I should never be left alone with a pound cake. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever made eye contact with a dessert so many times before in my life.
So, how am I coping with this vision of buttery loveliness, placed just above eye level on top of the refrigerator, catching my gaze all day long? Do I beat myself up for being tempted? Do I swear up and down that not a single crumb will cross my lips? Nah. I’ve been trying this: “Okay, but wait.”
Wait for it. That’s all. So far, it’s been enough.
What about my stash of dark chocolates in the cabinet or the Tastykakes my husband insists on buying? Same: just wait. Actually, I’m pretty good at resisting the Tastykakes. They never seem to be quite as tasty as they were when I was a kid.
Speaking of childhood, I played the waiting game back then, too. In fact, I’m pretty sure I reached Expert Level in Delayed Gratification, which probably only goes to show I was kind of a weird kid.
Believe it or not, though, back in the ancient days of my old-millenium childhood, few things happened at the speed of light, as they seem to do today. Waiting for things was (*gasp*) a regular part of everyday life.
Seriously, if you wanted to buy something, you had to save up your money for it. If you wanted dessert, first you had to eat every pasty lima bean on your plate. If you felt like playing with your friends, you had to hop on your bike and roam the streets, searching for evidence of them–shouts of laughter, a collection of bikes on someone’s lawn–or you actually had to ride to individual houses and gather the group, piece by piece.
Image via FreeImages/Griszka Niewiadomski
Still, as a kid, I took this waiting to another level. When I received an unexpected piece of candy or a cupcake or some other bit of deliciousness, I wouldn’t just go ahead and gobble it up. I’d hold out for as long as my willpower would allow–which probably, in hindsight, wasn’t all that long–and then, I’d eat it slowly, savor every bit, stretch out the gratification. So, yeah, I guess I was a weird kid. Still, those little treats were some of the best indulgences I’ve ever experienced. Maybe it was the lima beans beforehand, but there was some serious deliciousness happening right there.
So, when was the last time you had to wait for gratification? Been a while? It probably has, so let me help you remember how it goes. The waiting’s a bit torturous, but the anticipation is pretty sweet. When the moment arrives for you to taste that piece of cake or buy that Hawaiian shirt or giant, shiny boom box with the bass expander…that’s a pretty great moment, yes? Then, if you do it right, you can really draw out the experience, soak in every bit of its awesomeness. It might be the kind of moment you’ll never forget. This is what can happen when you wait–especially when you wait some more.
Image via Unsplash/Eric Nopanen
Waiting isn’t all about indulgences, though. As blogger James Clear says, “Success usually comes down to choosing the pain of discipline over the ease of distraction. And that’s exactly what delayed gratification is all about.” (jamesclear.com)
In his post on delayed gratification, Clear goes on to describe a series of studies conducted at Stanford and later again at the University of Rochester, known as The Marshmallow Test. Children were offered marshmallows under varying circumstances, to see how long they could delay their gratification, in hopes of receiving a greater reward. The studies (and follow-up studies) found something notable: those who felt more comfortable delaying their gratification tended to be more successful later in life.
It makes sense. If you hold off on binge watching your new favorite TV show until after you’ve finished putting together that report, you’re likely to have a better end result. If you’re willing to work hard and put in the effort to learn something well, rather than going on a marathon pub crawl, your knowledge is going to act as a stronger foundation for future learning.
Another thing about waiting? As hard as it may be at times, you can get better at it. Start small, set little goals for yourself, forget the never, evers…instead, simply remind yourself to…wait for it.
Image via pixabay/Monoar
As for me, I’m still waiting…all that delayed gratification I practiced in childhood ought to have earned me a pretty big stash of success chips. Hoping to find them and cash them in sometime soon, but for now, I have to run. There’s a pound cake nearby, begging to be noticed.