Good Things Come to Those Who Wait: The Power and Pleasure of Delayed Gratification

by Brett & Kate McKay on March 6, 2011 · 65 comments

in A Man's Life, Personal Development

While I was a fat kid in middle school who couldn’t even do a single pull-up, since college my weight has been decidedly average; I am neither particularly ripped nor overweight.

But my weight does fluctuate ten pounds up or down depending on how well I’m eating and working out. After our recent run through the sugar cookie-riddled holiday gauntlet, I found the scale tipping to that upper range. So I decided I needed to do something to whittle down the lbs.

I had a recently bought Tim Ferriss’ new book, The Four Hour Body. The idea behind the 4HB is pretty genius; for several years, Ferriss became a guinea pig, carrying out all sorts of experiments on himself with an eye towards discovering ways to hack the human body.

In the book, Ferriss recommends the “Slow Carb Diet,” so I decided to give it a whirl. The diet is quite simple. You eat protein, beans, and vegetables at every meal. Fruit, refined carbs, and sugar are not allowed at all, except….for one day a week. On that day you can eat whatever you want. Anything and everything your carb-deprived heart desires. This method is similar to the Body for Life diet.

So I gave the Slow Carb Diet a whirl and was quite pleased to drop 10 lbs while I was doing it. But its greatest benefit was in reawakening me to a timeless truth: delayed gratification brings increased pleasure. During the week as I sat down to plate after plate of chicken breasts, beans, and broccoli, I would dream of the things I was going to eat on my “free day.” And when it finally arrived, sinking my teeth into a giant burger and tearing into a bowl of ice cream was positively euphoric. The carbs would wash over my brain and bliss me out.

Before doing the diet, I would have “bad” foods here and there throughout the week. And they were good, but just run-of-the-mill good on the pleasure scale. Holding off for just a week made them taste ten times better.

This is a principle that can be applied not just to food, but to all areas of our lives. The rarer something is, and the more we hold off on getting what we want, the greater the pleasure and pay-off when we finally do.

Setting Our Own Limits in an Age of Anomie

We live in an instant gratification world. Pretty much any pleasure we desire is on tap at any moment, night or day. Want to watch porn? It’s only a click away. Need some food? Microwave that dinner, tear open that bag, or head to a 24 hour fast food joint. Want to buy a new camera at three in the morning while sitting in your underwear? Surf over to Amazon. Want to talk to a friend? Send a text. Need to be entertained? Grab your remote control.

It is the age of now. The spigot of pleasure is constantly running full blast.

In an Age of Anomie where social rules and standards have given way to full bore personal freedom, no one is going to stop you from sticking your mouth over that spigot and filling up until they have to roll you away. It is up to you as your own man to control the flow, to turn the faucet on and off, to set limits for yourself not because you have to, but because you want to. While society once dictated what was sacred or special, you must now take the initiative to sacralize things yourself.

Why would you want to do that? In order to increase your pleasure, happiness, and manliness.

The Benefits of Delayed Gratification

It’s clear we’re talking about self-denial here. Which is one of those terribly unpopular words these days, like “sacrifice” and “discipline.” It makes you feel all itchy and suffocated just thinking about it. Why would you want to deny yourself of anything?

Because in truth, delaying the gratification of your desires offers a myriad of amazing benefits:

Helps You Make Do with Less

Something I noticed while being on the Slow Carb Diet is that it re-attuned my taste buds. Whereas normally I’d want something sweet like a brownie after eating dinner, while on the diet, a cup of unsweetened herbal tea was “sweet” enough to do the trick. My taste buds had been oversaturated; taking a break from the super sweet stuff brought back that sensitivity so that a very little became a lot.

When you delay your gratification, when you do finally get what you want, you’ll often discover that you need less of it then you once thought you did or that don’t need the thing at all. You think you need a new laptop, but decide to wait two months until you buy it, and when that date arrives, you realize the old one works just fine.

Inspires You to Treat Things Better

Even if you do decide you still want the thing you’ve been desiring, when you get it after a period of delayed gratification, you’re going to take better care of it. Your parents were right all along…If you had bought that remote control car yourself, you would have taken better care of it! As Tony mentioned in last week’s post about shoes, if you budget and save up for a really nice pair, you’ll end up taking the time and effort to make them last. When we feel like we’ve earned something, we don’t want to let that work go to waste. Which brings us to our next point…

Allows You to Enjoy Guilt-Free Satisfaction

Have you ever bought something you really wanted but couldn’t really afford? The pleasure you got from making that purchase was likely greatly dampened by infringing feelings of guilt that you shouldn’t have pulled the trigger. And thus you couldn’t fully enjoy your new thing.

But when you wait until you’ve earned something to get it, the pleasure is all yours to savor.

When I did the Slow Carb Diet, I could pack away a whole pizza pie without a bit of guilt, without having to think, “Dang, I shouldn’t be eating this.”

Lets You Feel and Experience Life More Deeply

Heaven is on the other side of that feeling you get when you’re sitting on the couch and you get up and make a triple-decker sandwich.  It’s on the other side of that, when you don’t make the sandwich.  It’s about sacrifice…. It’s about giving up the things that basically keep you from feeling.  That’s what I believe, anyway.  I’m always asking, “What am I going to give up next?”  Because I want to feel. -Jim Carrey

I know, I know, it’s hard to take advice from the man who starred in Dumb and Dumber, but the dude really makes a very wise point here.

One of the things everyone wants most in life is to feel, period. Not simply to feel good, but to just to feel, and feel deeply. This is why while women have a reputation for creating drama, I know guys who do it too–by say cheating on a girlfriend they really love–to subconsciously create a situation of great angst. Because paradoxically, even though angst is a “negative” emotion, it’s pleasurable on some level to simply feel something–anything–so intensely.

But there are healthier ways of feeling more deeply than creating drama for yourself, such as purposefully cultivating hunger (and I mean hunger here in a much broader sense than the appetite for food).

We often think of hunger as “bad” and satiation as “good.” But each state is part of the spectrum of human experience and each has value; every man needs to intensely feel both of them to understand himself and the world.

If you want to experience the fullness of life, you have to be content to feel both satiation and hunger; if you’re always stuffed from having gorged on life’s pleasures, you’ll miss out on a whole other dimension of the human experience.

Builds Your Strength and Discipline

One desire may be more attended to than the others, and it will requite the attention—like an overindulged servant—by quietly taking the place of master…The whole man, body and soul, is compelled to labour for the gratification of one dominant passion. The noblest faculties of human nature are made to act the part of hewers of wood and drawers of water, to minister to its satisfaction. -William Burns Thomson, Habit, 1864

Every man should seek to master himself. A man should be able to decide when and where to indulge his desires as opposed to the desires dragging him to and fro. A man is a king, not a slave. Delaying your gratification builds both your self-confidence—you are in control of your life, not your emotions or circumstances–and your self-discipline. As we have discussed, discipline is like a muscle that must be ever exercised in order to build its strength.

Freedom is not procured by a full enjoyment of what is desired, but by controlling that desire. -Epictetus

Increases Your Pleasure and Happiness

It turns out that all those cheesy bumper stickers and song lyrics were right on the money; it’s all about the journey, not the destination.

Scientists have shown that our brains experience more pleasure when we are working towards our goals, than they do when we actually achieve them. Sounds strange, but think about how much more pleasurable the anticipation and countdown to Christmas is than Christmas Day itself. I’m sure we all have all those moments where we’ve worked so hard for something, and when we finally achieve it, it’s feels strangely anti-climatic. Getting there was actually the best part.

One of the most interesting examples of this truth can be seen in a study done on the effect of vacations on people’s levels of happiness. Researchers found that no matter how fun and relaxing a vacation was for folks, their happiness went right back to their baseline levels two weeks or less after their trip. The biggest boost in people’s happiness actually came from simply anticipating the vacation, not from going on it! Just thinking about how great it was going to be to go on vacation made people happier for a full eight weeks beforehand. The researchers therefore recommend that people take several shorter vacations during the year instead of one long trip, thus increasing the amount of time they can spend looking forward to their vacations.

And delaying your gratification also increases the pleasure of the pay off, by heightening your hunger, which as many have noted, is truly “the best spice.” Without contrast, you can’t experience the pleasure of something; you can’t have the sweet without the bitter.

Again, we’re not just talking about food here. For example, this is true of physical intimacy in a relationship as well—the longer you put sex off, the sweeter it is when consummated. Even couples that don’t wait until marriage to have sex often take a sex “vacation” before their wedding, abstaining from sex for a month or two beforehand in an attempt to the build up the anticipation and excitement for the big day and the honeymoon.

So whatever it is that you want, delay your gratification to increase your pleasure.


Every man has a tremendous and tremendously underused power: the power to sacralize anything in his life. Using this power with wisdom is an important part of being a mature man. By purposefully, thoughtfully, and intentionally creating scarcity in your life and delaying your gratification, you can increase your happiness, pleasure, and strength, along with the vitality with which you experience life.

{ 65 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Manuel March 6, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Thank you for a wonderful article.
In todays world people take too much for granted cause its always just around the corner. By reducing the intake or sacrifice we will appreciate the value of everything much more.

I learned a lot about myself when i decided to eat vegan for example. I learned to enjoy cooking and to buy the “right” food, you have to find new ways to cook and you expand your mind and taste in doing so. Same works with everything. Take absence from alcohol for a month and this beer will taste again like the first one you remember to taste good!

Really nice read, Thank you.

2 Susan March 6, 2011 at 6:38 pm

I notice whenever I fast, my taste buds get re-attuned like you described, and I also realize what real energy means. I can still work out while fasting, though lightly, and feel amazing. My head is also clearer. It’s amazing what food does to you.

I like this idea, and think I’ll try it. I tend to eat relatively well during the week, but tend to get sloppy when I’m busy. I think if I’m delaying instant gratification to a Saturday, it will be easier to keep my eye on the prize. And the prize is key lime pie…

3 Livingston Conant March 6, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Brett and Kate,

What a great post! Thank you so much for assembling all these wonderful points. I look forward to more posts on similar topics. These are my favorites. Character, Discipline, Integrity… Thanks again and keep up the great work! I, for one, am very appreciative.


4 Dustin B March 6, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Thank you for this. Right now, I am saving as much of my “personal allowance” to take my wife on a special get away for our 5th anniversary – couple of nights at the Four Seasons in Atlanta, and a ridiculously expensive anniversary meal, plus having some fun around the city, while my infant son’s grandparents spend some time him. It’s months away, but I am loving saving up for something special that would normally be out of our reach. We earn a good living, but certainly not making enough to blow a few hundred on a five star hotel whenever we want.

I’m not here to proselytize, but I truly believe that God intends for a man to have a sexual relationship solely with his wife, and solely within the confines of marriage (fully recognize that this is not a popular view). This post makes a great case for this! The journey makes the destination so much better!

5 Ryan M March 6, 2011 at 7:14 pm

I really am astounded by the timing of this article. I just left one job for another,I was so exceited to be out of my previous position which I began to loath, but when I did finally move to “greener pastures” I descoverd I traded one hell for another. On the plus side it has spurred me to pursue further training in my desired career feild. And I also belive this article will help me get in the mental and physical shape for that career thank for the article.

6 Jeff March 6, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Great post. Content aside, your writing is simply excellent.

This is an important message to many of us. After years of playing video games I find it hard to dedicate more than an hour to any worthwhile project before I give up.

I also just pulled a day-long fast yesterday and it’s amazing how good the first graham cracker tasted at the end of it. I went on to eat about a dozen more and I didn’t even notice the last couple :D

I really like the more-frequent mini vacations suggestion. Time to start planning my weekends.

7 nik rice March 6, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Awesome post Brett.
I would say ‘rarity’ instead of scarcity in the conclusion. Let’s avoid that scarcity mentality Mr. Covey has warned us about.

8 Ian Reide March 6, 2011 at 8:19 pm

I like the article, but I am a little wary of Tim Ferriss and his book. From what I understand (I have not read the book), it is what you say here, one day a week, after a controlled diet, go wild. This to me seems a little dangerous and counter productive. The body, after 6 days of a moderate diet, is suddenly hit with sugar and fat. Lets not go too wild on day 7.

9 Thomas March 6, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Live like no one else so later you can live like no one else.

10 Josh March 6, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Dang! Exactly what I needed to hear. Great post.

11 Blake March 6, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Great post….that is how I look at quite a few thing theses days. Over all if you want an item there is nothing wrong with placing on the want list for a couple months and then reassessing the item when the time come up for review, and if it hasn’t moved high enough on the scale the push it out a little more or take it off the list.

12 Jason March 6, 2011 at 9:23 pm

@Ian – I happen to have read the book, and he addresses that. The basis of the diet is about raising your metabolism rate, and his argument is that any weight that you might gain will be easily lost within the next day or two while using the diet. Not only that, but it adds some extra motivation for sticking to the diet throughout the week; a little reward as an incentive of good performance. In the book he uses numerous personal stories and presents the actual data to back up his claims, which – as a science teacher with a scientific mind – I find adds some appreciated validity to his claims.

Great post guys – very timely!

13 Dan March 6, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Articles like this one keep a man going.

14 David Mc. March 6, 2011 at 10:48 pm

Must say, I really dig this site. Found it last week and have spent a great deal of time looking through old articles. Very well done.

This article is nice, although I had a bad taste in my mouth after reading Ferris’ 4 Hour Work Week. My guess is that he wrote the book in a week, or maybe even 4 hours… :)

15 Brett McKay March 6, 2011 at 10:58 pm


Welcome aboard! I wasn’t a fan of Ferriss’ 4 Hour Work Week either, but decided to omit saying that in the post lest the comments turn into a debate on why. I found the 4HB flawed, but still really interesting and useful.

16 Jim March 6, 2011 at 11:02 pm

This is a great article, and something more men my age need to read about and explore. Not just the desire of, but the NEED for instant gratification is truly one of the core problems with our society at the present.

My only gripe is the mention of Tim Ferriss. I find it most difficult to stomach that man.

17 Loose Nut March 6, 2011 at 11:14 pm

I was on a similar diet once with one day out of the week, I’d have a cheat meal. Man were those cheat meals absolutely euphoric.

18 Russell March 6, 2011 at 11:31 pm

The ethics behind this post have a decidedly Aristotelian feel to them. I guess the same rules apply today as they did in 500 B.C.. You and I did nothing to choose our desires, but often we life as if they controlled the course of our life. By controlling our immediate desires we are able to choose what we do and how we live. The happy life truly is the disciplined life. Anyone interested in reading further should pick up a copy of the Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle.

19 Rizzeh March 6, 2011 at 11:47 pm

Interesting, sage advice. This site kicks ass, keep it up!

20 Jay March 7, 2011 at 12:26 am

Brett, your already awesome posts have become even more enjoyable since making AOM your full-time gig. Please keep them coming!

21 Jason C. March 7, 2011 at 1:34 am

I eat like a pig, but i don’t really use my taste buds that much i only use them on dessert.
But i must continue and learn more…

22 Brad Alexander March 7, 2011 at 2:34 am

I went on the caveman diet and found the exact same thing. Whenever I ate something that was a “treat” it was so much better. But at the same time I didn’t crave it as much or feel like I needed it. It was pure enjoyment.

23 Charles Long March 7, 2011 at 3:25 am

I’ve been an AoM reader for a good many months now-thanks to one of my female friends. Odd, I know. But this article is sooo true. I’ve been holding off from large amounts of salt and sugar in my diet. I rarely have dessert and I hardly ever eat fast food. So now, when I eat something salty or with any amount of salt-it is like a flavor explosion. Yum!!
Also, hold off on being physical in relationships. Take it slowly. Even wait at least a month before kissing on the lips. It’s worth the wait.

24 Steve Z March 7, 2011 at 3:47 am

Thank you!

25 Paul Kyriazi March 7, 2011 at 5:51 am

A great article with important ideas. I’m having success with the Tim Ferris ‘Four Hour Body’ diet as well. That diet includes drinking lots of water, which for me is the key, I think.

26 Matthew R Jones March 7, 2011 at 6:01 am

“Don’t linger long at the table of success. The only way to enjoy another meal is to get hungry”
– Jim Rohn

27 TariqnShaheera March 7, 2011 at 6:10 am

Hey Brett & Kay!

Awesome ideas, wonderful articles! I totally agree with the words “delayed gratification”. You have shared awesome benefits of it in your post. Love it, love it, love it!

I agree with the benefit you’ve pointed out – “helps you make do with less” because this is what I’ve been facing for the last few years. However, I still feel lucky for being selected by God to experience “the less” that I could appreciate my “old laptop” more. :)

Thank you again for sharing and inspiring your ideas about the benefit of “delayed gratification”.

Keep up good job!

28 eitan March 7, 2011 at 7:34 am

In light of this post, I really feel compelled to recommend a book I love, and wish I could live (more fully) by, called “The Guide To The Good Life”, by William Irvine, which has a chapter on this topic. There is no better self-help book in the world. The good part is, its not geared towards self-help, but truth and virtue…which we could all use more of. (For those who will pursue reading it, note that you can skip the historical section at the beg of the book and not miss out at all.)

29 grond March 7, 2011 at 9:26 am

I know it wasn’t the point of the article but, as with at least one other, I’d very very leery of cramming all the carbs I wanted one day a week…the spike it’d give your blood sugar would be colossal and *could* be, in the long run, damaging. Still, very good piece, thanks for posting it.

30 Claude March 7, 2011 at 10:08 am

This has already been a recent discovery of mine. I gave up looking at porn all together. I did it at the request of my wife but the side affect was a dramatically increased sex drive and better experiences for both of us. I having such easy access to porn at all times was having a mentally numbing effect on me.

After 15 years of marriage we were getting to a point where sex was becoming less frequent and less, shall we say, enthusiastic. This has now been reversed and we’re behaving more like newlyweds again.

31 Brian March 7, 2011 at 10:37 am

It’s not what you eat, it’s when and how much you eat that matter. The key is to make sure you are hungry before eating and to stop when you are satisfied. Quit relying on the clock to tell you it’s time to eat lunch or dinner and let your stomach tell you.

32 Splashman March 7, 2011 at 1:15 pm

@Dustin and @Claude,
I’m very glad you associated the “delayed gratification” theme to sexual appetite. One of the biggest changes to American life in the last 100 years is our expectations regarding sex. For most people today, more=better, and the cultural shift that began in the 60s has led to dramatically increased access to “more” (including premarital sex, adultery, and porn). Those who deliberately choose to have sex only with their spouse, know that the rewards are much greater than the sacrifice.

@Claude, I too made the decision several years ago to go 100% porn-free. I was never into it much (mostly used it as a fall-back for when I wasn’t gettin’ any), but even a little is too much — it’s like “a little cyanide”. Only after I stopped did I come to realize how damaging it was to my marriage relationship. It really is a poison, and while its effect is more obvious in some and more insidious in others, it is morally fatal for all. Staying away from porn is a challenge, especially since my day job is mostly computer work, but a man can do anything when he is properly motivated. For me, the motivation is simple: porn is a road that leads over a cliff to Hell, and that’s not where I want to end up. Like you, my wife and I are now “in love” again, and after nearly 20 years of marriage we are both enjoying sex more (and more often!!!) than we ever did before.

33 Carlos E March 7, 2011 at 1:22 pm

That reminded me of this excelent piece by Kai Krause:

I always felt, but can’t prove outright: Zen is wrong. Then is right. Everything is not about the now, as in the “here and how”, “living for the moment” On the contrary: I believe everything is about the before then and the back then.

It is about the anticipation of the moment and the memory of the moment, but not the moment.

In German there is a beautiful little word for it: “Vorfreude”, which still is a shade different from “delight” or “pleasure” or even “anticipation”. It is the “Pre-Delight”, the “Before-Joy”, or as a little linguistic concoction: the “ForeFun”; in a single word trying to express the relationship of time, the pleasure of waiting for the moment to arrive, the can’t wait moments of elation, of hoping for some thing, some one, some event to happen.

Whether it’s on a small scale like that special taste of your favorite food, waiting to see a loved one, that one moment in a piece of music, a sequence in a movie….or the larger versions: the expectation of a beautiful vacation, the birth of a baby, your acceptance of an Oscar.

We have been told by wise men, Dalais and Maharishis that it is supposedly all about those moments, to cherish the second it happens and never mind the continuance of time…

But for me, since early childhood days, I realized somehow: the beauty lies in the time before, the hope for, the waiting for, the imaginary picture painted in perfection of that instant in time. And then, once it passes, in the blink of an eye, it will be the memory which really stays with you, the reflection, the remembrance of that time. Cherish the thought…, remember how….

Nothing ever is as beautiful as its abstraction through the rose-colored glasses of anticipation…The toddlers hope for Santa Claus on Christmas eve turns out to be a fat guy with a fashion issue. Waiting for the first kiss can give you waves of emotional shivers up your spine, but when it then actually happens, it’s a bunch of molecules colliding, a bit of a mess, really. It is not the real moment that matters. In Anticipation the moment will be glorified by innocence, not knowing yet. In Remembrance the moment will be sanctified by memory filters, not knowing any more.

In the Zen version, trying to uphold the beauty of the moment in that moment is in my eyes a sad undertaking. Not so much because it can be done, all manner of techniques have been put forth how to be a happy human by mastering the art of it. But it also implies, by definition, that all those other moments live just as much under the spotlight: the mundane, the lame, the gross, the everyday routines of dealing with life’s mere mechanics.

In the Then version, it is quite the opposite: the long phases before and after last hundreds or thousands of times longer than the moment, and drown out the everyday humdrum entirely.

Bluntly put: spend your life in the eternal bliss of always having something to hope for, something to wait for, plans not realized, dreams not come true…. Make sure you have new points on the horizon, that you purposely create. And at the same time, relive your memories, uphold and cherish them, keep them alive and share them, talk about them.

Make plans and take pictures.

I have no way of proving such a lofty philosophical theory, but I greatly anticipate the moment that I might… and once I have done it, I will, most certainly, never forget.

34 Martin March 7, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Thank you for an inspiring article. I am struggling to learn to say NO to some bad habits (overeating, mindless internet surffing, and some more…) and the article reminds of the possible great rewards and encourages to continue!

35 Jeremy March 7, 2011 at 1:46 pm

The concept of self-denial is of course prevalent in religions, too. In orthodox Judaism, a common practice can be called “two week on, two weeks off.” In it, the couple (married) sleep together and have sex almost every night, for two weeks. Then they separate for two weeks. Different beds, if not different rooms. While this is also tied in with the ancient idea that women are “dirty” during their periods, it is also immensely helpful to enliven a relationship. Very few people cheat on their spouse in this instance – or at least the theory holds – because they know that the two weeks “on” are very, VERY good, and the two weeks off are just building up the anticipation. In essence, their “taste buds” had been re-attuned.

36 Zohaib March 7, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Great article, as usual.

I read about the vacation theory years ago, and after my first year of working professionally, I started implementing it. I’d take 3 days off right before or right after a weekend, at the end of March, June, September, and the standard week at the end of December for Christmas break. In the end, I would plan more exciting things, and get a lot more to experiences through the year.

Whenever I’d find myself feeling down or in a rut, I’d plan something unique for one of the coming weekends, whether it be an overnight camping trip or a 5k, and distract myself through the week planning and anticipating it. As a result, I’d be more positive and more productive.

On a similar note, I also fast during Ramadan every year. You learn a lot about your self discipline and personal restraint in doing so. There is no one to stop you from eating or drinking (or any of the various restrictions) when no one is looking, and no way for someone to check if you have been, so it’s up to yourself from doing so. When it’s all over, just simple things like water at the end of the day is more gratifying, and you appreciate it more than you would otherwise.

Another way i found to enjoy and appreciate something is to save up for it, rather than pay it in credit or put it off to the future to pay it. You end up being careful in buying what it is that you’re buying, and you evaluate its want versus its need. You also feel more satisfied knowing that the item is yours, and not indebted to someone.

Keep up the good work, Brett and Kate, God bless.

37 Alec March 7, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Hot dog, Brett!
Thank you for continually posting articles that are ever-increasingly relevant to me!
I’m half-way through University studying Law. A long story short, with what you wrote on not ‘should-ing all over yourself’ it spoke volumes to me. I recently made the big (and correct) decision to not become a solicitor (a.k.a attorney) anymore after I finish my degree.
Anyway, first you post that extremely relevant article, and now you go and post this one! For not only is this post relevant in terms of a certain lady I know in my life but also my giving up Facebook for Lent beginning tomorrow night (UK Lent time)!


38 Keith Brawner March 7, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Franklin says it as well:
Industry gives comfort, plenty, and respect. Fly pleasures, and they’ll follow you.

39 Tim March 7, 2011 at 7:39 pm

@Carlos E

I am not familiar with Kai Krause – but it is interesting you bring up Zen.

You say, “Nothing ever is as beautiful as its abstraction through the rose-colored glasses of anticipation…” which is somewhat ironic, I think, when talking about Zen. Meditation is prolonged sensory deprivation. After long meditation retreats, every detail of every step I take is overwhelming – which is a version of Brett biting into a burger after a week at the salad bar.

In one sense you are on to something – that there is an enormous space before and after an event you are looking forward to. However – is it really possible to experience That moment outside of This moment? In my experience, the idea is generally not to throw away anything you know about the past or future, but simply to recognize that it doesn’t exist outside of you interpreting it right now.

Many Zen practitioners run into problems with anticipation of enlightenment, and their teachers spend a lot of time helping them stop. My old swim coach used to yell at me for looking at the other swimmers during breaststroke – when I stopped and concentrated on what I was doing, I shaved seconds off my time. There is an element of “keep your nose to the grindstone, do what needs to be done now” in Zen practice. In many ways, Zen is the very definition of delayed gratification. Sitting and counting to ten is frustrating when you realize how often your mind wants to think about literally anything else… but this is another moment to try.

Cheers! I’ll look into Kai Krause.

40 kenny March 7, 2011 at 8:25 pm

I have been patiently awaiting the day when I will buy my Saddleback leather briefcase. I have been purchasing gift certificates since Christmas and am getting close! It feels to good to wait as I believe I will greatly appreciate my purchase as a result of my patience.

41 Evan March 8, 2011 at 1:50 am

As another said, regardless of the content (which was great and well timed by the way), you are a tremendous writer Brett. This post set up the point well and really drove it home.

At first I thought you were going to advocate some cockamamy diet, but the story about the diet really set up the rest of the article. Keep up the great work and I look forward to reading more soon.


42 Michael March 8, 2011 at 4:39 am

Brett, oddly enough after I picked up The 4-Hour Body I did the same thing: had to try the Slow-Carb Diet (even though I’m not actually overweight). Had great results (again, considering I wasn’t packing all that much fat to begin with) and the “cheat days” were pretty fun. I’m now trying another process outlined in the book.

But you—you can find a higher purpose in just about everything you do, it seems. True again with this. Transcending dogma to find the best direction for you. Rock. On.

43 sylvain March 8, 2011 at 11:10 am

Seriously great article. Really great. I really enjoyed the part about our society not really directing men towards what should be held as sacred. But! What a great perspective the author held. Very empowering. Anyone have any suggestions on how to spice up this proposed diet? I think that is a great place to start this type of discipline. Great blog!!

44 Joe March 8, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Well-written article, and it’s heartening to see so many positive responses. Unfortunately, those who preach the idea of sacrifice and self-denial, like churches and other groups, are dismissed as obsolete prudes who don’t like to see anybody have fun.

It’s also sad to see to what lengths the idea of instant gratification has permeated our society, and how we end up paying for it. No need to save up to put a downpayment on a home. Day traders screwing with the system in a quest to make constant, instant profits. People running up ridiculous amounts of credit card debt for things they have to have right now. Our government and politicians don’t help the matter any, because they know any mention of sacrifice means death in the polls, and people will keep voting for the candidate who promises them more and more immediately. Unfortunately, to many people sacrifice is something somebody else should do so I can have more.

Hopefully, the men here can not only set the example of the benefits of delayed gratification not only in their own lives, but in their communities as well.

Oh one more small thing, Brett. I think in the one paragraph you mean to say “anti-climactic” not “anti-climatic.”

45 Eric March 8, 2011 at 12:37 pm

@sylvain- Look on Tim Ferris’ website for some good tips to (literally) spice up the Slow Carb Diet. He has some great ideas there.

Great post, Brett. Makes me think of something I heard John MacArthur say one time, something that really resonated with me, paraphrasing: At least once a day I say no to something. Not because I have to, or particularly want to. I say no just to make sure that I can.

46 MDL March 8, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Brett, I’d like to point you to the primal blueprint, if you’re enjoying the various slow/low carb ideas. I’ve been primal for about 18 months now, and I quite enjoy how I feel. (Its not just about food, it’s about how you exercise, how you live, etc)

I think the Primal Blueprint dovetails well with AoM in general. I’ve listed it as my website in this post (it is not mine), so you should be able to find your way there (and I won’t get mistaken for spam).

47 John March 9, 2011 at 10:37 am

Great post! It’s fitting that it comes right before Ash Wednesday and Lent! As Catholics, we take the next 40 days to deny ourselves in model of Jesus’s 40 days of fasting in the desert before his public ministry. It is a time to grow spiritually, teaching us that our happiness lies not in the pursuit of physical pleasure, but in our relationship with God and what we offer to him; It is a time to grow humanly, teaching us the joy of self-control and discipline; and finally, it is a time to grow (as a male) in manly fortitude, temperance, and wisdom: wisdom to clearly see the hierarchy of goods (God>created things), temperance in controlling the demands of appetites that distract a man from growth, and fortitude in learning to do combat against one’s passions by strengthenign the will. Thank you for your article! I will eat my bread and water today encouraged by your words!

48 Vince R March 9, 2011 at 3:34 pm

i would add that an important life lesson is learning where your center is. the wheel of fortune metaphor (no, not pat sajak’s) provides great background for this idea:

The wheel has a hub, radiating out to its rim. As it turns through time, we hang on to its rim, either going up or down, experiencing the great highs and lows. In modern terms, chasing rewards like a higher salary or power or beautiful bodies are all rim-hanging things. We hang on, sometimes for dear life, in this relentless cycle of pleasure and pain.

finding one’s center is, of course, the solution to the wheel of fortune dilemma. it allows you to be calm in a storm, as well as in a jubilation.

going without is a great exercise for getting in touch with your center.

49 Patrick March 10, 2011 at 12:58 am

What an amazing article! Today is Ash Wedenesday, just got home from Mass and getting my ashes. This article has given me a brand new approach in living in this Holy Season. Truth is indeed timeless. Sad fact of life however is that we can wait (and work) a lifetime and still be denied our just rewards despite the increasing yearning in our hearts decade after decade. I’ve been blessed to grow and mature despite suffering.
To thine own self be true!
God Bless

50 John March 10, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Good points!

I don’t think the delayed gratification in our lives necessarily needs to be deliberately introduced. Think of building any skill, like learning to play an instrument or speak a foreign language. They’re both endless pursuits, since there are always things left to improve on and look forward to mastering.
Oh, and concerts are a good source of delayed gratification, I try to keep the future full of cool bands to look forward to seeing. I aim to always have something interesting somewhere over the horizon.

51 Horatio March 10, 2011 at 10:26 pm

I would just like to comment on what gentlemen everyone commenting on this post has proven to be. Keep on being gentlemen, gentlemen.

52 Joe March 11, 2011 at 2:17 am

WOW! im surprised on the timing of this article… just a while a few minutes i was about to buy a car (77 maverick) but i decided to wait it off since im still in school and i dont really have enough money to support it, but i still had that anxious feeling of buying that car..well the point is that your article has helped me see the benefits of waiting before taking this financial burden..AWESOME articles thanks alot Brett!!

53 asdrubal rivas March 13, 2011 at 11:21 am

That’s right

54 DR March 13, 2011 at 6:48 pm

“Again, we’re not just talking about food here. For example, this is true of physical intimacy in a relationship as well—the longer you put sex off, the sweeter it is when consummated.”

- So true. I try to live by a philosophy of applying knowledge about one subject to all subjects, and it really does help you to discover more about yourself. I was happy to see you briefly touched base on something similar! Great article.


55 Yayaati Joshi March 15, 2011 at 9:30 am

Yes, I agree…patience is a rare virtue. Its advatages are known only to those whose practise it.

56 Drew Scott March 15, 2011 at 6:34 pm

This is a fantastic article. But it is also a great lesson for us to teach the next generation.

57 Henri March 18, 2011 at 9:16 am


Anticipation – i have been pondering about this topic. What happens to me a lot is for example I wait for social happenings like parties, meetings or other such kind. Usually i end up making too big assumptions about the happening beforehand and end up disappointed whit its outcome. It seems to be really hard to accept the randomness of what takes place in events and to use up the time before to gain towards other goals for making the approach to what ever takes place more painless. And of course gaining towards other goals in life give more self confidence and feeling of success so the outcome of any event wouldn’t be the single determinant of personal perception of life.

In conclusion I have felt the paralyzing effects of anticipation a lot and have tried to find ways of getting rid of it. But thanks for AoM for stating the necessity of it when placed upon rightful goals.


58 Matthew Norris March 18, 2011 at 10:35 am

It is amazing; I have been doing it right for years. You see my dad was dirt poor growing up in the red hills of Georgia, and while he provided for the family and we never went without, we also didn’t get the newest and the bestest. My school clothes had to last for years- not months and the same with my shoes. We rarely went out to eat, and when we did it was for special occassion or as a treat. Why go out? When you can eat cheaper and enjoy it more at home. If something breaks you fix it or get it repaired, before you get new… or you do without; which is why almost all my cars have not had AC, and I live in Florida.

So yea, I understand the value of waiting and then finding… “hey, maybe I don’t need it or want it after all.”

59 Jon March 22, 2011 at 3:29 am

One article at a time Brett – you’re changing my life. Thanks.

60 Phil March 29, 2011 at 2:42 pm

The Epictetus comment clinched it. This post wins.

61 Tiago April 2, 2011 at 10:32 am

“Every man has a tremendous and tremendously underused power: the power to sacralize anything in his life. Using this power with wisdom is an important part of being a mature man. By purposefully, thoughtfully, and intentionally creating scarcity in your life and delaying your gratification, you can increase your happiness, pleasure, and strength, along with the vitality with which you experience life.”

I read this quote and I thought “who was the bright philosopher that came up with this?”. These are wise words, my friends… wise words.

62 MattC March 6, 2013 at 8:16 am

Great article. Patience is a rare trait in people these days and self discipline even rarer.

Unfortunately, people will only like the idea of it once they’ve tried to abstain from doing something and getting more pleasure from it on the “off day”. It’s not something they can dabble their foot in before going with the idea full on.

Self motivation is needed but most people these days need a push or to see someone else doing it before they try it for themselves.

63 Helen March 6, 2013 at 12:14 pm

“Want to talk to a friend?” Text him????
Why not pick up the phone and call him. Much better idea, than text or e-mail and much more thoughtful. Shows taking time out of a busy day to see how he really is doing. You care!

64 LISA June 24, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Maybe I will try not eating all those rich- carbs- food and have all of them every last sunday of the month. That would be too long delayed gratification i guessed.

65 Peter March 8, 2014 at 7:16 am

Thanks for reminding me of what my parents were talking about Wendy when I was on the verge of a big splash-out. Peter.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post:

Site Meter