I’ll Do It When…

“Instant gratification is not soon enough.” ~ Meryl Streep

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 isย 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Will you be healthy enough?ย 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.

26 thoughts on “I’ll Do It When…

  1. If procrastination were an Olympic event I’d probably medal; if I decided to actually go and attend the event. I’m trying to be more proactive and do things immediately, but old habits are hard to break.

  2. For me delayed pleasures are often inevitable because as you state Eric; life does have a habit of getting in the way!
    I have never been good at waiting and am probably thought impulsive by some? However…there is something to be said about doing things now; while you are still fit and able.
    I think though that if you are not with someone who is of similar thinking, then despite your best efforts… they can demotivate you and make you question “Is it worth the effort?”
    Often people put up so many obstacles as to why they shouldn’t act now and instead wait until later; that your own enthusiasm is dampened as there argument becomes more persuasive.
    Even if you do eventually convince this person that it is in fact a good idea, their difference in attitude can become overwhelming!
    Even making you wish you hadn’t bothered in the first place?
    So yes, Meryl does indeed have a valid point, but maybe she has a slightly different lifestyle than most to be able to quantify such a remark!

    • Each of us has our own unique challenges, right Bob? From what you’ve shared it sounds as if you have accumulated awareness about your own situation(s). In the end, it is almost always about choice. The question often becomes, are we willing to take action that aligns with what matters most to us. Sometimes at a cost.

  3. I love the way you’ve switched this around Eric. I was at a point where I kept on delaying or putting off something I wanted to do. Eventually I simply did it. Can I say I can’t remember a time when I was as happy as I am now. I simply did it and its been marvellous. Great post. Thank you

    • Thanks, Don. Twists are usually not my communication or presentation style. I typically speak and write pretty straight forward. I’m not that creative a writer to cleverly (at least intentionally) rearrange a message. I’m glad to make the points and have readers take from what is shared, if anything. I’m warmed to learn that you chose to simply do something that yielded a good outcome.

  4. I am glad I have gone on some pretty spontaneous trips, and have another one coming up which I decided on rather ‘impulsively’ too =) I agree with you that it all boils down to making intentional choices. Not putting off certain things does not mean one lacks impulse control. We can be deliberate and impulsive at the same time. Carpe diem!

  5. Hi Eric, I was thinking about gratification today and how wonderful a feeling it is. I recently completed some university study – it was challenging and at times I wanted to quit but I persevered. My main outcome is the gratification I feel for completing the course :-).
    PS I enjoyed your post.

    • Persistence pays. So does perseverance, Rainee. Well done on completing the course. Adding the smile to your comment tells that you are worthy of being gratified. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  6. Some impulses should not be “controlled.” And some delayed gratification is not that at all but rather procrastination or delaying tactics or even denial. Thanks for raising the complexities of this issue.

  7. So do we really possess the clarity to determine what we really really need? As we know this, we can lump all else into the category of ‘non essential’ tasks. If we see the urge to gain instant gratification for non-essential activities, what does that tell you?


    • I believe some people do possess said clarity, Shakti. Yet, I’m unsure all else becomes “non-essential.” Is compartmentalizing or categorizing ‘things’ directly related to matters of impulse control and gratification? Interesting questions you present.

  8. Delayed action also gives us leeway to think about the alternatives which time allows us to have. Impulsive actions on the spur can compound our problems, sometimes.

    • I don’t disagree about there being advantages/benefits to deferring/delaying. The purpose of this post was to share a perspective that supports choosing to not delay gratification. Such decisions have merit and value both ways. I believe we’re on the same wavelength here. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Valid points you bring up, Eric! I suppose I’ll settle with the idea that you should “do it – if it’s possible*” because some things are a process and there isn’t always a way to get right into it. Take becoming a doctor, for example, only because it’s fresh on my mind. Believe me, I’d love to jump right into it but that’s not possible because various laws and requirements make it an 8-10 year process. So in such a case, someone who exercises delayed gratification would likely fare better throughout the whole journey than someone who couldn’t wait to get to the end.

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