The mental carrot is a reward I give myself for completing a task. But there are two ways to complete a task: You can either treat it as an obstacle and get it out of the way as soon as possible, or you can treat the task as the center of your existence for the time you're performing it.
In previous posts I've been advocating making every task the center of your existence, and the mental carrot was one of the techniques I came up with to make this state of mind sustainable. It encourages feeling pride of one's work, allows for your mental batteries to charge, and associates positive feelings with your productivity. I feel I am still barely uncovering the benefits of this profound approach.
What is mindfulness?
The practice of actively being in the present. I discovered this concept in a book about a year ago, and I've been reading about it and meditating on it ever since.
It is a state of mind that's easy enough to achieve, but maintaining it is horrendously hard, even for but a minute. One of the books I've read talked about being mindful when doing the dishes - when you do the dishs, this is who you are, and this is the only thing that matters. There's no stack of dirty dishes that needs to be cleaned asap, there's just you, the soap, the plate, and the moment. Rings a bell, I hope!
The carrot leads to mindfulness
When I perform a task, I've been conditioning myself to question whether I deserve a mental carrot when I finish it. I've become accustumed to do this as a technique to encourage myself to take tasks seriously and not be flakey. Lately, I've made the connection that whenever I tell myself that, yes, I deserve a carrot for the job I'm doing, I end up doing the task in a mindful fashion.
The natural tendency when approaching a task is usually that of "let's get this done already". Very few people can start doing the dishes, feeling joy and fulfillment right off the bat. But just remind yourself that when you finished with the dishes you deserve to tell yourself "well done!", you will start a snowball rolling - "really? well done? I think that plate I just cleaned is still dirty. That's not well done at all. I better do it over. In fact, I better pay closer attention to what I'm doing..." Boom, you're mindful. I've had this experience multiple times until I made the connection between the catalyst (the carrot) and the outcome (being mindful).