‘Too late’ gratification
According to the Wikipedia, delayed gratification is associated with opposing a smaller but more immediate reward to receive a more significant or more enduring reward later.
There’s a growing body of literature which links the ability to delay gratification to a host of positive outcomes, including academic success, physical health, psychological health and social competence.
The seminal research on delayed gratification happened with the now-famous marshmallow experiment. In these studies, a child was offered a choice between one small reward provided immediately or two small rewards if they waited for a short period, approximately 15 minutes, during which the tester left the room and then returned. In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes.
In a lot of ways, I believe I naturally incline toward delaying my gratification. Additionally, once I became aware of the concept, I tried applying it consciously. Overall, I find that approach extremely helpful and beneficial.
As anything inherently good, taken the wrong way, it can become a trap.
I came to understand that in some cases I’d be afraid to act and kept postponing gratification because of my anxiety, even though the immediate gratification objectively made the most sense.
It was delayed gratification out of fear. Fear masked as not believing you deserve something, as obsessive people-pleasing, as the worry of being categorized as selfish or immature...
The strategic approach to life, which includes planning and consideration of long-term benefits is of utmost value. And that’s what delayed gratification is about. It’s a useful strategy used, consciously or unconsciously, by ambitious (often Type A) individuals in pursuit of their long-term goals.
However, operating like that can make us forget that it’s OK to enjoy life. To also have gratification now. We will all die, sooner or later. And delaying something out of fear is a sure way to waste the precious time we have left.
Of course, recognizing our underlying motivation is not easy. It takes (development of) deep self-awareness to discern between our tendency to delay something strategically and to postpone it out of fear.
Delayed gratification — yes. Too late gratification — no.