I found myself making a comfortable lunch today that was quick and easy. Once I was done and sitting down at my coffee table I had to laugh. Why, you ask? I bet anyone I'm related to can tell you without reading any further.
You see growing up in a family of six in rural Pennsylvania traveling that involved hotels wasn't the most cost effective way to see the world. My family had a pop-up camper that allowed us all to stay together at campgrounds for a reasonable price. Many of our meals comprised of a peanut butter sandwich (or just a slice of bread with peanut butter on it) with a piece of fruit and more than likely a Little Debbie. In our family, the Oatmeal Cream Pie held a special place. But heaven forbid you open it up before the other items were gone.
When we traveled Mom was very persistent that we have to finish our sandwich and fruit before you can have the Oatmeal Cream Pie. Depending on how dry the bread was or overly ripe the fruit may have been might have been a difficult task for most 7-18 year olds. For a plate you tore off a paper towel, found a picnic table at a rest area and ate your meal before we got back on the road to continue the journey. Buying food for six people at a Wendy's or McDonald's not only wasn't nutrient rich, but also was expensive. In her mind she might have viewed this simply as feeding her kids without wasting time and money. To me looking back on it, it was a lesson in those things and delayed gratification.
How does this relate to the world I see when I step outside my door?
So many people just want to fill themselves with the dessert without putting in the work of getting the vitamins and nutrients of the rest of the meal. Their entire lives are living for the short-term. They want to be physically fit using some diet pill instead of simply burning more calories than they consume every day. People expect a high paying job without the hard work of building a strong body of work. This is why people invest in get rich quick schemes or waste their money buying lottery tickets rather than contributing money to investments and investing in assets.
What are you willing to sacrifice today to get to the rewards of tomorrow?
Can you give up going through the drive-through every morning? Something I am sure your waistline and wallet would both thank you for.
Can you give up buying a new truck every 3-4 years and ride it out with one for 10-12 years so you can invest money through index funds or open a Roth IRA? Your 65 year old self will thank your 35 year old self.
Can you give up an hour of Netflix or Hulu every night to build skills that get you where you want to go? The next time you have a job interview you'll be well-rounded by some new skill that allows you to add value to their business.
Can you give up happy hours and drag your butt to the gym every evening? You'll sleep better, feel better and have more energy.
Can you pass up the sweet snacks throughout the day in favor of fruits and vegetables? You won't just get a bunch of hollow calories.
Can you not open Facebook or Instagram to get your news, but rather sit down with a book on history? You'll become a more well-rounded individual in conversations.
There are entirely too many people out of shape, living in debt and without skills that are too weak of will to say "no".
How has this lesson impacted my current life?
I'd say there are many ways that this has benefitted me. Anyone that spends time with me can be annoyed by my love of lists and routine.
Many of these tasks call for a lot of short-term sacrifice and saying "no" to friends and family. Sometimes saying "no" is easier than other times. However, staying disciplined to my goals above has allowed me to stay healthy, fit, well insulated from financial hardship, mentally happy and well educated in a variety of disciplines and view points.
If you're into delayed gratification enjoy one of behavioral economics favorite experiments. The marshmallow experiment for kids. I would be willing to bet that there are some adults that couldn't pass this test.
About the Author
Andy Rupert is a Penn State (B.A. John Curley Center for Sports Journalism 08') and a Southern Miss (M.S. Sport Management 09'). He has spent his whole career working in sports and tourism digital marketing and metrics.