Hello. I don’t know if you remember me, but I’m Carol’s brother, Walter. I would like to use my turn on Wordless Wednesday to discuss a concept that I think has been lost in our fast-paced, “me, me, me,” “now, now, now” culture: Delayed Gratification.
For the impulsive among you, delayed gratification is the ability to resist a reward in the immediate in exchange for a future reward. The future reward may be greater than the immediate reward, but not necessarily. Personally, I find that, often, the reward lies in the wait.
Cats are notoriously terrible at delaying gratification.
As an example, every night when I “go to my house” to sleep, my moms give me a biscuit smothered with peanut butter. Rather than attack that biscuit with a vengeance, as my gluttonous brother Sherman does, I let the biscuit sit. All night I keep an eye on that biscuit. Taking a page out of Buddhist philosophy, I contemplate the biscuit’s color and texture. I imagine how much I will savor the creamy peanut butter as it sticks to the roof of my mouth. After dawn breaks and I go outside for my morning constitution, I return to eat the biscuit with a renewed sense of gratitude, contemplating each bite.
In contrast, Sherman gobbles down his peanut butter biscuit in two seconds then spends the entire night coveting mine. Dr. Sigmund Freud, my idol [much to Little Mom’s chagrin], would say that Sherman has an under-developed Superego which is too weak to curb his impulsive, pleasure seeking Id. I concur.
The ability to delay gratification is correlated with increased patience, higher intelligence, impulse control, and a commitment to completing tasks. All traits that I possess [until someone gets too close to one of my chewies – then I demonstrate poor behavioral judgment].
A recent study, adding a twist to the original, now-famous 1972 Marshmallow Experiment (where children were offered one marshmallow now or two marshmallows if they could wait 15 minutes), revealed that impulse control is affected not only by nature, but also by nurture. Young humans that found themselves in an unreliable environment [one where someone could steal your chewy at any moment?] did not trust the future reward would be available and hence were less likely to delay receiving an immediate reward. Very interesting. I must say that if Sherman and I shared a crate at night, I would devour my biscuit straight away!
If delaying gratification pains you, here are some strategies to make the challenge, well, less challenging:
- Distract yourself. Get your mom to play fetch with you. Bark at the neighbor. Chase birds. Chase your sister. Think about something else, anything else. Whatever you do, DON’T think about what it is that you really, really want RIGHT NOW.
- I’m all out of ideas. What do you do to curb your impulses?
I hope this week’s Wordless Wednesday has been enlightening [more so, at least, than Sherman’s dribble about “his” chewies and poor Eggnog’s lamentations about having to share OUR moms’ bed]. Thank you for reading!