One of the questions executive coach and author Marshall Goldsmith asks himself every day is, “Did I do my best to be happy?”
In his book The Earned Life, he elaborates on impermanence, and in contrast, on delayed gratification: “This is the Great Western Disease of ‘I’ll be happy when…’ It is the pervasive mindset whereby we convince ourselves that we’ll be happy when we get that promotion, or drive a Tesla, or finish a slice of pizza, or attain any other badge of our short- or long-term desires.”
As far as I know, that’s not just a western disease; there’s a saying in Chinese, “先苦後甜,” which translates to, “First bitterness, then sweetness.”
Delayed gratification can be defined as, “The ability to postpone an immediate gain in favor of greater and later reward.”
The problem with constantly delaying gratification—at least for me—was I perpetually kept putting it off. In procrastinating on the moment of enjoyment, I ended up perpetually delaying it, and never actually experienced it.
This has happened, time and again. A date once kindly bought me a cupcake for my birthday from across countries, and with the intention of savoring it, I’d put it away in the fridge. It stayed there for days, rock solid by the time I finally decided to enjoy it.
I realize, time and again, that I deserve better now. I can buy the better toilet paper. I can block my time to do what I want to do, not simply letting what’s commercially viable dictate how I spend my energy.
I’m certainly not saying that we need to spend every minute experiencing gratification or dopamine hits to live a happy life (that’s an empty path too!); rather, to simply propose hastening gratification—to stop putting off happiness and to make a small effort to be happy, every day.