Delayed gratification, aka deferred gratification. Somehow neither term sounds very fun to me. And probably to a lot of other folks in this instant access, info and connections at your fingertips world we live in, the word doesn’t sound too positive either.
Have you heard of it before? If not, let me fill you in briefly. Delayed/deferred gratification is having the ability to resist an immediate reward because you know you’ll get one (maybe even an bigger one) later down the road.
Here’s the wiki definition, which I found quite enlightening—and led to a bit of self-evaluation on my part.
Whether you’ve heard the exact term before or not, it’s a concept that you’re probably familiar with. As parents, we might be interested in the studies that prove the higher success rates of kids and adults who have mastered the skill of delayed gratification. Check out this article I found interesting: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/happiness-in-world/201207/the-power-delaying-gratification
I like that the author mentions a term I’ve used when talking about raising kids and in reference to myself: impulse control.
Sure, we’ve probably all talked with our kids about it in a general way. As in, “No, sweetie, you can’t have dessert now. You need to finish your dinner first.” Or, “I’m sure you want that toy today, but maybe you should put it on your Santa list, instead.”
But when I read the study referenced below, I took a mental step back. Had one of those “Ah-ha” moments that validated the meaning behind the saying: patience is a virtue. Something I’ve said to my girls probably far more often than they’d like.
As an individual, the self-evaluation I did after reading the wiki definition, and again after reading the study information, made me realize that even as an adult, I still struggle with delayed gratification from time to time. It’s not easy. Whether it’s the dessert I don’t need, not because it’ll ruin my dinner but because my jeans are already a little tight. Or, when I find that dress or pair of shoes I’ve just got to have, even though I’m trying to save for a writer’s conference or a family vacation.
What I loved about the article on the study is that it offers tips on how to improve your delayed gratification skills. Much like I try to do as a mom, or when I critique a fellow writer’s work, rather than simply point out how something is wrong or problematic, this article shared ideas for how I as an individual can work on improving in this area. Tips that, as a parent and as a college administrator, I can share with those around me, especially those I mentor.
The tip or trick the article offers? Distraction.
Again, it’s something I did with my kids when they were younger. When they wanted something they couldn’t, I pulled toy or snack from the diaper bag to switch their attention. But somehow, I got distracted by life and this simple trick often seemed to get lost in the shuffle. That’s when I tend to show my lack of delayed gratification skills.
So, I’ve discovered another area of my life where I can improve. Another area I can provide some insight to my kids and students.
When I want to snack on something I really shouldn’t, I’ll be practicing ways to distract myself—maybe go for a walk, or pop in an exercise video. All in the name of improving my delayed gratification skills. And at the same time, continuing with one of my new year resolutions: get healthier; lose fat, gain muscle. I’ll delay eating that cookie, trying to remind myself that a much bigger reward is feeling good about myself and being healthier all around—and fitting into that little black dress again.
It’ll be a way for me to model what I’m espousing to others. Sure, I won’t always be a perfect example of delayed gratification mastery. I know myself too well to say that. But, I’ll be working at it. And just like I tell my kids, your best effort is all anyone can ask for.
Do you have an area or an issue that requires better delayed gratification skills on your part? If so, what’s a good distraction for you to use?
I’m all for sharing distraction ideas. Let’s see what you’ve got!