Sunday, March 30, 2014

Delayed Gratification

Lately one of my most important questions I ask myself is "Will this make me happy or not?"

There is a quote often displayed that says something to the effect of "Don't sacrifice what you want most (mine is happiness) for what you want most in the moment." Recently I have grown to appreciate how true and profound this statement is.

One of the keys to happiness is continual self improvement. Self-improvement requires us to make the choice to self-improve and this choice is one that often derives down to the choice of delaying gratification. Do I want to be entertained now or do I want to be happy later? Those who are able to choose the latter seem to be typically more successful, educated, respected, and have higher self-esteem. More importantly they typically are happier.

What makes self-improvement hard is that it is often not immediately gratifying. Currently I am studying for the GMAT so I can go to grad school. This is one of the ways in which I am trying to self-improve. However, I often find it hard to study because studying isn't all that immediately gratifying. It's not all that fun. What is immediately gratifying is checking Facebook, texting someone, playing a game on my phone, taking a quiz to find out which character from Lord of the Rings I am, watching a funny Youtube video, turning on Sportscenter, taking a nap, and the list goes on. I am sure you could add many other activities of your own to this list. While these activities are fun and are entertaining they don't actually make anyone happy, at least not for sustained periods of time. While these activities are not inherently bad, they can be abused. Some of these activities are even good but that doesn't mean they are the best activities to be doing.

On the extreme end of the spectrum of immediate gratification we have drugs, alcohol, pornography, and giving in to strong negative emotions like greed, lust, envy, anger, wrath, and pride. See the 7 deadly sins. These acts have immediate and strongly powerful gratifying and pleasureable effects but can you think of how any of these activities helped someone grow and progress in the long run? These activities also have an addictive power which makes these activities consuming and can degrade one's life. 

The best activities are often the ones that require work and don't necessarily provide immediate noticeable gratification to ourselves. These activities include but are not limited to exercising, eating healthy, studying, meditating, practicing emotional awareness, giving service, going to work, cleaning, thinking critically, and even for me writing this blogpost.

So what makes these harder and less immediately gratifying activities give greater sustained happiness? To be honest I am not sure but I think there is something to be said about the pride one can derive from self-control, which these harder activities require. I know there are more and better reasons but I will have to flesh those out with time.

I finished this blogpost, which wasn't easy. It feels good.

No comments:

Post a Comment