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The Deferral of Gratification and... Empathy?

The Deferral of Gratification and... Empathy?

. 2 min read

Walking the fine line between enjoying the present and building for the future is something with which many people and I struggle. It seems almost natural to take the path of least resistance, but we often don't consider where that path is leading. The ability to console your future-self and ask them, "what can I do now that will help you the most?" is an excellent way of helping you make decisions, but is hard to develop, and even harder to apply. The following qualities seem necessary for such an ability:

  • Have a clear idea of what your future-self desires. What are your goals? What does your ideal day look like? Write this down.

  • Be conscious of these goals when you make decisions. Plan your day, journal, or meditate. Place a list of your goals somewhere you can see them every day.

  • Be able to defer gratification - reject immediate rewards in the hope of receiving a more substantial reward later on.

It is useless to priorities these things; each one is as important as the other. For example, what use is the deferral of gratification if you do not know what you want in the future? Why be conscious of your goals if you are going to cave and make the easy decision when it comes down to the moment? As you can see, each of these is interconnected which is probably why I, and many others, find it so hard to cultivate this character.

Somewhat paradoxically it requires a small amount of each of these qualities to put the effort in and get started. The reward though is humongous. Think about it, by being able to empathise with your future self it will be effortless for you to grow as a person. Every second will be spent becoming the person you want to be. Of course, we are human and may slip up from time to time, that is why I named the list of things as qualities, they are character traits, and building character takes a lifetime. But the intention will at least be there and will put you well ahead of the curve.

When it comes down to it, what is the deferral of gratification but the ability to empathise with your future self?