“Things and experiences gain value when you have to wait for them,” says Harold Schweizer, professor of English at Bucknell University and author of On Waiting (Thinking in Action). To most of us, holding off a purchase seems more like a torture than a way to increase our joy but research seems to contradict popular belief. Waiting actually makes us more excited rather than getting it right away. Hence, in this article, we’ll be discussing on the hidden joy in waiting.
Anticipation can actually increase joy while instant gratification can rob you of it. “If you’re very rich or influential, you can get anything you want right away, but that often leaves people feeling empty and disappointed,” says social psychologist and author Susanne Piet. Anticipation makes your brain produce dopamine, and that makes you feel excited and happy. Research shows that people are happier looking forward to a vacation than during the actual vacation itself.
Fast and furious generation
Not so much referring to the successful movie franchise and more to the state of our being. It seems technology is serving us things faster these days and when it’s not fast enough, we become impatient and instantly furious. Instant gratification such as using emails, social media apps, or chat apps instead of anticipating something from the mailman could be destroying our patience and robbing us the pleasure of delayed gratification.
“Because of the ubiquitous instant gratification, something paradoxical happened in our society,” says Dutch author Mark Mieras in Love, a book that explores the neurobiology of craving. “Because we have so little time to long for something, there is a kind of restlessness in our lives which leads to us enjoying ourselves less.”
Instantly getting what we want all the time can turn us into restless beings that keep asking what’s next without being able to enjoy and appreciate the experience or the purchase fully. “If you always get everything you want right away, you’re constantly on the treadmill of dissatisfaction, always on the lookout for the next product, set of new clothes, gadget, without ever reaching the stage of quiet enjoyment and being satisfied with what you have.”
The secret to success?
A Book That Takes Its Time by Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst cites an infamous Stanford marshmallow study of the late ‘60s and ‘70s. In that study, children were given a marshmallow that they were told they could eat right away, but if they could wait fifteen minutes, they would get two marshmallows. The result? Less than a third of the children could summon up the patience to wait for the second marshmallow.
Years later, a follow-up study showed that the children who waited did better on all fronts – better grades, healthier, happier, and more capable. Could it be that the values such as patience and discipline that helped the children who waited the extra 15 minutes to score that second marshmallow are the exact same values to enable them to be successful later in life?
Didn’t someone once say that delayed gratification is a sign of maturity? To summon the patience to wait because the wait can provide a better result is definitely a sign of maturity and also demonstrate critical thinking.
Let’s make a toast to delaying gratification and cultivating anticipation! It’s time to wait a few days before you pick up that book or that bag you are thinking about purchasing.
Monica Leong is a storyteller at heart. Graduated with a Journalism and Public Relations degree, she is currently working in corporate communications and also contributes as a freelance writer and editor. Before entering the corporate world, she worked in female lifestyle magazines such as Marie Claire, CLEO, and PEARL as an editor and a features writer. Monica is passionate about writing and working on a short story and flash fiction anthology.