- we buy something we know we can’t afford;
- we eat the chocolate cake when we know we need to lose weight;
- we put off washing our dishes because we don’t feel like doing them.
We “give in” so that we can feel good. (Scientists call this subject “self-regulation.”)
But the story doesn’t end there.
This temporary “feel good” comes at very high cost in the long-term.
I remember when I was in music school I had a 25-page paper about a classical composer due on a certain day. I put off writing the paper until the night before. Cindy, my wife now, my fiancé then, spent the whole night typing as I dictated the paper to her. What a miserable night and what a high price she paid for my procrastination. ( I deserved it—she didn’t.)
Of course, I do have an excuse. The part of the brain that regulates these things doesn’t fully develop until about age 25 and I was only 19 at the time. (If you buy that excuse, I have some land I’d like to sell you! I was just showing my immaturity.)
Save Your Desert For Last
I have always considered being able to delay gratification as a sure sign of maturity. It is one of the main differences between childish behavior and adult behavior.
Sure, that piece of cake really looks good, but do I really want to spend an extra 15 minutes at the gym because I gave in to my emotions? The mature, self-regulating person says, “I’d rather not have those extra calories. I can achieve the long-term good.”
Maturity is allowing the long-term good to outweigh the emotional attraction of the current, short-term desire.
What Is It You Want To Do?
Do you want to lose a few pounds and get back in shape?
Do you want to stop watching so much television and read good books instead?
Do you want to finish that big project that you keep putting off?
Do you want to save money ahead of time for a vacation instead of going into debt?
Be mature and let the long-term goal outweigh the emotions that seem so strong at the moment.
BTW, staying up all night writing that paper worked out well after all. It was such a bad experience that I made a vow to never do that again and I have pretty-much kept that promise. For the rest of my college career I turned in my papers before they were due and (almost) never “crammed” for an exam. My grades dramatically improved as a result.
See the long-term good.
Feel REALLY good later instead of feeling slightly good now!
Past blog postings about similar subjects: