Delaying Gratification (part one)

This past week I had an interview to work on writing a manuscript for a man – the topic of which was his life’s work on what I understood to be his thoughts on understanding life and how to live.  Despite his strong interest in hiring me and my strong interest in being involved in this project, other concerns mean a partnership probably won’t happen.

Although I was initially disappointed that things didn’t work out the way we had hoped, I quickly realized what did transpire was more than worthwhile.  Not only did I have an interesting and stimulating conversation with the man, but I also had the growth and experience of researching, receiving advice from other  writers, and figuring out the ins and outs of what goes into a contract for ‘ghostwriting’ of this nature.

I think most importantly, however, was the book I picked up on this gentleman’s recommendation.  I’m not very far into The Road Less Traveled  by M. Scott Peck but already it’s stimulating some great thought and introspection.

“Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with .  It is the only decent way to live.”- Peck

One of the concepts that really stands out to me talks about discipline and the notion of delaying gratification.  When you think about it, it’s a pretty simple concept but I know myself, and probably many of you, often don’t exercise the discipline of delaying gratification and, as a result, don’t receive the rewards.

As a simple example, Peck (who is a psychiatrist), mentions a patient who hated that she procrastinated so much on the job. Her habit was to do the tasks she enjoyed most in the first hour or two then spend the rest of the day putting off the stuff she didn’t like.  He said that if she forced herself to get through the unpleasant stuff right away she would be able to look forward to and have the rest of the day free to enjoy the tasks she loved. He suggested that “one hour of pain followed by six of pleasure was preferable to one hour of pleasure followed by six of pain.” Seems pretty obvious – and yet . . .

How often do we put off something we could just do, then be done with it and instead spend the whole day or week or month never fully enjoying all the pleasurable things of life because in the back of our mind we know that undesirable little task is still waiting for us.  How much energy does this waste and joy does this steal?

Tasks are one thing, and bad enough, but we do this with problems too and, if we do this, not only will the problems remain and likely grow like the energy sucking and mentally taxing parasites that most problems are but, says Peck (and I can see it on some level in myself) it can manifest as some pretty unpleasant behaviours – namely neuroses and character disorders.

In the interest of keeping these posts a reasonable length – tune in for more on this tomorrow!

In the meantime – any thoughts, experiences, or anecdotes you care to share on either exercising the discipline of delaying gratification or ignoring it?

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