Why Bother To Pause?
Some religious people believe firmly that Saturday is the Sabbath, while others believe the official day of rest is Sunday. In the 1600s, the blue laws were written down establishing laws that the Puritans enacted to control morality. The sale of alcohol was prohibited on Sunday and most labor on that one day ceased. Though the blue laws were difficult to enforce, the law ensured at least one day of rest from labor everyone. Later on, those same blue laws also gave recess to retailers. Grocery stores, gas stations and drug stores locked their doors from consumers. For one day of the week, store owners were unconcerned with one day of loss from sales. Rest, not profit, was the bigger commodity.
How exactly, did abstaining from making any purchases one day out of the week lead to morality? And though the blue laws are extinct, are they worth reinstating even just for ourselves?
To buy what I need when I need it is convenient, to wait is to delay gratification. Back in the 1960s there was a famous marshmallow experiment performed with 5-6 year-old children at Stanford University. The experiment began by bringing each child into a private room, sitting them down in a chair, and placing a marshmallow on the table in front of them. Then the researcher made a deal with the child. If they could leave the marshmallow alone for fifteen minutes, then the child would be given a second marshmallow. If however the child decided to eat the first marshmallow before the researcher came back, then they would not get a second marshmallow. A simple choice any child could understand: one treat right now or two treats later.
The experiment did not end there. Instead, these children were followed for more than forty years. The ones who delayed their gratification and waited for that second marshmallow grew into adults who ended up having higher SAT scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better responses to stress, better social skills, and generally better scores in a range of other life measures. This simple little experiment with a marshmallow and a six-year-old child proved that the ability to delay gratification was critical for success later in life.
These days we don’t have to wait. The blue laws are extinct. Stores are open seven days a week and even if my local food store closes at 10:00 p.m. I can still shop online and have my goods delivered the next day. Yet, I am wondering how many of us might benefit from delaying our own gratification. What would it be like for us to postpone our purchases? Could we set aside one day a week and press the pause button? If we choose to abstain for just one day then what would the benefit be?
Self discipline is a virtue we are all capable of practicing and the pay off leads to success whether we are setting goals for getting out of debt, losing a few extra pounds or furthering our education.
Why bother to press the pause button? It is worth ceasing from consuming goods, even just for a day. In doing so, we practice delayed gratification and grow stronger in self-discipline.