for a project and to visit friends. I haven’t been back to the States since! After six weeks in Macedonia I flew to Tbilisi, Georgia for a three-month assignment as a United States Peace Corps Response Volunteer. It was my second Peace Corps assignment; I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bitola, Macedonia from 2006-2009.

I’m now faced with the sad process of saying goodbye to more folks I have grown to know and love. In two weeks, I will be leaving my warm and wonderful host family; it will not be easy. They opened their home to a total stranger and quickly shared their hearts, as well. I also was lucky enough to meet and make new American friends through Peace Corps and other organizations here, and to work with many talented and amazing Georgians at the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Peace Corps.

Before heading from one place to another, finishing a project and starting another, or heading into a new phase of life, I like to take time to savor where I have been and what I have done. I think it is important to honor the doors and windows of our past as we prepare to discover and open those in our future.

Next week I will share some of the magical moments that have unfolded for me in Georgia, but for now, I hope you enjoy revisiting with me those I experienced when I began my journey last fall in Macedonia and the thoughts that are with me wherever I go. (These photos were originally posted in October, 2010.)

Hmm, closed and locked seems impenetrable! Ohrid, Macedonia
Don’t let appearances or the number of closed doors deter you. Bitola, Macedonia
What about a gate half open? Go with your guts; it’s always up to you. Ohrid, Macedonia
Mixed messages; “Should I knock or should I go?” Choice is yours. Bitola, Macedonia
A lost cause, time to let it go? Or, something that has stood the test of time? Ohrid, Macedonia
Not all your options will be neatly laid out in front of you. Leptokaria, Greece
Sometimes, you may need to pause and reflect before the answers come. Bitola, Macedonia
Some choices may be hidden or seem confusing. Bitola, Macedonia
Some options will sit squarely in front of you. Ohrid, Macedonia
Others may seem whimsical or unusual. Bitola, Macedonia
Sometimes your options will be appear at the same time. Bitola, Macedonia
Then previously closed doors, may open. Bitola, Macedonia
Or, new even fancier opportunities may materialize. Ohrid, Macedonia
Simple and yet stunning openings exist all around you. Ohrid, Macedonia
Moments you might miss without quiet reflection. Bitola, Macedonia
Recessed and waiting. Bitola, Macedonia
You truly never know what may open before you. Bitola, Macedonia
Opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. Bitola, Macedonia
With an open mind, you will surely see . . .  Bitola, Macedonia
. . . the possibilities, are endless. Ohrid, Macedonia

Hope your week is off to a great start, and windows are opening for you! 

PS Thanks for the “Likes” on Wishful Thinking Works on Facebook.

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