August 16, 2010

Can't Wait

Back in the 60’s, researchers experimented on four year old children. They offered them one marshmallow immediately, or two marshmallows if they could hold out for several minutes. Those who held out could delay gratification. Those who couldn’t were like me.

Now, I didn’t do the test, but I can tell you exactly what would have happened if I had. I would have waited till the experimenter’s back was turned and scoffed down that whole packet of marshmallows. (Okay, that’s not exactly true. I don’t like marshmallows. But if it had been spoonfuls of Nutella I would have eaten the whole jar.)

Today, as an adult, I’m exactly the same. I am hopeless at delaying gratification. When I decide to purchase an item of clothing, for example, I need to have it right then and there. Bear in mind, this isn’t about being a shopaholic princesss. I actually don’t buy myself a lot of clothes. But when I do decide I need something new – say my favourite jeans are falling apart and I need another new pair – I have to buy them NOW. I can’t delay. If I have jobs to do, or kids to look after, or meals to cook, or a house to clean, they must wait until my mission has been completed. I cannot rest, I cannot focus, until I’ve gone out and bought my jeans.

Obviously, because of this problem, I can’t do lay by. Even if I don’t intend to wear the purchase straight away, even if lay by is the more sensible financial option, I need to have them in my possession. And if I’m not financially flush I’d rather put them on credit card than pay them off over a period of weeks.

Of course, I have experienced lay-by. Once. It was autumn, I needed a jacket, I’d found the perfect one, and my sister forced me to put it on lay-by as an exercise in delayed gratification. “You must learn to wait,” she told me.”It’ll be good for you.” So I agreed.
I paid the deposit and went home thinking about the jacket. And thought. And thought. And, after a night of agitation, I ran back to the store the following morning, paid the balance, and took my jacket home. I couldn’t wear it for weeks for fear my sister would discover what I’d done, but I felt comforted just knowing it was there in my closet.

My inability to delay gratification extends to all areas of my life. I eat dinner as the main course is still cooking, and when I say 'dinner', I actually mean 'dessert'. I read the last chapter of books when I’m halfway through (which kind of defeats the purpose of reading the middle). I Google the endings of movies I'm about to see. And I bite my nails, because I can't wait for them to grow. I'm sure I'm missing out on all the marvellous bounty of savouring the anticipation, but unfortunately, that's just not the way I'm built. Shameful, I know.

So am I alone? Can you delay gratification? Or are we just a generation of Need-It-Nows???

23 comments:

  1. Very interesting. I imagine what happened to people during their childhood great affects this.

    Right now I can wait. For most things. I can wait until DVDs come down in price, for example. But for about 5% of DVDs (or games) I will pre-order and pay the full price for them.

    When younger, I couldn't - but I had to - and it drove me almost mad. I was never handed out extra money for anything and was forced to save up --- ever so slowly. I remember saving for a whole year to buy a new disc drive for my computer.

    On reflection, what this has turned me into is a hoarder. I now buy more games+DVDs than I can play. But at least I get them all at a good price. There are no winners here it appears!

    ReplyDelete
  2. The idea of delaying gratification brings me out in a light sweat. No way, not ever. I wish I could. I dearly, dearly wish I could. I think it stems from being born into a large family where you have to grab it or it's gone...

    ReplyDelete
  3. It probably comes from the instant gratification mentality which has become entrenched in our culture.
    Personally speaking, I can be very impatient. But I also like to plan things, so if I want to buy some jeans I prefer not to just walk into a shop and purchase them straight away. I will need to thinik out what sortof jeans I would like, look at different places etc.
    Maybe I'm just indecisive ;)

    ReplyDelete
  4. somekindofwonderfulAugust 16, 2010 at 6:34 PM

    I scrolled to the end of this blog to see how it ended halfway through! :)

    I'm totally in your camp. I'm so unbelievably in need of gratification. If I want chocolate, then I can't do anything til I have it. If I want to go on holidays, I want to go now.

    Aaah, I wonder what all the patient people do?

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm one of them ones that can wait cause money use to be tight in our family & to me its more rewarding knowing I can get it on a sale/layby or that then pay full price for it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm with Maxabella. I grew up in a large family which was the equivalent of a "you snooze, you lose" philosophy.
    I mean, what if the jacket you had wanted was sold in the meantime or what if you were invited unexpectedly to a social event and needed the jacker RIGHT NOW?
    And OMG "SNAP" on googling the ends of movies. Me too!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Delayed gratification is the best gratification of all. Guess it comes with getting older. I desperately want an iPad, but can wait as I don't need one YET, but also I can sit out the trialling, as in iPhone 4 issues, in case there are any; yes, I doubt it too. I'm trying to bolster my argument.

    Delayed gratification is sweeter, rather than 'gimme, gimme, gimme'

    ...sigh...guess I'm getting old

    ReplyDelete
  8. Despite coming from Maxabella's large family, I'm quite into delayed gratification. Things are so much more fabulous when you wait for them. But there's a fine line between the sweet delay of gratification and the anticlimactic blahness of waiting until the moment has passed.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Parts of my childhood were quite impoverished, as was periods in my later life. Then there was the years I was travelling and all my money went on experiences rather than material things. So yeah, I'm used to waiting. At least if it's something for me ... I refuse to pay full price and will wait for it to go on special. If it's something that the kids need though, I don't wait. My brothers and I both find it difficult to resist a special - which can be bad and good - and we find it difficult to get rid of stuff in case we need it some day!

    ReplyDelete
  10. OK, here I go. I am a Virgo (in the sense of self-appointed perfectionist), and I hate getting surprises (unskilled at faking gratitude). So, 20 years ago I decided to buy all of my own gifts and place them in The Box. Come birthday, Christmas, Fathers Day, the family chooses something from The Box which *they* would like to give me. The Box is well-stocked with DVDs, CDs, books and magazines. The longest delay of gratification for me was a comedy CD, for which I waited 5 years. I can confidently say that every gift for the last 20 years has been exactly what I wanted, and every one brings a beaming smile to my face.

    The only non-Box surprise they are allowed to give me is chocolate, to which I express undelayed gratification in the form of undelayed consumption. #chocwarrior

    ReplyDelete
  11. I just want to comment but I hate that word verification step you have to go through - talk about delaying gratitude

    ReplyDelete
  12. I can do both. Sometimes there is no way I can wait. But for certain things the delay is a complete joy.

    Can I also say the concept - just the concept, let alone the reality - of 'the box' makes me really really sad. Part of the joy is letting the gift giver surprise you. If they get it right well great and if they don't well that's alright too.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I am soooooo a non-delayed gratification person - I feel ashamed by it :). I understood & am there with you on this Kerri. Is there a "group" we could start? No, that wouldn't work because we'd have to wait...ummm I know I'll pretend I can "wait" ...nah I can't even do that.
    I am not able to answer as to WHY I am like this but here are some thoughts
    1. I am the elder of 2 children, and I have a brother.
    2. I like to be "in control" of EVERYTHING
    3. Going with the flow, shmoe ...
    4. Gotta have it syndrome - am sadly addicted to new products which have an i in front of them (exception is iRon)
    5.and must have them as soon as they are released

    I am not interested in further commenting now as I'm waiting to see if any of my comments on other blogs have brought replies. see ya- I'll be back !!

    ReplyDelete
  14. LOVING these comments. Thank god they came through quickly.....

    ReplyDelete
  15. LOL That's what I'm like. It's now or never. I hate waiting

    ReplyDelete
  16. I remember seeing this test at uni and finding it ever so fascinating. I can delay it in some areas, particularly reading books - no way am I reading the last chapter before I'm at the last chapter! My dad reads the last chapter and I was appalled when he told me he did. Reading a book in order is sacred to me, I was so shocked to find out other people don't!

    However, when it comes to food there is never any delay. I must have it now, and by now I mean five minutes ago!

    ReplyDelete
  17. My name is Trish ... I am in the instant gratification club too.I am so glad I am not alone.

    I cannot layby either and I read the last chapter before I finish the middle ...I like spoilers ! though I don't Google them.

    I can wait for some things though ... like Lousie said to experience that complete joy sometimes =].
    I even give my kids clothes/presents early because I can't wait for their birthday (I am setting myself up BIG time)

    I am going to test my 4yr twins today (yes I have marshmallows hnady and they love them)

    ReplyDelete
  18. Yes, yes! Instant gratification, so I can get back to the computer. Are we talking about the same thing?.......

    ReplyDelete
  19. Lay-by? What is this lay-by?? ;)

    ReplyDelete
  20. I am soooooo a non-delayed gratification person - I feel ashamed by it :). I understood & am there with you on this Kerri. Is there a "group" we could start? No, that wouldn't work because we'd have to wait...ummm I know I'll pretend I can "wait" ...nah I can't even do that.
    I am not able to answer as to WHY I am like this but here are some thoughts
    1. I am the elder of 2 children, and I have a brother.
    2. I like to be "in control" of EVERYTHING
    3. Going with the flow, shmoe ...
    4. Gotta have it syndrome - am sadly addicted to new products which have an i in front of them (exception is iRon)
    5.and must have them as soon as they are released

    I am not interested in further commenting now as I'm waiting to see if any of my comments on other blogs have brought replies. see ya- I'll be back !!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Delayed gratification is the best gratification of all. Guess it comes with getting older. I desperately want an iPad, but can wait as I don't need one YET, but also I can sit out the trialling, as in iPhone 4 issues, in case there are any; yes, I doubt it too. I'm trying to bolster my argument.

    Delayed gratification is sweeter, rather than 'gimme, gimme, gimme'

    ...sigh...guess I'm getting old

    ReplyDelete
  22. somekindofwonderfulApril 21, 2011 at 12:00 PM

    I scrolled to the end of this blog to see how it ended halfway through! :)

    I'm totally in your camp. I'm so unbelievably in need of gratification. If I want chocolate, then I can't do anything til I have it. If I want to go on holidays, I want to go now.

    Aaah, I wonder what all the patient people do?

    ReplyDelete
  23. I'm one of them ones that can wait cause money use to be tight in our family & to me its more rewarding knowing I can get it on a sale/layby or that then pay full price for it.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks! Love hearing from you.

Like it? Share it!