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Delaying Gratification

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson took this week’s chapter through a vast array of historical and biblical accounts in order to elaborate on this concept that has taken us, he would argue, millenniums to figure out and then thousands more to apply.  “Something better might be attained in the future by giving up something of value in the present,” (Peterson, p. 164).   


Once he had established the importance of delaying gratification, Dr. Peterson took his audience through several important historical accounts to show the power and application of this principle.  The “archetype” example was Jesus Christ, Himself, as sacrificing equality with His Father in order to become fully man and take on the sin of the world.  Jordan recognizes that we could justifiably deem that an unrealistic goal to mimic, so he pointed to another ancient “hero.”  Recounting the tale of his seemingly unfair death, Peterson explains, “Socrates rejected expediency, and the necessity for manipulation that accompanied it.  He chose instead…to maintain his pursuit of the meaningful and true,”. (Peterson, p. 173). 


There are many other examples, given in this chapter, but the end result is the same.  The most successful among us aim for a higher ideal, and they sacrifice temporary highs (followed by regret), for a calculated future.   


“Simple enough,” you might find yourself saying (as did I).  But, now let’s do some application:  I invite you to recall with me, a time from recent memory where you sacrificed.”  Perhaps it was something that the outside world would consider no big deal, like saying no” to a cookie after your dinner, or maybe it was something much larger.  Perhaps you laid your life on the line as a soldier for our great nation, or you continually defend against domestic enemies as a police officer, (to which we say a very heartfelt, “thank you,” if this was/is you).   


Now, do the opposite.  Visit your memory banks for when you made the expedient choice, the impulsive option. Dare I say, “animalistic” decision?  Remember the regret and consequences that ensued?   


Though these decisions and sacrifices are on varying degreesthe principle is the same.  We all know the individuals in our life, “who are just more disciplined.”  I’d argue that, at it’s core, delaying gratification is the single-most, largest reason for that.  Whether you have pride or regret involving your past concerning this, be encouraged:  It’s never too late to get on the path!     


Personal growth aside, there is something much deeper at it’s core.  “Sacrifice can hold pain and suffering in abeyance, to a greater or lesser degree-and greater sacrifices can do that more effectively than lesser…Thus, the person who wishes to alleviate suffering…will forgo expediency.  He will pursue the path of ultimate meaning,” (Peterson, p. 172). 


Dr. Peterson reasons that on the other side of winning our inner wars, standing up under the yoke of existence/responsibility, and depriving the present self for a better morrow (be it for your future self, or for others) lies meaning.  Real, soul-satiating meaning.   


We can hypothesize and plan for our next steps.  The truth is that though experience may be the best teacher, not every situation is the same, and there is no way to plan for every scenario.  Yet, by striving for a better future, the ideal itself, answers the question of the unknown.  “Meaning signifies that you are in the right place at the right time, properly balanced between order and chaos, where everything lines up as best it can at that moment,” (Peterson, p. 200).   


I recognize that I have invited you to do a little more soul-searching than is normal for Mindset Mondays.  But perhaps, this is the little push that you needed.  Please don’t simply read and think, “Hmm.  Good thoughts…”. Reflect. Learn.  Apply.  Teach us!  Let’s all strive to become the men or women that Dr. Peterson speaks about who wake up thinking, “‘What should I do today?’ In a manner that means ‘How could I use my time to make things better, instead of worse?'” (Peterson, p. 200).  Tell us what you did this week, to deny expediency for meaning! 


Until next time, 


-Brock Baumgarn, CA, Health 1st Chiropractic 



Peterson, J.B., Doidge, N., &Van, S.E. (20180.  12 rules for life:  An antidote to chaos. 



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