Delayed gratification and the millennial generation
It was on last year’s Allagash Wilderness Waterway trip that I compiled my thoughts on delayed gratification and its interplay with young men, and the generation we are currently serving in general.
The discussion: “It’s that guy from that movie… You know…. The one with that hot chick in it… I wish I had my phone, I would just IMDB it (An online resource that can tell you everything about every actor and movie).
As adults in our 30’s or older we grew up in a time without cell phones, internet available everywhere (including your pocket), YouTube videos instructing us on how to do everything from fixing a leaky sink, to resetting the computer in your car.
I’m not implying the advent of these things is inherently bad. In fact, I use many of these things myself in order to improve the quality and efficiency of the things that I do. However, I have noticed that there seems to be a difference in how people of older generations and the millennial generation utilize these tools.
Growing up with these tools seems to have created a crutch in many areas of development for youth from this generation. Namely the ability to delay gratification, to be able to wait for the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg. The outcome, at least for some individuals who grew up in this generation, is that they never learned the ability to be ok with not having a quick fix, and the mindset that some things are worth working towards and waiting for. Remember the saying “Anything worth having is worth waiting for”? If you don’t have the ability to delay gratification later in life then it has quite an impact.
I wanted to include Brendan Baker of The Start of Happiness blog and specifically his blog on delayed gratification 5 Strategies to Delayed Gratification and Why You Should Do It. I am a big fan of this young man, his message, his blog, and his business of teaching people how to go out into the world and grab opportunity by the horns. I hope you take some time to read his other material on being happy doing what you love… I wish I had his guidance when taking the leap of faith to self-employment and ultimate happiness when I started our business years ago.
Here is what he had to say about delayed gratification when I asked him to say a little on the topic:
“Life is one big, beautiful journey. As a result, we want to make sure we focus on that journey and not just what’s currently presented to us. We want that beauty of life to be felt now, but also in a year from now, in 5 years from now, in 10 years from now and in 20 years from now. If we focus too much on filling the desires of our immediate needs we could be sacrificing greater experiences we could be having in the future.
All it takes is a little awareness. It’s about saying no to those immediate but insignificant decisions – the accumulation of which could severely hinder us in the long run – and instead choosing delayed gratification which will lead you to a more focused, purposeful and successful life.”
Beautifully put Brendan, thank you for your time.
Like most of the people reading this blog, I had to delay gratification for months, years, and most of my life in order to have what I have now, and continue to want in my future. Here is a quick list of things that at the time proved to offer no immediate gratification, but I am glad I stuck through because keeping my eye on the ball paid off. I use my saying of crawl, walk, run to explain my view on the difficulty to delay gratification in these areas for me.
Growing all the food for my first meal. It took me a few years to get good at growing vegetables, and eventually raising my own animals, it took countless hours of research, weeding, watering and feeding, but I will never forget the first time I sat down to a meal that was nothing but food I had procured for myself. I remember it to this day. The meal was chicken I had raised in my tiny backyard and salad from the garden. And wanting to be a purist in the meal being my own I even used sea salt I had made from sea water… The taste of delayed gratification was sweet!
Going to school: Unless you are one of those fortunate people who enjoys going to school, there is no joy in the day to day grinding out of the years it takes to get a degree. I assure you, paying for school, taking loans to go to school, taking time away from friends and family to go to school, working full time in order to pay for it and still going into debt, and doing it for 8 years of my 20’s proved to be an exercise in delayed gratification. An exercise that if I had not went through in that period of my life no matter how much I disliked it, I would not be where I am in my life now, reaping the rewards of that endeavor.
Retirement… Ugh… I hope I’m not alone in this, but I feel like this is the ultimate test in your ability to delay gratification. It feels more like a marathon than running. I try to picture a day where I play golf and spend my days on sunny beaches in order to keep my forward progress in this area, but it’s really hard since for most people it’s your mid 60’s before you can pull the trigger on retirement, for me that would be 30 years. That’s a long time to delay gratification. It’s hard to look at the money you could be spending on fun things now go to something that is so far down the road it’s nearly impossible to even imagine, but if not planned for appropriately in these years of your life, it will seriously negatively impact your life later.
We have developed an environment where we can help young people who have yet to learn the thought process required and desire to delay gratification to work on those ever important skills. Imagine a life where you cannot or do not delay gratification. It sounds like a really difficult life to me. As I strap my work boots on for the day, I wish everyone the dedication to delay gratification today, and for the rest of their lives… Here is to the tortoise who will win the race!
Rory K. McLaughlin, CEO