Last summer, as I was walking around on Orcas Island,  one shopkeeper ventured out the door to ask the shopkeeper across the path, busy at work sweeping her entry, “What is your carrot to get you through your day? Is it a margarita? A glass of wine? A good book?”

I didn’t hear the response, but the question embedded itself in my brain. What was my carrot? I asked my husband what his carrot was and got a quizzical look. What is my carrot? What is my carrot? A new koan!

At different times, I’ve had different carrots: sometimes it’s been quietly reading a good book or writing. Sometimes it’s been wine. Sometimes it’s been running, cycling, kayaking. Other times, when I really needed an escape, my carrot was playing MMOs.

But something occurred to me as I pondered on these carrots: wouldn’t it be nice to live a life in which I didn’t need a carrot to get me through my day? Carrots are OK — they’re full of vitamin A and juicy reward instead of punishment — like my other, more frequent method of driving myself through the day — the stick. But wouldn’t it be wonderful to create a life full of stick-free living AND carrot-free living?

That seems like an impossible task. Most of us, at least sometimes, have duties and responsibilities we have to either drive ourselves to do or at least lead ourselves gently with a reward. Self-knowledge and making choices that lead us toward work that fits with our abilities, passions, and is compatible with what we see as our purpose and goals in life can reduce the need for the carrot or stick. And, I think meditation that helps you improve your focus on the present can help. I roll my eyes at myself as I say this because I’m horrible at present moment awareness. But as someone who’s meditated, and not meditated, I can attest that it can help. Any practice that enables you to stay in the now a little bit more, helps to decrease your need for the stick or the carrot to get you through your day.

So, my latest thing is #carrotfreeliving. Let’s see how it goes.