The Want Dichotomy (Instant Gratification vs. Delayed Gratification)

Do you have things you want? My guess is you do. Maybe you’d like a new diamond ring, a new car, a vacation. Wanting is an interesting emotion. It’s kinda like the adolescent child of need. What is so interesting to me about wanting something is how illogical and fickle that want may be. Want is very moody. I’ve made note of a few of the obsessive, compulsive tendencies of want and grouped them all together so that maybe we can try to understand ourselves better or at the very least forgive ourselves for doing something “just because we wanted to.”

“Seven of the Idiosyncrasies of Want”

1. We want what we cannot have.
I don’t know why we want what we don’t have. If we really wanted something that bad we would find a way to get it. The clearest way to differentiate a want from a need is your willingness to do anything to get a need. I’m not a big fan of needs either. The minute you announce to the world you need something, Happiness is told to take a time-out till the need is fulfilled. Happy and Need can not coexist.

2. What we have we do not want.
This is why we are always having garage sales. You know the old saying “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” The unwillingness to love and appreciate the things we do have in our lives maybe one of society’s greatest faults. We work long and hard to get something, then work just as hard trying to get rid of it. We end up back in the same place, back to where we started. I love the saying “Let’s go already so we can get back.” Heck! Why go? I wish everything came with a lifetime return policy (non perishable goods). That way if it turns out our want was unjustified we could start over with a clean slate. E-bay is a classic example of people who don’t appreciate what they have and want to unload it. A shopper should ask himself BEFORE making a purchase of some used item. “If this seller doesn’t want it, why do I?”

3. If others we respect or admire get it (the thing we want) we want it more.
If there is such a thing as guilt by association, people must believe in happiness by association. “Geez, so and so over there looks happy, they have that thing I want, ergo if I get it I’ll be just as happy!” How in the heck do you know that thing they have is what they are happy about? Maybe they just got a winning bid on e-bay and are tickled because they are finally able to unload an item they compulsively bought in the first place.

4. We want what everyone can’t have.
Maybe this has something to do with our own individuality. In order to stand out from the crowd we ought not look like them. Common sense would seem to imply that if everybody has something it must be great and that would make us want to join the group. This logic of course is faulty. We only tend to want what is rare and difficult to obtain. The masses can’t have it. Many people have disagreed with me on this one but I’m usually able to convince the doubter by saying “If everyone could buy a 1ct diamond for one dollar would it be as special?”

5. The harder something is to obtain the more we appreciate it.
Just look to lottery winners to know how true this is. The suicide rate of lottery winners is over twice that of non lottery winners. While instant gratification sounds great, it is as filling as a Chinese meal an hour after you eat it. As a society we are taught at an early age if you want to get any where its going to take hard work. For this reason, wants that are easily satisfied are the least appreciated. Wants, like a brand new home which are expensive and difficult to obtain are our most prized possessions. Even when picking a mate the one that “plays hard to get” usually gets the second date.

6. If something is truly great it should not be available or be in short supply.
I have seen countless commercials where someone goes rushing into a toy store to buy the “it” toy of the moment to find there is only one left! The guy puts it in high gear, races to the toy, grabs it and proclaims “I GOT THE LAST ONE!! It’s almost like he’s as happy that no one else is able to get one as he is with purchasing the item. As a species it’s hard for me to understand the mentality that something’s value is higher if most of us can’t have it.

7. People want to go where nobody can get in. If they get in they tend to think about whether they want to go.
Gallagher used to tell a joke about a kid who continually skipped school. When they caught him they punished him by suspending him! Like this makes a lot of sense?! He won’t come, we won’t let him! We are a people that don’t know what we want, where we want to go and who we want to be with. Most of us don’t know who we are. We jump from marriage to marriage, purchase to purchase looking for that golden ticket that will quench our thirst for happiness. Our biggest fear is that opportunity will knock and we won’t be there to answer the door. When I was a kid my dad taught me a valuable lesson about wanting. He told me “no matter how bad you want something, walk away. If when you wake up tomorrow you still want it, go buy it. If you follow this one little rule you’ll be having a lot less garage sales and appreciating the things you do have a lot more.”

Remember: The person with the most toys leaves the most toys behind.

by Fred Cuellar

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