Delaying gratification

Anthony Pica headshot
Anthony Pica
Read in 

Delaying gratification

Delaying gratification

Over the weekend, I pulled the last yellow tomato from my garden. It's my favorite kind, so I was looking forward to eating it with a slice of mozzarella.

But instead of enjoying the final fruit, I extracted the seeds so I could sow them next season and grow more.

I then thought of the infamous marshmallow test. In 1972, psychologist Walter Mischel offered toddlers a choice: they could eat one marshmallow immediately or wait for some time and enjoy two marshmallows.

I believe that the key to success is the ability to defer gratification to the future.

  • We study in school - when it would be more fun to play video games.
  • We search for jobs - while we could be watching Netflix.
  • We launch new startups - despite having comfortable 9-5 jobs.
  • We build innovative products - even though the status quo is comfortable.

It's human nature to want instant gratification. But often it's at the detriment of positive outcomes in the future.

"With our bad habits, the immediate outcome usually feels good, but the ultimate outcome feels bad. With good habits, it is the reverse: the immediate outcome is unenjoyable, but the ultimate outcome feels good." —James Clear

I'm learning how to play ukulele. It sucks to practice: my fingers hurt, I can't play a full song yet, and it feels like a waste of time. But I know once I build up calluses and can play a song, it'll be a wonderful way to relax and sing and play with my son.

The ability to delay gratification is a common trait among successful people. As leaders, we work on longer timeframes, creating visions for the future. We invest time and energy now to build new products that will change peoples' lives one day.

We sow the seeds of success today to reap the gratifying rewards tomorrow.

What's something you're currently working on that will create success in the future?

You might also like...

No items found.

Join: Work Smart, Lead Better.

Liked this article? No more than once per week, I send a newsletter containing one idea you can use to work smarter and be a better leader. Core themes: strategy, collaboration, and mental fitness.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.