How badly do you want the cheese?

January 14, 2022

One thing I’ve learned from life is that it all boils down to risk: the amount we’re willing to tolerate and also the type.

How badly do you want the cheese?

It’s hard to make progress in career or any kind of life activity, for that matter, without being willing to risk. Moving across country or to a different country altogether, changing careers midlife, having kids, getting married–it really is all about risk. Whether we realize it or not.

And then there’s the risk we’re faced with every day due to, well, you know what.

Looking at our current pandemic it’s obvious to me that some risk-taking behavior comes from the inability to defer gratification: the inability to put off pleasure now for some greater good.

When people go out unmasked or unvaxxed, they could be making a political statement, crazy as that is. But what they also do is put the rest of us at risk. It’s one thing to risk their own lives–have at it, and let Darwin’s theory of natural selection run its course. But putting the rest of us at risk by their behavior? That’s an entirely different thing.

Oh, we are tired!

Folks who are tired of being in and want to go out to restaurants, events and other gatherings in the middle of a highly contagious viral pandemic show us us they are unable to delay gratification. They are unwilling to delay momentary pleasure to help control the pandemic. Oh, they don’t see it that way. They just want to do what they want to do and most don’t even give a thought to what that means to the bigger picture.

Deferring or delaying gratification is part of self-regulation. It indicates our ability to adapt to a changing environment.  Research shows that people who can do this tend to have more academic success, social competence and physical and mental health. The ability to put off instant pleasure for the greater good is a sign of a more mature personality.

Self-regulation shows maturity

Other related behaviors reflecting self -regulation include impulse control, willpower, patience. All of these are key. Think about impulse control–and then think about road rage. And shootings that result from road rage.

Infants and kids don’t yet have the ability to self-regulate. But as we grow and mature, it’s important that we be able to manage our own behavior based on what’s going on around us.

So when I look at the kind of risk some are willing to take, I can only see them as failing to mature in this important way.

When I learned about deferred gratification in college I had no idea I’d see such stark reminders of it in the world around me.
Reminder about our condolence and get well gifts at my Etsy shop.

8 comments on “How badly do you want the cheese?
  1. It’s a character flaw, the refusal to see the bigger picture and make sacrifices for others.
    I’ve said since the beginning, those who refuse to be vaccinated have that right, but the rest of us have the right to safety, so those who are dangerous to society should have to stay home with an ankle bracelet.

  2. Laurie Stone says:

    Just went to a coffee shop where no one wore a mask. It drove me crazy. You’re right. It’s all about delayed gratification. It’s also about the ability to adapt. And you know what Darwin said about that.

  3. The pandemic is exhausting. The people are even more exhausting.

  4. Alana says:

    What Karen said. I’m exhausted but not as exhausted as the nurses and doctors out there. When my brother inlaw was hospitalized with COVID in April of 2020 we would talk to the nurses twice a day to get updates. Now, I think of those health are workers, and wonder how they are holding up to the strain and the abuse. We are all making history with our actions. What will history have to say about each of us?

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