Do you like Cake? Delaying gratification

“Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experience the pain first and getting it over with. It is the only decent way to live.” ~  M Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled

A financial analyst was locked into a cycle of procrastination.

Peck asked, "Do you like cake?" She replied that she did.

"What part of the cake do you like better, the cake or the frosting?"

"Oh, the frosting!"

"And how do you eat a piece of cake?"

"I eat the frosting first, of course."

Having gained this insight, Dr. Peck started probing her work habits. Invariably she would devote the first hour or so of each day to the most gratifying and easiest of her tasks and the remaining hours never quite accomplishing the more onerous chores. He suggested that she force herself to do the objectionable tasks during the first two hours, then enjoy the remaining time.  

There is a critical moment early in your day when you make the decision as to whether you will plunge into the difficult tasks in front of you or not. Don’t allow yourself to decide – just act.  When taking the easy road is not an option, and you just plunge into the difficult tasks, you save yourself time and energy.. and make it easier to avoid those detours.

Daily Rituals

Here’s the true secret of life: We mostly do everything over and over. In the morning, we let the dogs out, make coffee, read the paper, help whoever is around get ready for the day. We do our work. In the afternoon, if we have left, we come home, put down our keys and satchels, let the dogs out, take off constrictive clothing, make a drink or put water on for tea, toast the leftover bit of scone. I love ritual and repetition. Without them, I would be a balloon with a slow leak.      

Daily rituals, especially walks, even forced marches around the neighborhood, and schedules, whether work or meals with non-awful people, can be the knots you hold on to when you’ve run out of rope.    

Anne Lamott, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair

Routine and Ritual

While routine aims to make the chaos of everyday life more containable and controllable, ritual aims to imbue the mundane with an element of the magical. The structure of routine comforts us, and the specialness of ritual vitalizes us. A full life calls for both — too much control, and we become mummified; too little excitement and pleasurable discombobulation, and we become numb. After all, to be overly bobulated is to be dead inside — to doom oneself to a life devoid of the glorious and ennobling messiness of the human experience.

Maria Popova writing in Brain Pickings

Comfort habits

Like the professor whose sticks to a daily routine of a quiet supper, an evening walk, and early to bed, we all need a space in our lives where habits relieve us of the chore of figuring out simple tasks.. tasks that use up our daily store of mental strength. By finding comfort in his sedentary home life, the professor gives him room to explore wildly creative ideas in his field of study. He focuses his decision-making energy into his area of study.. giving himself the stamina to deeply explore deeply.

If these patterns consist of the inconsequential, then these everyday habits can play a critical role in providing us with needed balance and continuity. But if we focus our attention on maintaining our cherished inconsequential details in order to avoid life's bigger issues along with the needs of others, then the box we have created for ourselves (and hide within) will keep us away from the things that refresh our spirits and give our lives meaning. This is what happens when the professor sadly sticks to his sedentary home life.. but never uses the space he has given himself to explore those "wildly creative ideas."

Stephen Goforth


It’s the maintenance of life, the plumbing of life that we sometimes slip into and forget the prose and poetry. It’s easier to make lists, it’s easier to call the plumber, its easier to wonder why the car doesn’t work, and spend our life, worrying about the plumbing. And one day at 50 we wake up and say, “Why is there no juice? Why is there no joy? Why is there no pleasure?”

Roger Fransecky, Apogee Group