Recently I came across some psychology literature that caught my attention. The author, well-known psychiatrist Scott M. Peck, points out that one of the most important skills we can teach our children, and also practice as adults is delaying gratification. By getting the pain over with first we set ourselves up to experience greater and more satisfying pleasure (Peck, 1978).
He also talks about instilling this skill into our children as early as possible is imperative – one of the most important things we can teach them. In the Marshmallow Study (hilarious) we can see how even children who are quite young have learned (or not) how to delay gratification and practice self-discipline… sometimes by using whatever means necessary.
In another vein he links this also to procrastination. For those of us who procrastinate, we are all too familiar with putting ourselves through easily avoided and unnecessary prolonged discomfort (Peck, 1978). If you’ve ever procrastinated you know that when you avoid the less pleasant task, whatever else you chose to do is never all that enjoyable because you can literally feel the burden of that which you are avoiding hanging over your head. Not to mention the fact that we often use more energy in our efforts to avoid the task rather than just getting it done and over with! What is it about being human that leads us to insist on torturing ourselves?
That being said, it’s not surprising that people (children, teenagers, and adults) who are better at delaying gratification, are more self-disciplined, and are less impulsive are likely to be more successful and satisfied with school, work, and relationships (Peck, 1978).
So you can have your cake, but just eat the frosting last!