In a comment last month, Michael writes,

So, my question is: if success is often dependent on delayed gratification and happiness is often dependent on enjoying the present, as well as achieving some measure of success, then how do we reconcile all these things?

What’s your answer?
I’ll start with mine, and would love to debate it.

Just like I wrote yesterday about doing exercise at 9:56pm on a Sunday to make sure I get in the right number of workouts for that week, I think you choose your battles. There are some things that you may be willing to delay gratification in – with the expectation of stronger gains in the future. I don’t mind not chilling and relaxing on a Sunday evening … as long as my cardio is stronger and my muscles more defined down the road.

I do mind having no weekends to myself – so that’s something I wouldn’t allow myself to do. In coaching, it’s easy to schedule people in on evenings, mornings, weekends. And I love doing early morning calls and evening calls, but I rarely, rarely do the weekend. That’s a sanity measure… even though to some degree delaying my weekends for a year might make the coaching business more exciting earlier, but – hey, why?

“Enjoying the present” – doesn’t this phrase sound like time passing slowly, like a river running. It’s almost, in answer to Michael – it’s almost that you may not be able to buckle down and do the discipline things unless you have enough psychological capital in you to be able to take those things on. And that psychological capital will come to a large degree from your taking good care of yourself, which may include enjoying the present.

To some degree, I see them feeding each other. What do you guys think?


  1. Posted Tuesday June 12, 2007 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Enjoy the Present vs. Build for the Future

    Is it really an “either/or” question?

    A strong vision of your future helps make nearly anything enjoyable in the present. If you have a big enough “Why”, you can handle any “How”! (I’m sure that is a quote by somebody famous…)

    The question I have for Senia is …
    Did you enjoy your late-night workout?
    Did you notice (and enjoy) the way it made you feel immediately after you decided to do it?

    I’ve found that people who don’t enjoy the present (no matter what it is) have a hard time enjoying their [long awaited] future (or, even worse, their future never comes and they NEVER enjoy anything).

    I suggest focusing on your vision but enjoying the journey as much as the destination !


  2. Posted Wednesday June 13, 2007 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    I appreciate the observation that it’s often not an either/or in terms of present and delayed gratification. A good idea of what is to come does make the present more enjoyable, and an enjoyable present makes the future (and past) look rosier.

    I also like Senia’s idea that these two “time zones”, i.e. present and future, feed on each other. If we are enjoying ourselves now, we may be earning additional mojo to expend later.

    However, I think this misses some of the more minute details in everyday life. What about the activities that have little or no pay-off? For example, I do not like to do laundry. Even though the vision of clean clothes is very pleasant, I really have trouble motivating to do the few steps required to collect, sort and clean my clothes. In this activity there is little to enjoy and little delayed gratification. It is simply something that HAS TO be done. In a strange way, though unpleasant, I feel that some amount of these boring, necessary tasks are critical to a happy life and a feeling of satisfaction.

    It sounds stupid to say, but I think that all of us want more good things and less bad things. If there are not enough bad things to get rid of in our lives, we miss out on something important, no matter how many good things we have.

  3. Posted Thursday June 14, 2007 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    Actually, that’s facinating, Michael – the thought that the bad are there to enjoy the good more.

    I had an art teacher in high school who used to always say that everything is in contrast – and that has so much stuck with me. I was playing the part of a little girl for a skit in a class, and the art teacher suggested putting a large garbage can behind me on stage so that I then appear smaller and look more like a little girl.

    I wonder, though, Michael – because wouldn’t life be more fun if we enjoyed doing the laundry as well as doing the exciting, passion-inducing, flow-creating work things? (Did I lose anyone with the multi-hyphenated silliness?) :)

    I’m not sure which it is. And I’m sure glad that we’re asking!

  4. Stephen
    Posted Saturday January 10, 2009 at 1:49 am | Permalink

    Hey Guys

    Good Topic. I honestly think they both have there area’s of life. I live my life based on enjoying the now but after a 2 hour chat with a best friend debating my life and where Im going I realised that as a Child it was extreemly easy to get what I wanted and not worry about the future. I find it very very difficult to delay gratification. I do believe it is critical to success.

    The person with the real power is the one who has easy access over both depending on the situation. Harvad have done studies and the emotional side of the brain picks enjoying the moment vs the Logical side picking delayed gratification. I guess I am more emotional minded.

    I honestly think there is a lack of information on developing a delayed gratification mindset for the younger generation. Most have grown up with easy access to many things and have not had to work extreemly hard for things and this is not good.

    It effects people saving money vs Borrowing, Eating the donut vs losing weight, Smoking a cigarette vs being able to breath.

    There are a lot of techniques out there to help with it but it delayed gratification does not seem to be the main topic. Hopefully someone will write a good useful book on the topic.. It may change the world.