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Delayed gratification or not?

By Ben Kubicek,

Today we have a guest editorial as Steve is out of the office.

You have probably seen those videos. The ones where they put kids in a room by themselves with a plate and a single cookie on it. They tell them if they will wait five minutes and do not eat the cookie, they will get a second cookie. If they eat the cookie before the five minutes is up, there will be no second cookie. The children have all sorts of responses. Most cannot resist the temptation and eat the cookie and don’t get a second one. A few endure the suffering and get rewarded with a second cookie.

I think there can be a fair bit of delayed gratification in our line of work too. Sometimes, when we design a system or setup servers, we can put certain things in place, planning for the future. It takes more time and more effort, but we do it anyway because we think it will pay off in the long run. It could be installing extra features like SSIS or Reporting Services. It could be spending more time on design trying to build things into the schema that we think may be needed in the future.

I was faced with this question of delayed gratification recently outside of work. I was playing one of my time wasting games on my phone. I was tempted to buy some gems for a few dollars, so I could get some upgrades. The issue was, if I just waited 10 days and continued to work at the levels, I would get twice as many gems for free. Ten days is a long time. I can buy the smaller amount of gems now and get the upgrades I want now. Which do I choose? Do I delay my gratification and patiently wait? Or do I give in and spend a few dollars on a silly game?

I can say from experience that delayed gratification is usually the correct choice. So why is it so hard to choose it each time? Why do we want the easy path and the quick solution? Why do we resist doing the extra work now? Perhaps a more important question is: Does it matter?

First, I think it does matter. I think we often know the right thing to do, but try to convince ourselves otherwise. Believe me, the conversations in my head about it is not a big deal, it is just a few dollars, go ahead and buy the gems now. I think sometimes we are trying to convince ourselves that the minimum is enough, that it is okay to take the easy route now.

Here is the problem. Regret and remorse. I am sure you have all experienced it. You know you should have put more effort in. Or you should have done this or that and now you and your company are paying the consequences. Or I wasted a few dollars on a game, it just wasn’t worth it.

So how about you? What would you do? Would you delay your gratification or not? Share a time you delayed gratification, was it worth it or not?

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