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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Saving for Dreams Part I: Have We Lost the Ability to Wait for Rewards?

Thought for the Day: For those of you who do not recognize what this photo is, it's the cover of an S & H Green Stamps Saving Book. This Green Stamp program was popular in the 60's. It was before the days of self-stick stamps. To paste them into the book, you either licked the stamps, which tasted awful,  or used a wet sponge to activate the glue. For months on end, we would collect the stamps, whenever we bought groceries & patiently pasted them into the books. There were redemption stores where you could turn in the books for what were then luxury items like clock radios or wooden tennis rackets. As children we would scour the catalouge to pick out the "reward" we wanted. Then we would wait till we had enough stacks of filled books to go to a redemption center to redeem our prize. Today, in our fast paced lives, are we forgetting how to work hard, save & wait for rewards?


If you were to search for anything similar to the S & H Green Stamps today, what would you find? In writing this post, I found out that they actually have an online version of green stamps called S & H Greenpoints. You can join & get points when you shop at 100s of online stores. They will even allow you to redeem old books of stamps if you have any. Computers have also streamlined the process for grocery stores. Now, when you check out, the cashier asks whether you have a Stop & Shop Gas Rewards Card or CVS Extra Care Rewards, two I happen to have. The computer tracks your purchases. With your receipt you get printed coupons with discounts on items the store thinks you might like to buy in the future. Sometimes, if you have purchased enough from the store, they give you $5 or $10 off your next purchase.  How many times have you have tossed those receipts into your purse or wallet & forgotten about them till they have already expired or just tossed them directly into the trash as you leave the store? Easy come, easy go.

Another modern equivalent to Green Stamps are the Groupon  & Living Social's deal of the day. These programs will customize the offers you receive to get discounts in stores near where you live or work when you sign up at these sites. With these internet offers, products & services are sold at 1/2 or even more off for a limited time. The web pages advertizing these offers even show a clock ticking away the remaining days, hours, minutes, & seconds until the deal expires. It also lets you know how many people have taken advantage of this amazing vacation, meal, or spa treatment since it went live. They encourage you to tell your friends about the offer for additional discounts. They make sure to inform you that although you have a year to use the coupon, the offer will be gone soon, so hurry up & take advantage of it NOW.

Have we lost the ability to, as psychologists say, "delay or defer gratification?" In child development theory, newborns have no concept of waiting for rewards. They cry, are fed, burped, changed, & comforted by their parents. At first, they do not even realize that their mother is a separate person. From a baby's perspective, "I cry & instantly, magically my needs are met." As a child grows, a major part of parents' responsibility include teaching a child to wait for or delay gratification.

From Sunshineandshorts
You may be wondering, why it is important to learn to wait. We all have become accustomed to fast food, instant credit, real time news & instant downloads. We like to have things appear instantly. What are the benefits of waiting? Many things in life take time to develop. Life experience seasons a writer. Work experience helps employees develop & hone their skills. We also tend to appreciate things more when we have worked & saved & looked forward to accomplishing them. One study from the Journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, found that people are happier in the 8 weeks prior to vacations due to the anticipation of the event. The effect of increased happiness dissipates after the vacation, even if it was relaxing. Quick & easy accomplishments may not produce the same change in our sense of happiness.

In addition, if we expect immediate results, we may become disappointed when they don't happen as quickly as we thought they would. We may assume we are failures when in reality, our only failure is not having the patience to keep experimenting & the perseverance it takes to reach our goals. "More than two-thirds of Danes report being “very satisfied with their lives,” according to the Eurobarometer Survey, a figure that has held steady for more than 30 years." When researchers try to explain this phenomenon they believe  that, "the answer is, in a word, expectations. Danes have low expectations and so “year after year they are pleasantly surprised to find out that not everything is rotten in the state of Denmark,” says James W. Vaupel, a demographer who has investigated Danish bliss."

I don't believe we need to lower our expectations of life. On the contrary, we need to increase our expectations, but we need to learn how to wait & defer gratification. While you save for & work towards your dreams, you can adjust the plans rather than abandon them. Sometimes this process leads to accomplishing even better things than you first imagined.

As always, I look forward to your thought & comments. Have you seen benefits in waiting, working & saving for your dreams? I'd love to hear about your experiences.
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