14 January 2009

Instant Gratification vs Patience

Instant gratification: obtaining gratification without regard to whether it may or may not be in one's best interest to defer gratification.

Patience: the state of calm endurance under difficult circumstances.

Something that has become very present in my life is that of instant gratification versus patience. We live in a fast-forwarded world where instant gratification is seemingly - key word - necessary. What happened to exercising patience, waiting something it out so that it's that much more fulfilling in the end? I believe that aspect of culture (of the US alone? of the world?) is dying, if not dead already.

I asked an old friend of mine, Roy Hobbs, what he thought about instant gratification with regards to our society. Here is the conversation:

Me: what is instant gratification to you?

Roy: hmm never really thought about it i guess.....i suppose the expecting or meeting your wants/expectations/whatever quickly

Me: what do you think when you apply that concept to our society?

Roy: i would think its def. a big part of american society... everyone wants everything now and doesnt want to wait, if they dont get what they want they get pissed off....hmm yeah

Me: i agree. why do you think that pisses people off?

Roy: people basically have a pre-disposition that if they should be and are entitled to be able to get exactly what they want
basically. our society is spoiled

Well put, Roy. "Our society is spoiled."

Here are a few examples of the ways our lives demand instant gratification and my respective thoughts:

Text messaging. I used to be against it. Now I still am. You read that right. It's one of those evils in my life. I mostly use it for the sake of others who can't seem to communicate without texting. It bothers me when folks text when having dinner with family and/or friends (same goes with answering a phone call unless it's been announced that you're expecting an urgent call from someone having a baby or in critical health condition, etc.). It also bothers me when people text (or just fiddle with their phones in general) during meetings. Don't forget about those who text on the move. Watch out for those ones. Bottom line: texting is yet another way in which we take the personal out of personal communication. Sad.

Email. Emailing for business purposes is great; you've got an electronic trail/proof/whatever you want to call it. Emailing when you can chat in person is just as bad as texting. At least pick up the phone and call the person. If it's an issue of time, or say you're at work, fine. Email the person to ask if they're available to chat on the phone later that night. I find that I set up lots of phone dates with my friends who are out of state. It keeps friendships more lively. Again, it's that personal aspect that email takes away. Really want to impress someone? Send them a letter using good old snail mail. The recipient will be thankful for the time you invested in the relationship when you sat down and put your thoughts onto paper.

Ah, yes. Let us not forget about the fast food industry. The name says it all. Personally, I hate McDonald's. I won't get into that, but I'm also not a fan of fast food. It's more like fat food. Remember Super Size Me? Plan out some meals, make a grocery list once a week, buy only the listed groceries. Look, you're eating healthy and saving money from all the eating out. Don't like to cook? Make it fun by spending the cooking time with family and/or friends. If you have no choice but to cook alone, throw on a phone headset, and call up a friend instead of emailing them. Ta-da!

Here's one that's slammed into our faces nearly every minute: sex. This picture points out a very brutal truth, one that is so often blatantly ignored. Long-term consequences of sex: STDs, pregnancies, emotional baggage, money issues (regarding children). I've made choices to avoid the instant gratifications of sex, so I don't know for sure, but I bet that list of long-term consequences is longer than what I have here. Why not gain some respect and self-control and disassociate sex and instant gratification from one another. After all, shouldn't sex be continuous gratification, meaning: shouldn't sex be shared with a worthy person in the long-term?

The well-known "Easy" button. I take pride in doing things the so-called "difficult" way (difficult means time-consuming to most). Why? Because then I know I've done it right, not taken any short-cuts, and I'm more satisfied with the result in the end. As far as the time I invest in doing something the hard way, it almost always turns out worth it. The next time you want to do something the easy way, rethink your reasons. You probably have the time to do it "right," and I'm sure you'll be more satisfied if you put some time and energy into it.

I found some quotes about patience. Not just quotes, but words spoken by great minds. I think we should all start heeding their advice.

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." -Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

“Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you. So in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind.” -Leonardo da Vinci, painter, engineer, musician, and scientist (1452-1519)

“Have patience! In time, even grass becomes milk.” -Charan Singh, satguru (1916-1990)

"God's way of answering the Christian's prayer for more patience, experience, hope, and love often is to put him into the furnace of affliction." -Richard Cecil, a leading Evangelical Anglican clergyman of the 18th and 19th centuries

“Patience is also a form of action.” -Auguste Rodin, French sculptor (1840-1917)

You may have noticed that the majority of these quotes came into existence long ago. What is the one thing that has changed most drastically over time? Technology, if you ask me. Maybe we should assess our dependency on Technology.

I, for one, work hard to keep myself from being dependent on Technology as society deems fit. When I went to Australia last year I was without a phone for a month - it was great! I felt so free! If you know me, you know that I am a huge fan of keeping track of things with paper and pencil. Sure, it may be more tedious than typing on a computer, but what are the chances my paper will go up in flames, and what are the chances that my computer data will be lost, saved over, etc.? Not to mention the fact that it is much easier to tuck a planner in my purse than my computer just to have my calendar and events with me (don't get me started on keeping my calendar on my phone; it's another story altogether).

Here's a prime example of deferring gratification. My BlackJack phone has served me well (for the most part), but it's beginning to fail in a hardware sense. I am eligible for a phone upgrade, free of charge, on Sunday, 8 February - less than a month away. I could just pay for a brand new phone right now! But I'm not going to for several reasons:

1. I want to make a point that patience is a virtue that needs to be revived in our lives.
2. I don't have the money for a brand new (or even discounted or used) phone.
3. If I wait, there may be a better phone available by the time I get a new phone.

So, let's all hope my phone gets me through the next few weeks while I'm moving from Indiana to Florida, haha. I'm pretty sure that I'll secretly enjoy not having a phone for a while in the event that my phone does conk out on me.

I encourage you to think of ways you can defer your own gratification. Resist impulse purchases, don't answer your phone/text messages when you're engaged in conversation/activity with someone in person, write a letter and send a long-distant friend some snail mail rather than an email. You'll be happier, I promise.

To close, here are a couple images that I associate with patience. Here is a young girl sitting quietly. I like to believe she is praying, at least she appreciating the meaningfulness in her life.


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