Instant gratification is the norm in today’s economy. Online shopping, instant downloads, and increasingly-speedy delivery times all contribute to a want it now, get it now mentality that drives our spending and consumption.
But what happens if you wait for something? According to Elizabeth Dunn, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, you might enjoy it more.
A 2010 study in the Netherlands found that people surveyed before a vacation were happier than those surveyed right after a vacation, and even people on vacation. In that period of anticipation, waiting for the trip, people could imagine a perfect ideal, something that would likely not exist in reality.
This kind of thinking inspires Pinterest boards of dream weddings, makes watching French TV shows and listening to Edith Piaf before a trip to Paris exciting.
Dunn says that the period of anticipation while waiting for an experience is a form of free enjoyment — a chance to maximize the time spent appreciating something you’ve already paid for.
The same goes for smaller purchases — new clothes, a visit to a restaurant — and big financial hurdles. Dunn says that the same principles that allow people to enjoy the time before a vacation could be applied to a college savings account, or a retirement fund.
The key, Dunn says, is to make things more concrete: the details matter.