I’ve been reading about stress management and a factor that contributes to stress, namely, impulse control. Impulse control is defined as the ability to resist or delay an impulse, drive, or temptation to act. It entails a capacity for accepting one’s aggressive impulses, being composed, and controlling aggression, hostility, and irresponsible behavior. Many people have been or are still challenged by impulsive tendencies and actions.
Soon I found myself reading about an interrelated issue: immediate versus deferred or delayed gratification (which to me, was much more interesting than studying impulse control). The more I searched, though, the more lop-sided I found the gratification topic. There seems an abundance of studies and writing about delayed gratification and how it can change your approach to many things in life. However, one has to dig deeper to find comparable arguments favoring immediate gratification or for ‘doing it now.’
Many people advocate ‘a pleasure delayed is a pleasure enhanced.’ The advantage, they believe, is that delayed gratification is an excellent way to weed out the fake pleasures of life from the true. These same people expand upon and caution about opportunity costs and the need for careful deliberation. And they raise valid considerations.
Readers of this blog know that I encourage conscious and intentional choice. I’ve worked with a fair share of clients who invoke sayings such as, “I’ll do it when I finish…” or “I’ll finally go when I…” or “When my kids ______, then I’ll…”
It is a choice. When you choose to act is measurably, if not entirely, up to you. Right? Unfairly though, people who choose not to delay gratification have often been characterized as irrational and as having poor impulse control. This is untrue according to researchers at the Colorado University-Boulder, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience.
I’ll leave you with three reasons why you may want to reconsider what you’re choosing to delay or defer:
- You could die first. Actuarial tables say that roughly 17% of men will die between age 25 and 65. Will you be one of them? It’s a gamble you take. For women, the odds are better, but there’s still roughly a 10% chance you’ll die from the age of 25 to 65.
- Life gets in the way. Life has a way of getting more complicated as you get older. You could marry someone who doesn’t want to travel or your current partner may decide they don’t want to. You could end up having to take care of your parents as they age. In short, a thousand things could change, making it harder for you to do what you want at a later date.
- Will you be healthy enough? Our health can often take a turn for the worse as we age. Anxious to go on a walkabout through the Australian Outback or hike up the Acropolis? You may want to do things when you’re healthy enough.
Perhaps Ms. Steep, in her opening quote, is on to something.