Published: 29th August 2020
Delayed gratification over instant joy: How you can derive long-term happiness by investing in growth-oriented activities
Pro Tip: You derive long-term happiness by delaying gratification and investing in growth-oriented activities. Minimise activities that seek instant gratification because they distract
Bhaiyya, why do people say ‘enjoy what you’re doing’ and when we’re having fun, they stop us?’ asked Rahul. ‘Is there a difference?’
‘Good question,’ said Rakesh. ‘To understand the difference between fun and enjoyment, we must differentiate between instant gratification and delayed gratification. Fun activities give us instant gratification, are easy, pleasurable and can be addictive. Popular examples being social media, online shopping, binge-watching, video games and such. Right?’
‘Right,’ said Rinku. ‘Super fun.’
‘They’re fun because they’re instant,’ said Rakesh. ‘But they don’t help us grow nor are they enjoyable. After the high of getting likes on social media, we feel a certain emptiness inside, right?’
‘So, how can we be happy if we can’t have fun?’ asked Rahul.
‘You can by choosing activities that stretch you to the limit in pursuit of accomplishing something worthwhile,’ said Rakesh. ‘Activities that need you to delay gratification for a lasting sense of achievement. In a Stanford University study, it was found that children who waited longer to get a bigger reward were more successful. Delaying gratification was critical to success.’
‘That doesn’t sound like fun, bhaiyya,’ said Rahul.
‘On the contrary, the process of stretching and growing, immersing yourself into a challenging job, is immensely enjoyable,’ said Rakesh. ‘True enjoyment is characterised by novelty and accomplishment. It’s the satisfying high of having achieved something significant. A happy side effect is that you also achieve health, financial and expertise goals which contribute to your happiness.’
‘A classic standoff awaits us then — instant gratification versus delayed gratification,’ said Rinku. ‘Short-term gains with no long-term benefits versus short-term pain and long-term gains. Choose between topping exams and binge-watching Rahul. Now!’
‘Topping exams,’ said Rahul. ‘No brainer. But can we have both?’
‘You tell me,’ said Rakesh.
‘Hmm,’ said Rinku. ‘We could delay gratification and instead immerse ourselves into this goal-oriented work that helps us grow.’
‘And after completing these hard, monotonous routines specifically for their clear, long-term benefits,’ said Rahul. ‘We can reward ourselves by engaging in fun activities.’
‘Perfect,’ said Rakesh. ‘Enjoy the tough work first and then recharge with fun activities. I’d suggest you choose leisure activities that you experience. That’s the formula for long-lasting happiness and success.’
‘Done,’ said Rinku. ‘Filter coffee, not instant coffee, from now on.’
Pro Tip: You derive long-term happiness by delaying gratification and investing in growth-oriented activities. Minimise activities that seek instant gratification because they distract.