Technology is great, right? I think so, but I do worry that it also can be a cruel friend. Here's one thought to consider. Technology seems to teach us more about instant gratification than patience.
Think about it. We expect a web page to load in the blink of an eye -- or we abandon it and move on to the next. We have a question and Siri serves up an instant answer. Whatever it is that you want, Amazon Prime Now will deliver it in less than two hours. These days you may be hard-pressed to find a valid reason to wait for anything at all.
Well, here is one. (And it's backed up by economists.) If you want to be healthy and wealthy, you are better off learning to delay gratification.
A study of elderly adults conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that net wealth was significantly lower for people with less patience, by as much as 29 percent. The study also found that impatient people are more likely to smoke, drink too much, or skip vital health check-ups.
However, we do not need a study to underscore the importance of how the decisions we make today affect our future. We indulge those pressing wants and needs that are in front of us. We often opt for the closest reward, but at what cost? I see this often with my kids, frequently reminding them that just because something is cheap and fast does not mean they need it.
So what can we do about this? Although human nature seems to conspire against us, patience is something we can work to improve. Here is how:
Cast a vision
Before you know where you are going, you need to take stock of where you are. Are you simply living moment to moment, careening from one impulse to the next? The future needs tending as well. Create a mental picture of what that future looks like for you: the business you want to launch, the kids graduating from college, or that charitable fund you want to establish. Then set concrete goals that will help you get there (and hold yourself accountable to reach them).
Now think about your everyday choices measured against those long-term goals. How does raiding your savings for that new car fit into your retirement plans? Rather than satisfying every desire, put off discretionary purchases for further consideration. This will protect against the often-regretted impulse moves, giving you time to reason through how those actions align to your goals.
Acknowledge everyday moments of impatience and practice managing your reaction to them. For example, if rush-hour traffic sets you off, choose calming music or an audiobook to distract you while waiting.
Instead of fighting the crowds for the latest device, decide whether you really need it at all. And if not, tuck those dollars away. A separate study found that people anticipating an experience, such as a vacation, were happier and more patient than those planning to purchase some tangible item.
It is all too easy to give in to our "now, now" culture and satisfy every immediate desire. But this does your future self no favors.
If you want lasting wealth and health, learning to focus on your long term goals and sacrifice to get there will serve you well now and in the years to come. And pinning down what that future actually looks like will actually make the wait -- and the reward -- that much sweeter.