Delayed Gratification: How to Unleash the Power and Pleasure of Waiting

The idea of delayed gratification is well-known in the literature. However, a number of studies suggest that sometimes waiting for something can actually help you enjoy it more and increase satisfaction if done correctly. How does this affect our motivation? And what are some practical ways to train ourselves towards delaying rewards in life?

The “instant gratification” is a term that is often used to describe the desire for immediate satisfaction and results. However, this behavior can be detrimental to your well-being. The article discusses how people who are constantly seeking instant gratification are more likely to suffer from depression or anxiety. With this in mind, it is important not to fall into the trap of waiting too long for things that you want.

Vintage man sitting on chair with side pose.

While I was a huge kid in middle school who couldn’t perform a single pull-up, I’ve maintained an average weight since college; I’m neither ripped nor overweight.

However, depending on how well I eat and exercise, my weight fluctuates by 10 pounds. I noticed the scale shifting to the higher level during our recent pass through the sugar cookie-riddled Christmas gauntlet. So I made the decision to do something to lose weight.

Tim Ferriss’ latest book, The Four Hour Body, was just purchased by me. The concept behind the 4HB is brilliant; for many years, Ferriss served as a guinea pig, conducting various tests on himself in the hopes of uncovering new methods to hack the human body.

Ferriss promotes the “Slow Carb Diet” in his book, so I decided to try it. The diet is straightforward. Every meal includes protein, beans, and veggies. Fruit, processed carbohydrates, and sugar are strictly forbidden, with the exception of one day each week. You may eat anything you want on that day. Everything your carb-starved heart could ever want. The Body for Life diet is comparable to this strategy.

So I gave the Slow Carb Diet a try and was pleasantly surprised to lose 10 pounds while doing so. But the biggest advantage was that it reminded me of an age-old truth: deferring gratification increases joy. I’d daydream about what I’d eat on my “free day” while I sat down to plate after plate of chicken breasts, beans, and broccoli throughout the week. It felt practically wonderful to sink my teeth into a huge burger and rip into a dish of ice cream when it eventually came. Carbs would flood over my head and make me feel relaxed.

I used to eat “poor” meals here and there during the week before starting the program. And they were nice, but on the pleasure meter, they were merely average. They tasted 10 times better after waiting only a week.

This is a philosophy that can be applied to many aspects of our life, not just eating. The more uncommon something is, and the longer we wait to receive what we desire, the higher the pleasure and payoff when we do.

In an age of anomie, we must set our own limits.

We live in an age of immediate pleasure. Almost every pleasure we seek is available at any time of day or night. Do you want to view some porn? It’s simply a few mouse clicks away. Do you need some nourishment? Take out the microwave, rip open the bag, or go to a 24-hour fast food place. Do you want to go out and purchase a new camera at 3 a.m. in your underwear? Go to Amazon and look around. Do you want to speak with a friend? Send a text message. Do you want to be entertained? Take out the remote control.

It is the current epoch. The pleasure spigot is always turned up to eleven.


No one will stop you from placing your mouth over that spigot and filling up till they have to roll you away in the Age of Anomie, when society conventions and standards have given way to full blown personal freedom. You, as your own man, must regulate the flow, turn the faucet on and off, and establish limitations for yourself not because you have to, but because you want to. You must now take the effort to sacralize things yourself, rather than allowing society to decide what is holy or exceptional.

Why would you want to do anything like that? To boost your enjoyment, pleasure, and manliness.

Delayed Gratification’s Advantages

It’s evident that we’re discussing self-denial. Which, like “sacrifice” and “discipline,” is an extremely unpopular term these days. Just thinking about it makes you feel itchy and suffocating. Why would you want to take something away from yourself?

Because, in reality, deferring satisfaction of your wants has a slew of great advantages:

Makes it easier to get by with less

The Slow Carb Diet re-tuned my taste senses, which was something I noticed while on it. Normally, after dinner, I’d need something sweet like a brownie, but on the diet, a cup of unsweetened herbal tea sufficed. My taste receptors had been oversaturated, and taking a vacation from highly sweet foods restored that sensitivity, causing a very little amount to seem a lot.

When you postpone gratification and eventually receive what you want, you’ll frequently find that you don’t need as much as you thought you needed or that you don’t need it at all. You believe you need a new laptop but decide to wait two months before purchasing one, and when that time comes, you discover the old one is perfectly enough.

Encourages you to treat things with more care.

Even if you decide you still want the item you’ve been eyeing, you’ll treat it better when you receive it after a time of delayed gratification. Your folks were correct the whole time… You would have taken better care of that remote control vehicle if you had purchased it yourself! If you budget and save up for a truly great pair of shoes, as Tony discussed in last week’s column on shoes, you’ll wind up putting in the time and effort to make them last. When we believe we’ve worked hard for something, we don’t want it to go to waste. This leads us to our next point…

Allows You to Feel Satisfied Without Feeling Guilty

Have you ever purchased anything you wished for but couldn’t afford? Infringing emotions of guilt that you shouldn’t have pulled the trigger undoubtedly diminished the joy you felt from making that buy. As a result, you weren’t able to completely appreciate your new acquisition.

When you wait until you’ve worked hard for something, though, the pleasure is entirely yours to enjoy.


When I was on the Slow Carb Diet, I could eat a whole pizza pie without feeling guilty, and I didn’t have to say to myself, “Dang, I shouldn’t be eating this.”

Allows you to feel and experience life at a deeper level

On the opposite side of the sensation you get when you get up from the sofa and create a triple-decker sandwich is heaven. When you don’t make the sandwich, it’s on the other side of that. It’s all about making sacrifices…. It’s all about letting go of the things that prevent you from experiencing. At least, that’s what I think. “What am I going to give up next?” I’m continually thinking. I want to be able to feel. Jim Carrey (Jim Carrey)

I know it’s tough to accept advise from the guy who played Dumb and Dumber, but the gentleman makes a pretty valid point here.

Feeling is one of the most important aspects of life for everyone. It’s not only about feeling happy; it’s about just feeling, and feeling thoroughly. This is why, although women have a reputation for generating drama, I know males who do it as well–for example, by cheating on a partner they really love–to create an angst-filled environment. Because, despite the fact that anxiety is a “bad” feeling, it’s strangely gratifying to feel something–anything–so strongly.

There are, however, better methods to feel more intensely than inventing drama for oneself, such as intentionally fostering hunger (and I mean hunger here in a much broader sense than the appetite for food).

We often consider hunger to be “evil” and satiation to be “good.” But each condition is a part of the human experience spectrum, and each has significance; every man has to feel both of them fully in order to comprehend himself and the world.

You must be content to feel both satiation and hunger if you want to enjoy the richness of life; if you’re constantly stuffed from indulging in life’s joys, you’ll lose out on a whole other level of the human experience.

Strengthens and disciplines you

One want may be given more attention than the others, and it will repay the favor by gently assuming the role of master… The whole man, body and spirit, is forced to work in order to satisfy one overriding need. -William Burns Thomson, Habit, 1864

Every guy should strive to be his own master. Instead of his impulses dragging him about, a guy should be allowed to choose when and where to fulfill his needs. A man is not a slave, but a king. Delaying gratification improves your self-confidence and self-discipline. You are in charge of your life, not your emotions or circumstances. Discipline, as we’ve covered, is like a muscle that has to be trained on a regular basis to maintain its strength.


Controlling one’s desire, rather than fully enjoying what one desires, leads to freedom. -Epictetus

Pleasure and happiness are increased.

All those goofy bumper stickers and song lyrics were correct; it’s all about the trip, not the destination.

Scientists have discovered that when we strive for our objectives, our brains feel greater joy than when we attain them. It may seem unusual, but consider how much more enjoyable the build-up to Christmas is than Christmas Day itself. I’m sure we’ve all had those times when we’ve worked so hard for something and then it seems weirdly anti-climatic when we finally get it. The journey there was perhaps the most enjoyable part.

A research on the influence of holidays on people’s levels of happiness is one of the most intriguing illustrations of this reality. Researchers discovered that no matter how enjoyable and peaceful a vacation was, people’s happiness returned to baseline two weeks or less after returning home. People’s satisfaction was boosted the most by merely anticipating the holiday, not by actually going on it! People were ecstatic for eight weeks before to their trip just thinking about how wonderful it would be. As a result, the researchers propose that individuals take multiple shorter holidays throughout the year rather than one large trip, allowing them to spend more time anticipating their vacations.

Delaying satisfaction also enhances the enjoyment of the payoff by increasing your appetite, which, as many have noticed, is indeed “the greatest spice.” You can’t have the joy of something without the bitter; you can’t have the sweet without the bitter.

We’re not just talking about food here, though. This is also true of physical closeness in a relationship: the longer you put off sex, the sweeter it is when you finally do it. Even couples who do not wait until marriage to have sex frequently take a sex “holiday” before their wedding, refraining from sex for a month or two to build up the thrill and anticipation for the big day and the honeymoon.

So, whatever it is that you want, put it off to maximize your enjoyment.


Every guy has a fantastic and underutilized ability: the ability to sacralize everything in his life. Being a mature man is knowing how to use this power with prudence. You may boost your happiness, joy, and strength, as well as the energy with which you experience life, by actively, intelligently, and intentionally creating scarcity in your life and postponing satisfaction.



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