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August 2009 (San Diego)--Are you good at delaying gratification? This ability to delay gratification correlates with success in so many areas; it’s deemed a crucial component of happy living. Many assume this ‘waiting’ ability requires strong will power and often berate themselves for being ‘weak willed’. Recent research indicates self control has little to do with white knuckle will and everything to do with how well you can direct your attention away from whatever it is you’re waiting to enjoy. Surprisingly, this kind of directed distraction is a better strategy to outwit impulses than keeping some metaphoric carrot dangling.

Although some may be born better at waiting (the onset of this delaying ability in childhood hints at genetic interplay,) ultimately this is a consciousness skill anyone can cultivate and develop.

Here’s the tip. Stop blaming yourself for any inability to wait for things. This will only make you more anxious and less conscious. Be compassionate. Check whether you’re ready to learn something new. If yes, next time you’re in a situation where you’d like to delay eating until dinner, TV until you’ve finished a project, reading until you’ve finished paperwork, or buying new jeans until you’ve paid down your credit card; make a conscious choice to stop thinking about the reward that awaits. Focus your attention instead on your chosen task or distraction. Immerse yourself in the present moment. You may just discover that’s gratifying in itself.

Penelope Young Andrade LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist with over 35 years experience integrating the best of traditional and alternative approaches for bodymind transformation. 858-481-5752


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