How to Delay Gratification and Get What You Want Most in Life
There’s a timeless principle that is equated with having success in any and every area of your life, and that principle is one known as delayed gratification. It’s a common theme in success books and most people recognize it to be true in just about every other area of life except for sex. Everything from getting in great physical shape, to saving to buy a home, to climbing the corporate ladder to getting our dream job. Whatever it is you are after there is one thing for certain….good things come to those who wait.
Delayed Gratification is defined as the ability to resist a smaller but more immediate reward in order to receive a larger or more enduring reward later.
Delayed Gratification was maybe best modeled in a study in the 1960’s by a Stanford Professor by the name of Walter Mischel. During the study, he left a group of 653 children 4 to 6 years of age in a room alone with a marshmallow while he ran a short task. Each child was told that if they could wait 15 minutes they could have two marshmallows when he returned. Some children were able to wait the 15 minutes, but most were not; about 70% of the children ate the marshmallow the moment the professor walked out of the room! What’s really interesting is that when they interviewed the same kids fourteen years later, they found the ones that were able to wait the 15 minutes were more dependable, self-motivated and had done significantly better with grades throughout high-school; with no exceptions. Further studies revealed that the children that were able to delay eating the first marshmallow predicted higher SAT scores and a lower BMI (body mass index) 30 years later! Not only did they fare better academically, earn more money, and were healthier and happier, they avoided negative outcomes such as jail time, obesity and drug use.
So are you a marshmallow now or a marshmallow later person? When it came to most things, but especially sex, I was always the kid that ate the marshmallow as soon as the nice man walked out of the room. I figured if there was another marshmallow in the future I would figure out a way to get that one later, the only problem was I usually didn’t.
This study reveals a few things, namely that the ability to delay gratification has powerful implications in all areas of our life. It’s funny that when it comes to sex this is the one area we try and pretend that it isn’t true. I often challenge people that debate me on the subject to name one thing in all of life where instant gratification produces long-term fulfillment. Of course, they never can. So then, how does one develop the willpower in order to just say no...or at least not right now when it comes to sex? I speak from personal experience when I tell you that developing willpower in this area, like every other area of your life, is a choice. The very first thing you must do is decide what you want most in life. Do you want to get married, have a family, maybe you just want a best friend that you’re physically attracted to? Decide! Next reverse engineer what it will take to get there and make a commitment come hell or high water to do whatever it takes. I don’t mean a half way maybe I will, maybe I won’t kind of thing but a real hand to the man decision. Dig your heels in and set your face like flint and don’t go back on it at any cost. My life coach Lori Lockemy is the person that helped me get a clear vision for my life and it made making the right decisions a lot easier. Don’t get me wrong, it was still extremely difficult. At first thoughts of sex and past experiences literally bombarded my mind. Over time though these things slowly went away. Because the vision was so clear and I wanted to get there so bad I was willing to go through the pain.
Don’t eat the stew
There's a story in the Bible about two brothers by the names of Jacob and Esau. The story goes that Jacob was the younger brother and one day when his older brother was hungry he swindled Esau out of his birthright for a bowl of stew. Later in the Bible, a writer connects sex outside of marriage to that story. It says no one should be “sexually immoral’ or Godless like Esau who traded his birthright for a bowl of stew.” Hebrews 12:16
The first time I read this I was like why in the hell would the writer be comparing sex before marriage to the story of Jacob and Esau? But the more I thought about it the more I understood it. Imagine the scene, Esau comes in after a long day of sheep herding (or whatever they did back then), and he is starving! His brother has something that smells amazing cooking on the stove. Esau wants it, he needs it, he has to have it. So his brother says, “sure you can have some, just trade me your birthright”, and Esau, like a dumb animal, agrees. Now how long did that bowl of stew satisfy him? A few hours, a half a day max? And then guess what? He was hungry again! The birthright, on the other hand, would have satisfied him his whole life. It would've been a blessing to him until the day he died. But he traded it for something that only satisfied him temporarily because he couldn't wait, he never learned to control his appetite and therefore lost his long-term blessing. Now I'm not sure if you believe the Bible to be true or not but I think there's some truth in the story that we can extract from the story, namely don’t eat the stew!
My favorite definition of “Failure” is giving up what you want most for what you want right now. This is a pretty good example of that. How often do we trade what we want most for what we want right now when it comes to sex and relationships?
Delaying gratification is like a muscle, exercised over time (as you make good choices), it gets stronger and your willpower gets strengthened to say no to things that may be holding you back from those long-term goals, or that perfect mate...you know, the things you really want most in life? The more you do it the easier it becomes. What I also learned from experience is, the ability to delay gratification works the other way too. If you don’t exercise self-control then you will lose even what you do have. We have a saying in the gym that refers to strength when lifting weights, use it or lose it. If you don’t exercise that muscle, even the strength that you do have will go away. Each time you resist, the next time it becomes a little easier to say no to.
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:
“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
”It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you–and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
So be careful which wolf you are feeding. You always have a choice.
So what is one good decision you can make right now? More than likely it’s something you’ve been thinking about doing for awhile, pull the trigger! There is no time like the present. If you want accountability post a comment the Why Waiting Works Community and tell me and others what it is and we will do our best to hold you to it.
There are two types of pain in this world, the pain of discipline and the pain of regret. The pain of discipline is temporary the pain of regret lasts forever. Either way, there will be pain. Embrace the pain of discipline so this isn’t you: “At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. You will say, ‘How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction!” Proverbs 5:12
In the coming weeks leading up to Why Waiting Works being released, I will be writing more blog posts sharing my experiences and observations. I will also be posting excerpts from the book to help shed some light on a very misunderstood, but vital to understand subject; in the hopes of helping people gain clarity into the practicality of waiting to have sex until marriage. Stay tuned.