I originally wrote this post five years ago, but 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 the best and things about being in Peace Corps, is you get to experience delayed gratification 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 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 path.
So, what happens after you question your options?
That’s up to you. You can go to step two by simply looking around to notice your surroundings. This will start down another new mental path. Then say to yourself, “Well, I could . . . ” and see where that leads you – or you can return to your original state of mind – feeling stressed, impatient or deprived. 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!
(Ribs and Downton Abbey were on my mind quite often while serving in the United States Peace Corps! I served three times, from 2006-2013, to read more about some of my adventures, click here, here, and here!)
You can do it!