The Delayed Gratification Manifesto
Black Friday: The day after American thanksgiving whereby throngs of patriotic citizens line-up at the earliest hours of the morning, despite their turkey hangovers to fight tooth and nail to get the best deals at commercial retailers.
This day is a success if you do any of the following:
1. Find a bargain
2. Purchase a Christmas gift early
3. Buy yourself an electronic device that you've always needed
4. Survive the day unscathed, having narrowly avoided death by trampling
Black Friday is a microcosm of our modern day struggles, a perfect example of the swirling environment which has leaves us with discontent and a deep-rooted anxiety. We are in the 21st century and everything is at our fingertips, yet we are more stressed and tired than ever. Maybe this is the issue - we are inundated with texts, tweets, emails, marketting, GIFs, Vines. Food has become take-out and grab as you go, and law-makers have had to put strong legislation into force so we don't kill ourselves operating our vehicles while using our phones.
This is the Delayed Gratification Manifesto, a call for a purposeful restraint from too much stimulus. In our evolution, the ancestors who were able to consume the most sugar would survive the winter. Those that stayed connected to the tribe would never get ostracized. Those that reacted quickest to external stimuli would not get eaten.
We live in a different world, where sugar is everywhere, where our network is the world wide web, and marketers prey on our senses by exposing us to stimuli we can't ignore. We are slowly rewiring our brains to become addicted to sugar, porn, drugs, alcohol, social media, and toys. These addictions have diminished our focus, decommissioned our control centers and reduced our capacity to focus, or even sit still for a few minutes.
The Marshmallow Test, a cruel Stanford experiment to test a child's ability to delay gratification showed that children who could delay gratification (not eat a marshmallow) and accept a larger payout (multiple marshmallows instead) turned out to be more competent later in life. If we can delay gratification and not accept the allure of feeling good for a few moments, we will most certainly reach our goals. The only problem is that in our world, there are many more marshmallows out there. YOLO is the mantra and the days when we had to work hard are seemingly behind us.
Delaying gratification is the ticket out of the paradigm that we are trapped in, a growing sea of despondency caused by the endless waves of stimulus that are short-circuiting our brains. Delay your gratification and you'll achieve what you've always thought impossible. Delay your gratification and your focus and mindfulness returns.
Here are a few ways to curb your addiction to stimulus:
1. Refrain from electronics one hour before bed and after you wake up. If you're having trouble sleeping, this will help a lot.
2. Chew slower, and stop eating before your stomach is full. You're brain will tell you to keep going, but your body will lose its appetite after 15 minutes. Also, ease up on the simple sugars.
3. The Waiting Game: if you are in line or on the bus, try and wait without checking your phone. You will start to feel the anxiety creep in; be aware and breathe deep.
4. Avoid caffeinated beverages for a week, then stick to one caffeinated drink per day if you have to.
5. Get better at washing the dishes. We are often in such a rush to get to the next thing that we lose touch of the present. This is an old Eastern mentality - mastering the mundane tasks enables us to see the world more clearly and handle the complexities of life.