52 WEEKS

Week 19— Delayed Gratification

Get that extra cookie!

52 Weeks
5 min readNov 14, 2021

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Delayed Gratification is the best gratification. It’s the most gratification.

It’s a way to get two cookies instead of one!

This was proven in a famous study, where Dr. Walter Michel put a cookie (or marshmallow) in front of a bunch of different schoolchildren.

He told them when he left the room, they could eat their cookie.

BUT if they waited until he came back from an errand, he would give them a second cookie!

Of course, some kids ate their cookie as soon as he walked out the door.

(I would have)

But other kids waited.

Long story short, the kids who waited, went on to be much more successful in school and in life.

They had higher incomes, scored over 200 points higher on their SATs, and were less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol.

Their ability to control their impulses gave those children the POWER of delayed gratification.

And, more importantly, a second cookie!

The only problem with delayed gratification is that it’s not instant gratification.

Oh, we love us some instant gratification.

Playing games, doing drugs, skipping work or school, using a credit card, eating fast food, watching entertainment TV or sports.

Basically all the fun stuff.

Compare that to delayed gratification: Saving money, exercise, going to bed early on a work night, higher education, dieting, cooking or cleaning.

Not exactly a laugh riot.

Now, if you happen to like any of these, great! They’re all a means to a better end.

Best advice ever would be to figure out a way to like ALL of them.

I think of delayed gratification like having a secret. Something we got going on that we don’t talk about much.

That was always my problem. I talked and talked and talked about whatever project I was working on.

OMG! This is the big one! I’m gonna do this, and then this is gonna happen! It’s gonna be amazing!!

My kid’s mom once said I was like a five-year-old who keeps telling everyone his birthday’s coming up.

And then I read recently that talking a lot about our future projects is a form of rewarding ourselves… for something we haven’t done yet.

And then we gotta go out and do it, even though we’ve already been rewarded!

Talking about stuff is instant gratification.

Doing stuff? That’s DELAYED GRATIFICATION.

And it’s not always that long of a wait.

Delayed gratification can be waiting 15 minutes to get a second cookie.

Delayed gratification can be how we play a card game, or tell a story, or surprise someone for their birthday.

It can be a comedian waiting an extra 2–3–4 seconds before delivering a punchline.

Sure, they’d like to deliver it right away and get that laugh.

But by waiting those extra couple seconds, they get a much bigger laugh.

They delay their gratification just long enough to maximize their gratification.

And the principle is the same whether we’re talking 2–3–4 seconds… or 2–3–4 years.

And, finally, a long time ago, I heard a radio commercial for a college in the Milwaukee area. It talked about how hard it was to get our college degree. How much time and effort it took. “It’s gonna take at least four years!” And the commercial said, well yeah, that’s true. You are going to be at least four years older before you get your degree. But, if you don’t start now, in four years, you’re gonna be four years older… without a degree.

Woof.

AFTERTHOUGHTS

— Remember it’s not instant OR delayed gratification. We get to have both. We need to have both. We get to live for today AND put a little something in the cookie jar for tomorrow.

— A life of nothing but instant gratification might be fun, but it doesn’t last, because it’s not sustainable (although I did give it the old college try). And a life of nothing but delayed gratification is a life not lived. We gotta play those games and smell them roses.

— I never had the power of delayed gratification. I wish I did. But I always wanted everything yesterday. And wanting everything yesterday is a real good way to get nothing tomorrow.

— Instant and delayed gratification are NOT equal. Not even close. Instant gratification is for right now, right this very moment, and that’s it. But delayed gratification is for later. Tomorrow.

And we all have a helluva lot more tomorrows in our life than we have todays.

Not even close.

— Most of us don’t drink instant coffee for breakfast, do we? Nope.

We percolate that shit.

Why?

Because it’s better that way.

— It’s a lot easier to DAYDREAM about our future (instant gratification) than it is to do what it takes to make those dreams come true (delayed gratification). If we spend all our time in the clouds, as I did, we’re going to have a real hard time getting down in the mud to make things happen.

— Delayed gratification just means putting off something mildly fun or pleasurable now in order to gain something that is more fun or pleasurable later. I think it’s the “later” part some of us struggle with. But the person who benefits from your actions “later” isn’t going to be some stranger, or some old person you’ve never met. It’s going to be YOU. And that makes all the difference.

— All I wanted was fun. Everything else was in the way of fun.

— Sometimes I think we’re just a bunch of cave people who figured out how to drive a car.

— Less talk. More DO. People are much more interested in what we’ve done than what we’re gonna do. Talk is cheap.

— I liken instant gratification to swallowing a big piece of steak, whole, barely chewing it, like a dawg. Yarrrr. And then POOF it’s gone. Where’s my steak? It was here a minute ago!

Meanwhile, the person who takes their time, and chews and savors every bite, is still enjoying their steak!

AND the people who take their time and savor every bite are probably going to end up being much healthier than the ‘yarr-yarr-poof’ people.

— Taking small bites of food makes our food seem bigger. :-)

— Here’s the thing about waiting for a promotion, or retirement, or looking at 4–8 years of college. That’s not ALL we’re doing. We don’t spend 24 hours a day in a classroom, or even doing homework. There’s a lot of other stuff going on. Delayed gratification is never the ONLY thing that is happening.

— Daydreaming about future success should be kept to a minimum. I spent waaaay too much time in my 20s dreaming about being rich. Driving fancy cars. Dating beautiful women.

But I wasn’t actually doing much of anything.

A little of this, a little of that. But nothing that mattered. Mostly getting high and watching movies, if I were to be honest.

I don’t know what I expected to happen with this lifestyle. Was somebody going to knock on my door one day and say, “Wow, you’re really special. Here’s a shitload of money!”

— Don’t get me wrong, dreams are important. We NEED the dream. Eyes on the prize, baby. But without delayed gratification, without tangible effort and forward progress, those dreams aren’t going to come true. They might as well be fantasies.

Dreams are something that could happen. Fantasies are things that can’t happen.

— Think of delayed gratification as planned debauchery.

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