There was a study recently that claimed, when we save something, delaying gratification for a future event can actually backfire.

For example, saving those fancy chocolates for a special occasion will often result in bad chocolate and unfulfilled expectations.  This was equated with saving those frequent flyer miles for a special trip, then rushing it before the points expire. Or the drawer full of unused gift certificates that don’t get used, because the perfect item did not come on sale. Etc. etc.

Now, I won’t go on to put words in the mouths of  these researchers by suggesting that they said delayed gratification is always a bad thing.

Rather, they suggested that we self sabotage our plans by waiting for a best occasion and ultimately miss out.

For example, hanging on to that special bottle of ‘honeymoon wine’ for a future anniversary that might never occur.

 

Personally, I think that their case was overstated.

For the most part, we suffer from the opposite problem in our  good ole USofA, where we cheapen the enjoyment of a things by being able to have everything instantly.

 

However, I liked the study if only to start a broader conversation.

I have small kids right now and they want everything instantly. From meals and snacks throughout the day, to every little toy at the store.

I would argue that the sign of a mature person is the ability to delay that desire for an appropriate time.  As a parent, I’ve found that making kids wait for something, often enhances their enjoyment. If you don’t buy that,  you are doing Christmas wrong!

 

Also, delayed gratification is often necessary for long term gains

  The most successful people are those who are willing to wait, even when it means delaying things you want now. Think diet and exercise and health and self image.  Or investing in financial stability when you want a new car or home this year instead of next, when you can better afford it.

 

Furthermore, restraint of  passions has a high success rate in building stronger relationships and lasting marriages.

Our society’s insistence in instant gratification has led to more heartbreak and regret than momentary gain.

 

All that being said, there is an element of truth in the hypothesis being presented in the article.

 When does delaying gratification actually become a detriment?

Some folks (like my own dad) would wait to the point that an opportunity was lost or that future date was always moved forward.

He would ‘computer shop’ every weekend and would research the heck out of every system.  There was always a better system coming out and a better price. When he did eventually purchase something, he was usually hit with buyer’s remorse.

It seems to come down to goals.

If you have unrealistic expectations of whatever it is you are delaying, you will be disappointed whether you waited or not.  There is a difference in instant gratification and living in the present moment.

When you act with intentionality vs driven by momentary desire, it does not matter if you enjoy those chocolates now or later.  Buying a bottle of wine on your honeymoon and saving it for your anniversary will provide you with a memory even if you never drink it.  

 

With kids, it’s demonstrated daily.  

They are almost as excited anticipating the event as they are actually doing it.  But, kids have the ability we adults tend to lose with time… the ability to be more present in the moment.

 

I’d like to know your opinion.  Comment below and tell me what you think.  

 

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