The Allure of "Right Now"
Joseph Walker - February 14, 2008
Another year has come and gone, and most of us have undoubtedly made New Year's resolutions. But staying focused on our ultimate, long-term goals can be difficult when the instant gratification of "Right Now" is so alluring.To illustrate this point, I tried an experiment with the group of ten-year-olds I was teaching at church. "You have a choice," I announced as I held up a bowl of M&M's. "You can either have a handful of M&M's right now, or you can each have an entire bag of M&M's tomorrow." "Why don't we do it the other way around?" Brady suggested. "Give us a bag of M&M's now or a handful tomorrow!" The rest of the class loved Brady's idea. But I didn't. "Nope," I said. "A handful now or the bag tomorrow. That's the way it's going to be." "How about just a few now and the rest later?" Megan asked. "Sorry," I said. "No compromise. You have to make a choice." "What if some of us want our M&M's now, and some of us want to wait?" Adam asked. "Good idea," I said. "But no. Whatever you're going to do, you're going to do as a group. You guys figure it out. I'm going to get a drink." With that I stepped into the hall and wandered down to the drinking fountain, making sure to pause and stretch and meander. I wanted to give them plenty of time to hash this out. We were, after all, talking about chocolate here. If there's one thing twenty-nine years of marriage has taught me it's that you have to be very careful about decisions involving chocolate--even if it's the kind that melts in your mouth, not in your hands. When I finally poked my head back into the room the decision had been made. The bowl of M&M's was empty, and there were chocolate-induced smiles all around. "Actually, it was pretty much a no-brainer," Nancy said of the decision. "The hardest part was figuring out how to divide them up. The boys wanted to go first, but we didn't want to take a chance on the boys actually touching the M&M's before we got them. You never know where boys' hands have been--you know?" Nancy, I should mention, has brothers. So, one of the boys--out of respect for delicate feelings, I won't say whose--arm-wrestled Nancy for the right to go first. I didn't see the actual event, but I'm confident the end came surely and swiftly. Think "Harry Potter Meets Xena, Warrior Princess." A battle of wits would have been competitive, but this wasn't about brain power. This was about brute strength. Advantage Nancy. The next day when I came home from work, several of the kids from my class were hanging out on my front lawn. "We were just thinking that . . . you know . . . maybe we should have waited to get a whole bag of M&M's today," Brady said. "And we were sort of wondering . . . you know . . . if it is, like, too late to change our minds?" I smiled. "Yeah, it is," I said. "You decided not to wait, so you're pretty much stuck with what you got." They didn't like that answer, but it brought new insight to our class the next Sunday when we talked about how important it is to always stay focused on our ultimate, long-term goals and priorities no matter how alluring and intoxicating the diversions of Right Now may be.
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