The Art of Delayed Gratification

I cannot point out the exact moment, but as early as middle school (O'level), I had grasped the age-old concept of delayed gratification. Put simply, delayed gratification is the ability to delay the impulse for an immediate reward to receive a more favorable reward at a later time.

I was in boarding school for both middle and high school. Students from wealthier homes would be broke within the first few weeks of the school term, but I always had the discipline to spread my modest 'pocket money' over the three or so months of school. And boarding school is tough when you're broke.

Fast-forward to University: there were always trips to exotic destinations during holidays. I simply couldn't afford them. And I couldn't run to my recently widowed Mum (who had other kids to take care of) for a bailout. I did what is recommended in such cases: despise what you cannot have (also holds true for romantic prospects outside one's league).

As an adult, and a financially secure one, I always get shocked that people can go through 18 or so years of formal education without a clue what delayed gratification is. I have been accused by an ex-partner with "you like seeing many figures on your bank accounts." She totally missed the point: besides slipping (and bleeding to death) in the bathtub, the other thing I fear most is being broke (and debt: I have been debt-free for the last five years). It is important to forego today's indulgences, and save for a rainy day.

The effects of delayed gratification are far-reaching: most of Kampala's extra-marital affairs are largely economic arrangements. You help with my itch... in return for something. As long as folks don't learn to live within their means - from the type of car you drive to where you want to live - the lodges will always operate at full-capacity. (A friend converted a hostel into a lodging facility - targeting adulterers and fornicators - and he's never regretted.)

If you’ve kids or intend to have some, delayed gratification is one of the best life skills you can ever impart in them. It’s not too late.




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