Tuesday, February 17, 2009

delayed gratification

exercise is mostly about delayed gratification, I've decided.
obviously it incorporates discipline, determination, commitment, focus, and other such things, but perhaps the overriding theme is delay of gratification.

in grad school we studied many aspects of society, and one such area we delved into was the circumstances that led people to productive, successful lives versus lives of poverty and disappointment. obviously many factors play into this, including biology and physical environment, but one study pointed to the concept of delayed gratification as being a primary indicator of future "success."
in this study the experimenters took classrooms of young children, and offered them treats in the following manner: each child could have one marshmallow if they wanted to eat it right away, or each child could have two marshmallows if they would wait until they were told they could have them (typically about 15 minutes.) numerous variations on this kind of experiment have been tried over the past 30 or so years, and I'm not aware of any results that show a perfect positive correlation between delay of gratification at age 4 and "successful" lives as adults. however, this original study by Walter Mischel determined that there does exist
“a fundamental protective mechanism that shields individuals against the negative interpersonal and intrapsychic consequences of their chronic personal vulnerabilities. . . The protective mechanism studied was the ability to strategically control attention in the service of long-term goals.” (3, pp787-788).
so perhaps at best, the ability to delay one's gratification was found to be a protective mechanism which improves our life experience.
additional similar studies have connected the inability to delay gratification with poorer academic success, less positive overall functioning, and higher drug use. and it's nearly impossible to not grasp the long term affect of an inability to delay gratification on one's personal life: those who cannot exercise this kind of delay will logically have more interpersonal and financial issues.

back to the bike.
and exercise.
what I do in the spin room, the weight room, and even the yoga room is not usually about "pleasure at the moment."
it is all about
"pleasure later," another term for delayed gratification.
I know that when I hit the hills on my real bike I will be extremely glad I spent all those hours squatting and lifting and spinning and stretching.
gratification kicks in big time at the top of the hill.

by the way, I have a slice of chocolate cake stored in my freezer, waiting for that moment when I absolutely have to have a piece of chocolate cake. it's been there for about 6 weeks now, and if that doesn't prove I'm capable of delaying my gratification I don't know what would.

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