I would have been good at that marshmallow experiment they used to conduct on children in the ’60s (you know the one, where kids were offered one marshmallow to eat now or two if they waited twenty minutes – to test the effects of delayed gratification). Why? Because I’ll take build up and anticipation over instant gratification any day (unless it involves wine on a Friday night, but that’s another story).
Apologies in advance for stating the obvious, but once you’ve had something pleasurable, whether it be a holiday, birthday party or a cream cake, it’s over – the exception being, of course, if you’re lucky enough to be able to have it over and over again (though surely then you run the risk of being desensitised to the pleasurable outcomes in the long run anyway?) However, if you have to wait for that pleasurable thing, whatever it may be, then when it finally comes around it will not only be all the sweeter, you will also have enjoyed the anticipation of its arrival. Hence the overall experience will have been more gratifying. Or at least I think that’s the theory behind the marshmallow experiment (don’t quote me on that, there’s a reason I never made it beyond undergraduate level in Psychology).
How about this for an example: Most women will know the heady feeling of excitement that accompanies an impulse shopping spree, yet they will also be familiar with the speed with which that excitement wanes and the items become consigned to the back of the wardrobe, ready to be replaced when the next moment of impulse comes around. If they have had to save up for one premium item over the course of several weeks or months, however, the feeling of anticipation will have built up so much that when they do finally have the item in their hands they will cherish and love it for far longer.
Over the years I’ve been known to fall victim to the occasional impulse shopping spree, but by and large my ‘thing’ is not material items such as clothes but rather experiences – because at the end of my life it’s not the clothes I’ll be looking back and reminiscing on. Planning holidays is the perfect example of delayed gratification. From their conception to the moment they eventually come into being they create a buzz of delicious excitement and anticipation. I like booking mini breaks far in advance (not least because it’s so much cheaper, especially if you’re going abroad and need to book flights) and spending the weeks leading up to them daydreaming, imagining walks by beautiful rivers and lazy dinners in the early evening beneath the setting of the sun.
Then, once they’re over you can start the process all over again – it beats buying a new skirt from Hennes any day of the week, at least in my opinion! Now where did I put those marshmallows…