Delayed Gratification Meets Real Life

Sunshine Trail, Telluride, CO. Rider: Greg Heil. Photo: Marcel Slootheer

When I think about planning for the future, the math makes sense. 

Work hard now, save and invest, and then in the future you’ll have more money and more time. Take a few days off of riding now to prevent overtraining, so you can ride longer and harder next weekend. Get surgery now so you don’t need a full knee replacement in 15 years.

The math and the logic always make sense. Put in the time now, get the reward later. We’re even taught that the ability to delay gratification is a form of maturity, and the desire for instant gratification is a childish longing that we ought to grow out of with age.

The irony is that while the math of delayed gratification adds up on paper, in real life it rarely seems to work that way. Yes, we can skip a few bike rides in order to let our legs recover… only to get to the planned weekend ride and have the skies open up and pour rain, or what was a set of sniffles transform into a full-blown knock-you-onto-the-couch head cold.

We try to delay gratification for the hope of an even better life in the future, and while I want to think that the spreadsheet knows best, the spreadsheet can never account for all of the actual happenings and random chance events in the real world.

Those random chance events? Collectively we refer to them as “life."