I would love nothing more than life to be simple and easy. I would get up in the morning at the same time, I would go to work with no problems, then I would come home with no distractions.
That’s just not how life works.
Not only that but I expect something to happen throughout my day that I wish didn’t. That’s me not being a sugar cookie. In lieu of such circumstances I have two options: bitch and moan, or keep moving forward. The former causes emotional distress while the latter provides stability and consistency.
I’m also not advocating false optimism. There are other people that I know that are on the opposite spectrum, they don’t complain or make excuses but they are so naive that they think that by eating up all those sugars cookies that everything is going to be fine. That’s dangerous and will only lead to emotional obesity.
In PsychologyToday, Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus says:
People who play the “everything-will-be-terrific” game not only overlook real problems and issues that need to be addressed, but they prevent others from expressing grief, pain, anger, loneliness, or fears.
Instead, I seek “rational optimism”. I tackle every uncomfortable circumstance in life the same way you would tackle fixing your remote. It’s problem-solving 101. First, try getting the remote closer to the TV. If that doesn’t work, check the batteries. If that still doesn’t work just bust the remote into the ground and buy a new one. Then move on with your day.
Dr. Lazarus goes on to say:
The difference between false optimism and rational optimism can be captured by two different statements. (1) “There’s nothing to be concerned about, everything will be just grand.” That’s false optimism. The second statement reflects realistic optimism: (2) “We’ve got a real mess on our hands, things don’t look too good, but if we tackle it step by step, we can probably do something about it.”
The sugar cookie mentality is dangerous because it expects that every situation should look like and taste like a beautiful Publix sugar cookie. A sugar cookie so light, pillowy, and packed with flavor kinda like how we want our lives to go.
Instead, we should learn how to take the sugar cookie at face value. In this instance, a sugar cookie is nothing more than flour, eggs, milk, and sugar. Inherently, there is nothing good or bad about a sugar cookie. It is our interpretation of the sugar cookie that gives it context and meaning. Likewise, we should look at life events at face value. Cause and effect. Neither good or bad.
This stoic exercise was practiced by Marcus Aurelius, arguably the last great emperors of Roman times. In his writing he wrote:
When we have meat before us and such eat-ables, we receive the impression, that this is the dead body of a fish, and this is the dead body of a bird or of a pig; and again, that this is only a little grape juice (not wine)…such then are these impressions, and they reach the things themselves and penetrate them, and so we see what kind of things they are.
I recognize the better I do at observing my impression of such things the less emotionally fat I become. I can keep myself emotionally lean by taking everything at face value and using reason to come up with a positive solution and outcome. It doesn’t take over me like it used to.
So next time you’re in an uncomfortable situation don’t get caught up in your attachment to the sugar cookie. Look at the situation for what it really is…flour, eggs, milk, and sugar.