Our approach to dealing with uncertainty is learned through experiences and shapes our personality. Psychology seeks to explain our behaviors, including as they relate to uncertainty and ability to delay gratification to harness Spiritual Investment.
We naturally prioritize current desires over our long-term goals. This type of “present bias” often leads us to give into the temptation to blow our paycheck on exciting purchases that provide instant gratification (e.g., a new outfit, the highest end mattress, a dinner out at a 4-star restaurant) rather than setting funds aside for a rainy day.
However, we can learn to ignore the compulsions of our reptilian brain and the emotional pull of the limbic system through practice. This practice is the development of self-control and the ability to delay gratification. Whilst the uncertainty remains, we can subordinate cravings when we want to. A series of psychology experiments presented children with a choice: one marshmallow now or two marshmallows if they waited for a short period. In follow-up studies, the children who waited longer tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index (BMI), and other life measures. Let me repeat that – the ability to delay gratification has literally been linked to academic success, physical health, psychological health, and social competence. It is the skill of resisting temptation for something immediate and saving instead for a later, greater reward.
Unfortunately, modern life has helped us become accustomed to immediate gratification. Credit cards allow us to buy now and pay later. Likewise, the Internet and smartphones have literally put the World at our fingertips. Unfortunately, getting what we want quickly isn’t always the best for us.
Spending money now on impulse purchases often leads to buyer’s remorse and a missed opportunity to earn a return and save for the future. Eating a cupcake and pizza now leads to weight gain, health issues, or more time at the gym. Hooking up on a first date rarely leads to marriage. And shirking the hustle to relax and unwind won’t make us rich.
From making purchases into treats to avoid habituation to paying ahead of consumption to separate the joy of spending without the pain of having to pay and debt, practices of delaying gratification that exercise self-control are also linked to greater and longer lasting happiness.
Although the development of self-control is influenced by our environments – from the technology we have, to the values our cultures preach – but like all skills it is built with practice and the state of mind that we develop whilst doing so. In that sense, I see it as resembling mindfulness and presence. After all, you need to be present when weighing the consequences of your decisions. Developing this skill directly exercises your emotional intelligence.
What do you think?