Life has gradually taught me the benefits and the joy of delaying my gratification. Why put off enjoying the immediate rewards for my efforts? Allow me to explain.
Delayed gratification didn't come naturally to me. I had to learn it by trial and error. If you're not familiar with the concept, delayed gratification refers to the ability to put off something mildly fun or pleasurable now and gain something even more fun, pleasurable, or rewarding later. For example, you could relax and watch TV the night before an exam. You could practice delayed gratification and study for the exam—waiting to relax only after the exam is over. Some say the discipline of delayed gratification creates real success in life:
The ability to discipline yourself to delay gratification in the short term to enjoy greater rewards in the long term, is the indispensable prerequisite for success. – Brian Tracy
Everyone wants to enjoy the rewards of their efforts, and there is nothing wrong with that. The problem arises when we want instant gratification, rewarding ourselves right after half of the work is done and often before the job is finished. In extreme cases, one rewards oneself even before the work begins!
This kind of instant gratification indicates a lack of self-discipline and self-control, an absence of purpose in one's life and the inability to set goals and see them through. It also sets up a self-defeating pattern: if we reward ourselves before finishing a task, we train ourselves not to complete.
Those who practice delayed gratification demonstrate a clear purpose in life and the need for accomplishing worthwhile goals. Delayed gratification means accepting the awareness of life's journey as a long one, and planning it.
So, as I was thinking about how much I enjoy my quality time after doing everything on my to-do list for the day, I had an “a-ha!” moment: I realized that our lives, with all their complications, present us with a massive exercise in delayed gratification.
Our comfort and progress in the next world depend on sacrificing many human desires. To progress spiritually, we must value our own will less than the will of our Creator. That way, we can enjoy our journey, fully aware that we've delayed receiving the rewards of this physical world for the next one. This process, in my estimation, represents the greatest delayed gratification one can imagine.
The Baha’i teachings remind us about our purpose for preparing for the next world:
Therefore in this world, he must prepare himself for life beyond. That which he needs in the world of the Kingdom must be obtained here. Just as he prepared himself in the world of the matrix by acquiring forces necessary in this sphere of existence, so likewise the indispensable forces of the divine existence must be potentially attained in this world. – Abdu’l-Baha
In this material world, we spend our lives doing things, hoping for the rewards they will generate. We sacrifice mental and physical energy to earn money so that we can acquire the things we need and want—but some of us spend it without much thought for the future. Only a small percentage of people save money so that it accumulates until they can exchange it for the things they desire the most.
In the same way, no reward or gratification is more magnificent than entering the next world with a clear conscience, knowing that we have exerted our spiritual energies to the service of humanity and spiritual growth.
Badi Shams is a Baha’i and a mystic at heart, whose field of interest is in economics. He has published a compilation "Economics of the Future", and also more recently the book "Economics of the Future Begins Today". He is retired from the educational system. You can read more of Badi's materials on his website www.badishams.net
You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking. HERE
* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday. June 19th 2021