Short Term Gain, Long Term Pain

Lost Purse

While it may be tempting to benefit from something in the moment, often delayed gratification is far more rewarding. Patience is a virtue but one not everyone possesses. However, there are many benefits to controlling our impulses. Not only does life taste a little sweeter when have had to wait or work for our reward but often that same reward is far greater. Cake mix might be tempting to eat as you prepare to bake but the finished cake is far more delicious (and won’t give you salmonella). Forgoing a night out to finish that university essay may give you extreme FOMO at the time but when you hold that degree certificate in your hand you’ll be dreaming of a life far bigger than a pint down the pub. Living for the here and now can be great but seeing the bigger picture is often more rewarding.


The idea for this blog came from a friend who experienced the same incident twice but with very different consequences. Here the theme of this blog veers away from patience and moves onto morality and ethics but the principle is the same. On two separate occasions, in two different stores, she accidentally left her wallet after purchasing something. Both these shops were businesses she regularly frequented to buy day to day supplies. Shop A returned her the wallet when she went back to look for it but it was missing all of the cash which had been inside. I will interject here and mention that we both live in Cambodia where foreigners are perceived to be fabulously wealthy in comparison to locals. That’s not an excuse for theft, but it does go some way towards the mentality behind this act. On the flipside, Shop B returned my friend’s wallet with all of the money still inside it.


When you find a wallet, you have two options. You can either capitalise on the owner’s misfortune and put them through a whole host of tedious tasks including cancelling credit cards and eating rice and beans for a week. Or you can be a good person and attempt to return it (bear in mind that most wallets have some form of ID inside). I’d like to think everyone reading this blog would do the latter without thinking. Now let’s tie this story to the message behind this blog. Shop A was living in the moment. They saw an opportunity to benefit from a customer’s mistake and they took it. Literally. That was their short term gain. On the flipside, the long term pain of this act is that my friend will no longer go to that store where she spent a notable amount of money each week (the store sold nappies/diapers and she has a young child). They may have benefitted financially in the short term but the long term loss of earnings for their store far outweigh that immediate gratification.


Onto the kindly actions of Shop B. These people were morally sound and did not take what wasn’t theirs. As a thank you, my friend tried to offer them a tip, which they flatly refused. While this shop may have not benefitted financially in the immediate moment, they have managed to secure themselves a lifelong customer in the form of my friend. Beyond that, she now recommends them to her friends as a trustworthy and kind family business. This shop could have taken the cash and splashed out on a fancy meal that evening but instead they will see far more long term benefits.


This is an extreme example of short term gains leading to long term pains. But the fundamental message is the same. That oh-so-elusive virtue of patience is one which we should all be working to improve as we think not so much about how we can benefit from something now but how our future can be drastically improved if only we delay that gratification. In the story which inspired this blog, Shop A was at a financial loss in the long-run which is often not the case when we opt for immediate gratification. But it does make you think. If we continue to feed our desire for instant joy, what are we missing out on? Life might roll along pleasantly from one day to the next but is something bigger possible if only we learn some self-control? Not all short term gains lead to long term pains. But equally, a little patience just might reap unprecedented rewards.


But whether you are a ‘live in the moment’ person or someone who is working towards a long term goal, don’t steal people’s money!


Go. Do. Experience. More Good Deeds.