Delayed gratification, a pleasurable approach?

I’ve updated this post, which I originally wrote  five years ago. It still rings true and was a great reminder for me when I read it this week. Hope it is for you, too.

One of the worst and the best things about being in Peace Corps, is you get to experience delayed gratification at a entirely new level. So many things you once took for granted are out of your reach, but not out of your mind. It’s easy to find yourself day dreaming about your favorite foods, TV shows, movies, stores, restaurants and hundreds of other things that were always there for you.

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 situation. Hmm, what are my options here?”

By asking a question, you pull yourself into the moment (within) 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 pathway.

So, what happens after you question your options?

You realize you have lots more options! You can try a distraction technique and begin looking around to notice your surroundings. This will start you down another new mental path as you begin noticing the who, what when, where of the moment.

Or, you can spend a few minutes thinking about something special that happened to you in the past, or something special you are anticipating in the future. This option may sound  silly, but it is much more relaxing and mentally rewarding than feeling stressed, impatient or deprived, and it can actually begin building new positive neural pathways in your brain, which , overtime, can lead to all sorts of positive benefits.

The choice is yours, and here’s the clincher, the choice is always yours. You can flip the switch in your brain anytime. Just like a toddler, your brain can be redirected with a little creativity and gentle nudging.

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!

( From 2006-20013, I served three times in the United States Peace Corps and practiced forced delayed gratification almost daily, which gave me plenty of time for positive reverie and new adventures! It was a true blessing in disguise and one I quickly learned to embrace. To read more a bit about my adventures, click here, here, and here!)

You can do it!

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