You Want It When? – Delayed vs Instant Gratification

How do you open a present? Do you rip the paper off, revealing its contents in a nanosecond? Or do you carefully remove each piece of tape and unwrap the paper (immediately folding it of course) to reveal the gift several minutes after the giver has lost patience?

What about practical jokes? Do you like something quick that will garner you immediate laughter or do you prefer the long game joke with the punchline coming a week after everyone’s forgotten the original premise?

In a world of online shopping, video-on-demand and a 24/7 communication tool in the palm of our hand, you’d think we’d be a community of Instant Gratification Seekers.

And there’s no doubt there’s a lot of them out there.

But the Delayed Gratification Seekers are still out there too.

I am one of them.

Case Study

A delivery of mail containing:

2 Bills

1 Payslip

1 Greeting card

1 Magazine

1 Parcel (containing something eagerly awaited)

In what order would you open them?

I’m guessing the Instant Gratification Seeker would open the parcel first, then the greeting card, the magazine (and probably take the time to peruse it) then the payslip and bills.

Here’s the order I opened them:

Bills – Payslip – Greeting Card – Parcel

I am yet to open the magazine. I want a quiet block of time to enjoy it properly so I’ll wait.

The term ‘delayed gratification’ has a tendency to sound like a bad thing. Like you’re punishing yourself by making yourself wait for something pleasurable. But I’d argue that it actually adds to the pleasure.

I’m currently waiting on a letter from a friend. I know it is going to be something special. It is also something that I very much want to read. But I’m in no hurry to receive it.

You see, it’s the joy of the waiting. It’s theΒ excitement of the anticipation. It’s the imagining of what it might be like. Once I have it, as wonderful as that will be, it will also mean that the pleasure of that expectationΒ will be over. And that will make me a little bit sad.

Instant gratification is, well, instantly gratifying but are we short-changing ourselves of more? Isn’t it a richer experience of gratification if we have to wait for it?

So. Instant? Or Delayed?

What’s your gratification?




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76 thoughts on “You Want It When? – Delayed vs Instant Gratification

  1. Why do you ask me complicated questions so early in the morning? My brain hasn’t even registered my morning coffee yet.

    I don’t want to pick just one. I’m more like a bouncing ball. Sometimes I go one way, sometimes the other.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Examples? Let’s see ….

        1) when I get birthday cards in the mail (and yes, I still do), I wait until my birthday to open them.
        2) when I get parcels delivered, I may or may not open them right away depending on what I’m expecting (drives Gilles crazy!)
        3) I can – and do – have chocolate in the house. All. the. time.
        I can go for days without having chocolate, but when I want some, it’s there.
        4) I can’t have licorice in the house. I gobble it until it’s all gone and I feel sick.
        I still buy licorice occasionally because “this time I can control it”. I never can. (as the recent licorice binge can attest to)
        5) if I see something I want to buy – like yesterday when I finally found a new lamp for the living room – I can go home and wait patiently until it eventually goes on sale.
        6) sometimes when I see something I want to buy – like shoes last week – I can’t decide … so I buy all 3 pairs (drives Gilles crazy!)

        Like I said. I can bounce either way πŸ˜‰

        Liked by 3 people

  2. That Veruca was an unpleasant little person, wasn’t she! I would open the boring mail first and keep the exciting ones for later too. I think the anticipation of a nice holiday is one of the pleasures of travel and I do like to have another planned before the current one ends, so I still have something to look forward to. I’m not sure if that’s delayed gratification or just plain greed!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am like you. Given that scenario, I would also open the bills first and then end of a happy note. Also, the parcel would probably take the longest to open. Anticipation is something that keeps me positive – like you know something is coming your way and your imagination can get a work out working out what it will look like on a boring afternoon at work.

    I really hate it when you wait for something in the mail, and it ends up never coming…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Similar to the “I’ve got good news & I’ve go bad news” scenario, I would just want to the get the bad news over with so that I could savor the good news. Anticipation of so many things is so much a part of the fun!

    Now, if we are talking chocolate, I may just have to snarf it down quickly,so in that case, I guess it would be immediate gratification!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. My feeling is…..savour the good things, so I’d open that post in the same order you did and I’m the last to open things on Christmas morning…… πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I take the middle ground. Or perhaps I should say, “it depends”. At dinner I often put off the best part until last. (I’m not talking about dessert, but that too.) So yes, the anticipation is often the best part.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Anticipation is everything….and often more pleasurable than actuality turns out to be. I’m with you on delayed gratification. I always think it amusing to watch how people—mostly children—eat what’s on their plate, assuming that they have favorites and abhorrences about different foods. Does the kid who loves mashed potatoes and hates peas save the best for last, i.e. hurry up and eat the peas so he can get to the potatoes, or does he go right for the potatoes and keep pushing the peas aside, hoping he won’t have to eat them at all….I once knew someone who liked to eat dessert first….

    Liked by 2 people

    • My OH eats the things he likes least first (including peas) and saves his favourite until the end. I find that perverse. I mean what if you are too full to finish? I tend to eat a little of each thing on my plate so I can savour everything at once and it doesn’t matter if I leave anything as I will have tasted it all! Does that make sense?

      Liked by 3 people

      • Okay. That’s a good point. I was brought up by people descended from Scots so we were taught to finish what was on our plate so delayed gratification eating kind of worked. But it’s not the healthiest way to eat. Maybe eating in quarters would work. Half the bad stuff, half the good stuff, assess fullness, if completion anticipated, eat other half of bad stuff, then other half of good stuff. If completion seems unlikely, eat rest of good stuff and leave the rest of bad stuff.

        Worst thing ever is to finish with the bad stuff. That must be avoided at all costs. Maybe a flowchart would help….

        Liked by 2 people

        • That’s pretty much the way I eat, but then there is never any bad stuff on my plate as I do all the cooking! OH only told me that he wasn’t keen on peas after we’d been married for 10 years!

          Liked by 1 person

    • And how difficult does it become, for someone who has never learned to delay gratification to master things like a musical instrument or a foreign language….where there’s a whole lot of boring stuff to get through before you see any really gratifying results….

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Well, as far as mail goes, I tend to open bills first and cards last for the reason that cards are far more interesting and fun. And I am the person who carefully unwraps a present so as to save the paper. It’s annoying to other people, but I can’t help it.

    With regard to self-gratification, delayed or not, I tend to go both ways. If you put a triple chocolate cupcake in front of me and tell me to wait two hours because it will be more gratifying then…umm, no. Give me the chocolate and no one gets hurt. However, if you cover the cupcake so I can’t see it and tell me that it’s a surprise, but I have to wait two hours before I can uncover the prize, the anticipation is exciting. How I react will always depend on the circumstance.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. We only get bills, hardly ever a parcel or birthday card. I sometimes buy myself a plate of some nice pepper and salt calamari with crispy fries and salad. I eat it slowly and relish the pleasure of a gift to myself. I do like the pleasure of watching the grandkids wolfing down the pancakes. I sometimes get an unexpected catalogue in my inbox on hardware or ‘special’ offers from Windows or Micro-soft.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Now I feel like I need to send you a card in the mail, Gerard.
      I buy myself stuff online so I can get fun stuff in the mail. Sometimes it might just be cheap grocery items that I got cheap because they’re close to their Use By date but at least it’s a parcel.


  10. Good question. I have a list of new items I want to buy for my new home, but I’m waiting until I have everything ready before I buy anything so it can go in the right place. I have been making this list for a year now. In fact I’m not at all sure I want to part with all the money I have saved up. I think I like researching and making lists rather more than the buying process. I have bought a ladder though. Needed it to reach the windows so I can clean them. That wasn’t actually on the list…

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I’m not sure if this counts, but I always eat my favorite thing in any meal last. This is probably stems from my mother insisting that I “clean my plate” when I was a boy. I got all the boring stuff out the way first, with the promise of something nicer to come helping me to get through it all.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Well this is very thought provoking. Initially I screamed ‘open the parcel!’. But the fact is that as I have matured, I prefer that to the ‘a’ word. Now I am quite happy to wait to open presents or cards. We get so little mail now.
    Maybe it’s a bit like traveling. I love the planning and the excitement. Of the course the travel is the high but then oh so quickly done.
    So perhaps I have evolved over time.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Definitely delayed. I like my pleasure unalloyed by duties or less fun items, so I get them out of the way first. There are downsides. I am good at anticipation, but can overdo it. So anticipating speaking in public, for instance, is excruciatingly painful… but I’m working on it.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Like you, I prefer the delayed gratification. And I think most writers are. When you consider how long it takes for us to write a book, so many words and chapters and editing and proofing and more editing and proofing. If we were the instant gratification kind, we’d give up before chapter 3!
    P.S. I just found out that my Word Press theme is ‘retired.’ I love yours – would you mind sharing with me which one it is? I’ve spent hours looking at all the thousands of options, and I’m dizzy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Gosh, yes. When you think some writers spend years writing a book, that’s a very long delayed gratification from start to publish!

      Oh, thanks. Mine’s the Able Theme. Funnily enough, I’ve been thinking about a change. I’ve had this one for three years. I still like it (which is why I haven’t really done anything about changing yet) but I feel like I’d like something new. Very unusual for a Jack of All Trades to stick with the one thing for so long. πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 2 people

  15. I’m totally with you on this one. I would open the magazine last too. When I had time to really savor it. As for those bills 😦 get them opened and out of the way first. I always save the best till last. Great post. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I’m with you Heather. I love anticipating, no matter what it is. Though there is a down side. When children, my younger brother kept his favourite crispy potato till last, and my eldest brother would beat him to it! So mean….

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Pingback: You Want It When? – Delayed vs Instant Gratification β€” Master of Something I’m Yet To Discover | Therapy-cooking

  18. Pingback: You Want It When? – Delayed vs Instant Gratification – Priyanka Naik

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