Delayed Gratification - Waiting for the Reward

Dr. Linda Hancock 14. The Fourteenth Year Self Improvement Self Improvement_And More

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We live in a world where everything is designed to give instant results.

Drive-throughs, pre-packaged food and microwaves allow us to eat in minutes without having to invest time and energy into preparation or to wait for regular cooking times. The internet provides us with information that we might otherwise have had to research in a library or gain from interviewing an expert. We don't even have to dial full telephone numbers to reach friends or family because of speed dial. Everything is designed so that we get what we want instantly, and credit cards challenge us to "buy now and pay later" even though we will pay more for the purchased items because of interest charged.

Convenience can foster impulsivity, however, and that can lead to problems. Stores that are open daily for long hours use skilled marketing to encourage people to buy items that they don't need or can afford. Emotions can escalate when we don't get what we want in the timeframe we expect.

The term "delayed gratification" involves having the ability to resist temptation for immediate rewards and wait for rewards in the future instead.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s psychologist Walter Mischel who was a professor at Stanford University conducted a series of studies with children in which they were offered choices. They were told that they could choose one small reward such as a marshmallow, cookie or pretzel immediately or two small rewards if they were willing to wait for a short period of approximately fifteen minutes. The children who were able to control themselves and wait were found over the long term to have better life outcomes in many areas of their lives.

These experiments were questioned by others and further studies suggested that willpower was not the sole factor involved. Professor Mischel's work, however, causes us to think about our behaviours and compare ourselves to the children involved.

Here are some hints to help you implement delayed gratification:


  1. Stay out of the stores and away from internet shopping sites. It is not easy to shop without buying, especially if you think that you will benefit from a sale price that you didn't expect.
  2. Make a written list of all the things that you need or want in the future so that you stay focused. Beside each write whether it is a need or a want.
  3. Plan to buy your needs first, before your wants.
  4. Use up what you have before you consider buying. I worked with a woman in Saskatoon for example who stated that she refused to get groceries until the fridge was completely empty. Sometimes she had to eat the last apple before heading out.
  5. Begin saving money for the things that you need so that you will be able to pay cash and save interest charges.
  6. Consider buying some items second-hand, bartering or trading skills for things you want.
  7. Wait for days when you know that there will be excellent deals such as Black Friday or Boxing Day blowouts.
  8. Ensure that there aren't any additional charges such as shipping or delivery fees. You may qualify based on the amount spent to have these waived or negotiate with the salesperson. Perhaps you could have the item picked up to save these costs.


I love getting bargains. When I moved into my new office space, I wanted better furniture but was willing to wait for Black Friday when I actually saved seventy percent on the chairs and got free shipping.

I wanted to travel to Hawaii this winter but was willing to wait for a deal. This month I benefitted from a return flight to Maui with all fees and taxes for less than five hundred dollars. I also had a two-hundred-dollar coupon for the same airline so will travel there and back for a total cost of under three hundred dollars.

Delayed gratification pays in both financial savings and an emotional thrill! Why not try it for yourself!

And now I would like to invite you to claim your Free Instant Access to a complimentary list of 10 Steps to Making Your Life an Adventure when you visit

From Dr. Linda Hancock, Registered Psychologist and Registered Social Worker

Dr. Linda Hancock, the author of “Life is An Adventure…every step of the way” and “Open for Business Success” is a Registered Psychologist who has a private practice in Medicine Hat. She can be reached at 403-529-6877 or through email

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