It was a beautiful summer morning. I had just finished writing my Final CA exams. As a summer ritual, my grand mom was preparing her yummiest mango achaar-one that only grannies can make. I thought of helping her this time- to make it, rather than just eat it.
So, making achaar, I realised, is quiet tedious and laborious- picking the right type of raw mangoes, washing them thoroughly, then wiping them dry, cutting them, removing the core seed, marinating with the masalas and the crushed mustard seeds and then adding or rather, pouring lots and lots of warm oil. Phew!
And after all these efforts, you don’t get to eat it right way! Grand mom filled a glass jar with all the achaar, covered it with a muslin cloth and let it sit in a warm place for a couple of days. Why so? , I protested. “This is the main part. All the masalas, mustard seeds and oil need to infuse into the mango pieces, for the ultimate taste of the achaar and that will happen if you let them sit together for a while. Not eat it immediately.”
And the minute I heard this, I don’t know how, I suddenly remembered –Delayed Gratification- The ability to forgo immediate reward in return of large one in the future.
Yes! I am forgoing the present consumption of the achaar for a tastier version of it on a future date!
I was taken back to our economics lecture in the 11th grade. The professor had explained the concept to us- thru theories, examples and many more ways. But, being a typical 16 year old, I listened, noted, wrote the answer in the exams and completely forgot about it. Not knowing that many things that we do or are advised to do, stem out of delayed gratification- not plucking the flowers of mango tree now, to get ripe mangoes in future; Study now and watch TV in the vacations without any worry and score good grades too; hold on to your temper now to bring up a more patient and happy child in the future or support your spouse now to live a stable and fulfilling marriage forever!
The entire gamut of saving and investments in the universe of financial management and wealth creation, stems out of this powerful concept of Delayed Gratification.
You delay the immediate spending for a greater reward in the future. We put the money, which is available for consumption now, into the savings a/c, Fixed deposits, Government securities, Mutual Funds, etc. in order to get some reward in future in form of interest, dividends or even capital gains.
It was eureka moment for me and I realised that there is some gap in the way we are taught certain things in the classroom and the way they come across us in our life. The concept that was so theoretical, doesn’t seem so any more. It is a way of life. Or rather, should be a way of life.
A well-known study conducted at Stanford University in the 1960s called The Marshmallow experiment, explains a lot about why it’s beneficial to delay gratification. In the study, children were placed in a room with one marshmallow on a plate. The lead researcher gave the children an easy instruction: You can eat the marshmallow now, or wait 15 minutes and receive two marshmallows. So the choice was simple: one treat right now or two treats later. The researchers did a follow-up years later and found that the children who were able to wait for the second marshmallow without eating the first one ended up having higher scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better responses to stress, better social skills as reported by their parents, and generally better scores in a range of other life measures.
So what does it mean to us?
What happens when you want to be instantly satisfied in all areas of your life? What results from needing to have the newest and most expensive car, even though you’re in horrible credit card debt? It might be an easier life in the short term, but it won’t necessarily be a better life in the long run. When we live in pursuit of immediate pleasure—needing to have the newest gadget or accessories the moment they’re available, or wanting the perfect job without getting an education or working our way up from the bottom—we become just like toddlers again, completely incapable of delaying gratification.
The world that we are living in right now, where you can get instant gratification is creating a very shallow brain.
We need to train ourselves and most importantly, our kids to delay gratification- forgo the benefit now for a greater purpose in the future. People who practice delayed gratification prove to be more successful with their career, relationships, health, finances and really, all areas of life. And this is because they bring in discipline, self-control and rationality in their way of doing things, dealing with problems and finding lasting solutions.
Our kids deserve the best in life. True. But let them earn it. Let us teach them to do fishing rather than giving them fish. Let us empower them to take the right, informed decisions. The responsibility lies on us to raise a more smart, efficient and disciplined generation.