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Delay gratification….but it’s sunny and I want to play golf?


Every day, we find ourselves up against this somewhat challenging happening. It could be in the format of a £5 note burning a hole in your child’s pocket. You try to explain that instead of wasting it on a load of rubbish, if they save it, and wait for another few weeks they’ll have enough to buy the latest Top 10 CD they’ve been so desperate for. I’ve tried explaining this theory to my daughter, as she buys yet another packet of brightly coloured biro’s and a 5 pack of mini notepads, all items almost certain to be  found shoved under her bed within 48 hours.

Yes I can have a moan at the mini-me that is my wonderful daughter, for her lack of ability to delay gratification in this instance, but who am I to criticize? Having very kindly been given a voucher by a friend last week, I combed Top Shop for at least an hour desperate to spend it. Having tried on numerous outfits, and feeling most despondent that none suited me, and adamant to part with my voucher at the first available opportunity, I settled on a bag. The bag is beautiful, but my point is that I knew I wasn’t leaving the shop until I’d spent the voucher. I just didn’t have it in me to wait a few weeks and see what other stock may come in.

Irrelevant of my obvious lack of ability to delay gratification in this instance, I believe wholeheartedly in the concept. Surely the key to success in life is to pursue what we want most, not necessarily what we want in the here and now. So if we take the fabulous pastime of girlie shopping out of the equation and look at the bigger picture, what do we see?

Delaying gratification is about doing something we know we should do, even if it’s not what we really want to do at that moment. We know that deep down, the benefits of getting whatever it is we need to do, out of the way, will benefit us in the long run and leave us with a clear conscience to pursue other opportunities.

Take the important report that you need to produce for the board of directors that needs to be in on Friday at noon. It’s now Tuesday morning, you know it’s going to take 2 full days to get it completed, but the sun is shining, you have a spring in your step and you’ve just put down the phone on a client who has offered to take you out for the day to play golf.

You have 2 options:
Instant Gratification: You throw caution to the wind, close down your computer, grab your golf clubs and your Nike Air Zoom golfing shoes and leg it out of the company car park before your conscience kicks in. Why the rush; you’ve got until Friday to complete the report.

Delayed Gratification: You thank the client profusely, but point out that you have a deadline to meet and would it be possible to re-schedule the golf for Friday after you’ve handed in the report? Two positive things are likely to come out of this. Firstly, the client will be impressed by your commitment to your deadline. Secondly, you’ll give yourself plenty of time to produce a detailed, concise report for the directors which will probably be ready before it’s needed, leaving you free to play golf later in the week without a potential shadow hanging over your every stroke.

People who take the second option, understand the benefits of delayed gratification, and are more likely to associate hard work with higher rewards.

In the society that we now live in, delayed gratification is more important than ever. We appear to have become a ‘why wait? Have it now’ generation, with the ability to obtain anything from a pair of socks to a brand new car at the click of a button. With credit so readily available, the days of needing to save up for the latest music system are a thing of the past. Unfortunately, along with the disappearance of that distant past, is the pleasure experienced when you finally get to appreciate, that which you’ve worked hard and saved hard for.

So next time an opportunity arises, that at face value seems just too good to pass up, take another look and re-assess the situation. Will the outcome create a short term gain but a bleaker view in the long term? If so, you may want to re-consider your answer.

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