Delayed gratification, a pleasurable approach

One of  the worst and the best things about being in Peace Corps, is you get to experience delayed gratification (DG) at a whole new level. So many things you once took for granted are out of your reach, but not your mind. It’s easy to find yourself day-dreaming about your favorite foods, speedy wireless, prime-time American TV, jumping into your own car and hundreds of other things you gave little thought to in the past.

The good news is: pleasure is in the mind of the beholder. Doing without can be a great way to go within. And, oddly enough the wait for a specific treat, item or service can end-up being even more rewarding than the item or service being craved!

We’ve touched on delayed gratification before, remember the famous marshmallow test with kids? Well, just for fun, I’m suggesting you create mini-marshmallow tests of your own in January with a twist – you don’t get to pick the circumstances, you just get to respond to them. I call these sweet treats “Forced Delayed Gratification”.

The next time, you are dying for something or impatiently waiting – instead of focusing on your desire or discomfort, simply say to yourself, “Oh, this is a Forced Delayed Gratification. Hmm, what are my options here?”

By asking a question, you pull yourself into the moment and away from the situation. Your brain immediately jumps to your aide and begins releasing different hormones and chemicals, which may start connecting to new neurons: Broaden and Build vs Flight or Fight. One little question can flip a switch in your brain and start you on an entirely new neural path.

So, what happens after you question your options? That’s up to you. You can go to step two: “Well, I could . . . ” and see where that leads you – or you can return to your original state of mind. The choice is yours, and here’s the clincher, the choice is always yours. You get decide what you want and need, and how you feel about getting or not getting it!

Try some Forced Delayed Gratifications in the days ahead. With a bit of practice, you’ll be astounded how little you really need to be happy and content and how quickly you can move from one state of mind to another. And, remember the goal is not necessarily to do without, but to spend a few minutes going within. We’re delaying gratification not denying it; I’ll be enjoying a big plate of barbecue ribs and watching the premier of Downton Abbey before you know it!

One comment

  1. Just a few hours after writing this, I took my own advice while standing on an extra-crowded bus and fighting a bout of motion sickness. The bus was jerking to a stop every few minutes, causing people to smash into one other as they desperately tried to hang on and keep from falling. Tempers and Georgian voices were rising. Adding to the general frustration level onboard was the driver’s habit of blaring his horn every time he stopped; thought another vehicle might not stop; or decided that a pedestrian should not have the right-away. Five minutes into a 45-minute ride that ended-up taking an hour, I decided to approach this as a Forced DG.

    I realized the gratification I was seeking – a quiet ride and a calmer stomach – were not in my immediate future, so I asked myself, “What could I do about it now?” I decided since my time in Georgia was slipping by – I have less than three weeks left, I would re-adjust my attitude and my footing and find a way to wedge myself between two other passengers so I could face forward (better on the stomach) and still be able to look out the window to enjoy the ornate architecture we were passing by on Rustavelli Avenue, the main street in the center of Tbilisi. Within seconds I was enjoying the view, and moments later realized how lucky I was to be in the Peace Corps, living in Georgia, with a front-row seat, so to speak, of a former Soviet Socialist Republic restructuring itself.

    When my focus shifted from what I had, and not what I didn’t have, (Broaden and Build) I noticed that it might actually be possible to score a seat even though we were still packaged in like sardines. I began watching who was moving and when and combined that knowledge with how many folks were getting off at a stop. If enough people surged the doors, it created chaos in one direction, but sometimes left an opening in the other direction. Minutes later I had a real front row seat, and was once again enjoying the view.

    Enjoy a Forced DG or two, and let me know how it works for you.


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