If you won the lottery which gave you the option of choosing between taking $5,000,000 immediately or $10,000 for week for life with the condition that you’ll only start to receive the funds a year after you’ve won, which one would you take?
There are some of us who would be quick to take the $5,000,000 immediately as “tomorrow isn’t promised.”
Others would take the $10,000 every week for life even if it means waiting a year from now.
But which option is the most ideal? Which one reaps the most reward in the long run.
We can argue that we can take option A, the $5,000,000 invest it and reap way more than $10,000 a week for life over our lifetimes.
Or we can argue that taking option B, $10,000 a week for life is better, because we can invest it gradually, steadily, averaging down over a long period of time and come out better off than option A.
Is there a right or wrong answer?
I was watching Money Heist on Netflix when I came across a particular scene that sparked the premise of this article. It compelled me to discuss this topic as it is prevalent during this day and age.
Money heist is a series about a mastermind, called “The Professor,” who recruits various people with criminal backgrounds to help him pull off one of the biggest heists in history totaling 2.4 billion euros.
He wants to rob the “Royal Mint” of Spain. In order to do so he devises a plan that contains contingency plans, intricate strategies and all sorts of psychological tricks to help him push his plan forward.
During the heist, things start to fall apart. There are loose ends that threaten to sabotage and end the heist altogether. One of these loose ends is a 1992 Ibiza, a car the professor drove and shared with the team of criminal recruits.
Before the heist, the car was suppose to be disposed off. He gave one of the criminals, Helsinki, the task of having the car crushed at a junkyard. He put 1000 euros in his hand to pay the junkyard personnel to destroy the car in front of him. This would insure that this loose end was tied up.
Instead, Helsinki decided to pocket the cash, and told the person to destroy the car. But he didn’t actually stick around to see the car get destroyed.
At one point while everything was seemingly threatening to fall apart, The Professor looks at the picture he was given of the destroyed car. He noticed hat the crushed car wasn’t the same shade as the Ibiza.
He called Helsinki and asked him if he actually saw the car get destroyed.
He said “No.”
The Professor argues that he gave him 1000 euros to give to the junkyard person to destroy it in front of him. He asked him if he pocketed the money. Helsinki confirmed that he did.
The Professor pleaded that this is a 2.4 billion euro job that he sacrificed for 1000 euros. Helsinki said something to the effect that 1000 euros is nothing to the professor but a lot to him.
This begs to question, was Helsinki justified? As Helsinki sees it, he got 1000 euros in his hand immediately to do a job that would help pull off a 2.4 billion euro heist which is not 100% guaranteed.
He took a pragmatic approach and pocketed the money.
But he screwed up.
Had he not pocketed the money he would have probably insured a cut of that 2.4 billion, which would of meant that he had 300 million euros instead of a measly 1000 euros.
Instant gratification is the achievement of immediate fulfillment of desire without deferment. In other words, you want it now, you get it now if possible.
Instant gratification is conceptualized via Sigmund Freud’s “Pleasure Principle.”
The Pleasure Principle is the motivating force behind the id that seeks immediate gratification of all desires, wants, needs, urges, impulses, etc.
The “Pleasure Principle” is also known as the “Pleasure Pain Principle.”
As mentioned above this principle states that there is a driving force that moves us to achieve our wants and needs immediately but if we were to obey it, it would have us acting out in ways that is inappropriate in the present moment.
We would seem akin to beasts if we were to just take what we want. For instance, if we were at a party and a beautiful, deliciously looking cake was sitting on the table, it would be inappropriate to just walk up to the table and swipe a chunk out of the cake before it was time to cut it.
How Does The Pleasure Principle Work?
The Id is the most basic, animalistic nature of our personality. Many refer to the Id as the “lizard brain.” It is our most primal self.
This primitive part of the self is present from birth. We need look no further than babies.
Babies are driven by Id. They must be instantly gratified when it comes to pretty much everything.
This controls a majority of behavior in children.
This is justifiable as it is necessary for their survival.
The Marshmallow Test
The Marshmallow Test, created by psychologist Walter Mischel let’s children decide between an immediate reward or, if they delay gratification, a larger reward later on.
In the study it was found that there was a correlation between a child’s ability to delay gratification and their academic success as adolescents.
Some nuance was added to the study over time which took into account the reliability of the environment.
Before I go further in delaying gratification, I want to talk about self gratification real quick.
Self gratification is the gratification of self, for self. It’s selfish.
Self gratification can happen within the confines of the group. It can also undermine the group as a whole as we saw with Helsinki in Money Heist.
I look at self gratification as a form of instant gratification which I won’t go into with too much detail.
When it comes to group dynamics, we have to be mindful of self gratification in regard to how it effects the group.
Sometimes self indulgence in ones own desires can destroy the social fabric of the group.
While many of you wouldn’t debate me on the fact that it’s better to do what’s best for the group, it’s hard to realize that within the moment two or more options present themselves, one of which is seductive when it comes to your own personal gain.
I’m including the sacrifice or compromise of denying self gratification within a group context because it is something that is overlooked a lot.
Yes we are selfish by nature. But it is for that very reason why we should reconsider going gung ho strictly for our own self interests because the big picture can be destroyed in the process.
One of the ways self-gratification is combatted, is through establishing a super ordinate goal.
A Will To “Sacrifice”
When it comes to success it’s no secret that we must sacrifice. We must give something to get something.
What we give can also be looked at as an investment. Investment is a form of delaying gratification, especially when it comes to “dividend growth investing.”
The option to take money, save it over an extended period of time in order to reap the benefits of passive income through dividend investing is truly smart and disciplined.
Dividend growth investing lines up with the Marshmallow Test. We have the choice between an immediate reward of spending the surplus of cash we have now or we can invest it for a bigger reward in the form of cash flow later.
But this same concept applies to what we do with our time.
Right now as I type this, there’s a kid who decided to forego a party to study for an important exam.
There’s also someone who’s choosing not to do drugs as they’re probably looking forward to a future career as an FBI agent.
When it comes to self gratification, there’s a leader who’s putting the needs of his team above his own selfish desires which will propel the team to success in the long run.
These are all examples of the benefits of sacrifice of instant, momentary gratification for a greater reward later on.
Delaying gratification is the hallmark of achievement. It is one of the most powerful tools we’ve evolved when it comes to human consciousness.
Delaying Instant Gratification
Now that we’ve fully laid out the mechanisms of instant gratification, let’s look at the benefits of delaying instant gratification through the lens of self-help/personal development.
We can see that delaying instant gratification is beneficial when it comes to yielding success.
But many are not willing to delay instant gratification in order to reach the goals of their choice.
I want to convince you of the value that delaying gratification brings. If you just understand the importance of delaying gratification, you’ll be successful in the long run.
Delaying instant gratification comes in the form of forgoing parties, not eating that slice of cake, not taking a dead end job instead of using that time to build a business or go to school to study a vocation, etc.
As mentioned before, delaying instant gratification is an investment in your future.
In order to delay gratification you have to be disciplined. You have to development strong will power.
There are going to be times where you will want to engage in an activity that isn’t necessarily beneficial for your goals in the long run. But you have to have the discipline to forego this activity for the greater good.
The type of person to delay gratification is a person who is so obsessed that they are willing to give up anything in order to reach it. Some of these people have the will to delay gratification in such a way that they border on being ascetics.
Here are a few practical benefits to delaying gratification:
- You gain scope of terrain—When you delay instant gratification, you’re able to get a full view of the terrain. You’re able to zoom out in order to look at all available options that are present. Rather than commit to any tempting, short term option, you allow for a fuller point of view to unfold, giving you a vantage point of options to cascade before you. For example, if you let your compulsion to pick any one specific route and a better option opens up to you, it’ll be impossible to double back to take the better path. Some times it’s better to wait it out.
- You’ll save money—Delaying gratification means you save money. You’re walking in the mall and you see something “on sale.” You want it, you can afford it but you don’t need it. Delaying gratification means that you keep that money in your pocket for something else that you might need it for in the future. In my 20s, I’ve been blessed to be endowed with a decent paying job which meant I always had money on me when my friends and I took trips to the mall. While everyone else spent their money, I kept mine tucked away. Now that I’m in my 30s, when emergencies pop up, I’m better equipped to handle them because I’ve stockpiled a bit of cash for rainy days when I was in my 20s. This frugality has led me to live much more comfortably than if I were a spendthrift in my 20s.
- You appreciate things more—When you aren’t giving into your impulses frequently, you build up discipline in your decision making. This built up discipline leads to quality thoughts about the circumstances you find yourself in. When you think rationally about these circumstances, you end up making decisions that are profitable.
- Less Regret—This is similar to the first point but this operates on an emotional level. I regret nothing. And neither should you. When you delay gratification, you aren’t letting your Id, your primal nature, control you. When you aren’t letting your primal, lower self control you, you make decisions that you won’t later regret.
- Less decision fatigue—I read/saw somewhere that Jeff Bezos only makes a few high quality decisions everyday and preferably earlier on in the day. When I first heard about this, I realized how much will power it must take to control the impulse to be dragged in every direction as the CEO of one of the largest, most important companies in the world. Delaying gratification means withholding and storing decision making energy. When you’re not compulsively giving in to gratification, which is more than likely haphazard, you’re more likely to not squander copious amounts of energy to make decisions for corrections.
How To Delay Gratification
When it comes to writing about personal development, it’s important for me to emphasize the “how to” rather than give out pure theory.
When it comes to delaying gratification you need to have two main things established:
- Your reason why—You need to have a reason or else you’re just being eccentric. Delaying gratification is mostly about having a quantifiable objective in mind. In psychology we talk about the importance of a “super originate goal” to rally people to work together. I believe in the same concept when it comes to rallying your forces to accomplish a specific task or mission. Within us resides many different forces that can take on many different “personalities.” Each of these forces have a talent. These talents need a gel that holds them together in order to serve a purpose bigger than any one solitary force. If not, they’ll seek to satisfy themselves for the sake of it(self-gratification).
- Discipline—You need to have discipline. Without discipline, delayed gratification is a joke. Discipline allows for us to channel our energy to one specific area in order to achieve a task. Similar to how a suns rays can be concentrated through a focal point of a magnifying glass to start a fire or burn a hole through an object.
The Dangers Of Delayed Gratification: A Word Of Caution
I had an associate that went Koo-Koo because he decided to take some sort of “spiritual path” that required an insane amount of delayed gratification.
All he would do is smoke marijuana and read books. He went on these extended periods of fasting, stop coming out with my friends and I, didn’t watch tv, got rid of his smart phone, stop dealing with women, the list goes on.
I say all that to say, if you’re reading this with the intent on finding out how you can be more successful, productive or happier, understand that there are limits.
You should only consume as much of this personal development stuff as required in a step wise manner.
Different stages of your life will require different pieces of information that you’ll have to ingest. You’ll have to do this with caution and be cerebral about it because some of this information isn’t for everyone.
At the end of the day, delaying gratification should be a tool, not a punishment.
It seems as if my associate was punishing himself for not “being where he thought he should be” at 32 years old and he was trying to make up for it.
Take your time, build slowly on these principles or you’ll end up resenting yourself in the long run.