A father of two small boys posted a story about teaching his kids patience. The older one, he asked whether he would rather have one cookie now or two cookies later.
He immediately responded, “Two cookies later.” I asked, “Why?” He said, “Because two is more than one.”
He later asked the older one to teach the younger one how to be patient. He asked his brother the “two cookies” question.
Without missing a beat, J said, “One cookie now.” (But he stopped crying!)
“Oh.” N paused some more. “Okay, would you rather have one cookie now, or 15 cookies later?”
Some of us are like the older son. We see the goal, make a decision, and the one cookie now is out-of-mind.
Some of us are the younger son. We want the goal, but that one cookie sitting there looks really good.
Which one are you?
If you’re like the younger son, you’ve probably spent your life beating yourself up for your lack of self-control. You’ve heard from parents, teachers, bosses and coaches that you need to stay focused if you want to succeed, but there’s always something shiny just off to the side.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, as you get older the long view just keeps getting longer. It’s not about waiting a couple of minutes to have two cookies, it’s about waiting a couple of years to afford that new car.
“Just have more willpower” is not the answer. You can’t just invent willpower. You have to find something you want now more than you want the cookie now. Or you have to make the cookie not an option.
I want the cookie now
I’ve always wanted the cookie now. That’s why at 43 years old I was 70 pounds overweight. I wanted that beach body in June, but in the middle of February I wanted the mashed potatoes and gravy right now.
For me, a good thing in the future doesn’t beat a good thing today. I had to pick a different good thing today. For me, it meant eating meat and vegetables instead of carbs.
It worked because I like steak today more than I like pizza today. I like roasted asparagus today more than I like rice today. I still like mashed potatoes more than broccoli, but it’s close enough that I’ll take the broccoli most of the time.
Impatience doesn’t make you a bad person
Stop trying to be a different person than who you are. If you aren’t good with long-term goals, stop relying on them. Find short-term goals that you can live with, that point in the direction of your long-term goals.