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(Published: 2011-02-25)

When I was a little girl my parents occasionally treated the family to dinner at McDonalds on Monday nights after piano lessons. McDonald’s was a brand new concept at that time; the chain had yet to serve their one millionth burger.

I loved the cheeseburgers. I used to unwrap mine from the paper wrapper and then eat around it in a circle. The first bites were mostly bun, with little meat. The further into the center of the cheeseburger I got, the better the taste; I ‘found the beef!’ Come to think of it, I used to eat my jelly Bismarcks the same way, eating around the doughy outer edges, saving the gooey jelly middle for last.

You may be wondering about my eating habits at that stage of my life, but I assure you my mother prepared well-balanced home cooked meals with great frequency. McDonald’s and jelly Bismarcks were rare treats. Given my unique approach to eating them I obviously learned at a young age that there’s pleasure in both restraint AND indulgence.

Only recently did I discover that I was manifesting behavior that is typical to most humans. Psychologists call it “pleasure procrastination.” Paradoxically, we don’t just procrastinate, or put off until tomorrow, the unpleasant tasks in life. Just as often we put off until tomorrow what could be enjoyed today. Pleasure procrastination explains why we delay using our gift certificates, forgo cashing in our frequent flyer miles, and why we save that really expensive bottle of wine for a very special occasion….one that never quite comes.

Why would anyone forestall pleasure? According to behavioral economists, there are two reasons. First, if we don’t have an immediate deadline, we assume we’ll have more time to enjoy ourselves later, so we put off taking that dream vacation and delay opening that bottle of wine. Of course, we’re still busy later. Second, we tend to think that the occasion isn’t sufficiently special ENOUGH to warrant opening that special bottle, or the trip we’re considering isn’t exotic ENOUGH to warrant using up those miles.

Don’t despair. There’s a simple solution to this restrain/indulge conundrum: reframe your idea of nirvana. Create your own special occasion. Take a lesson from the movie “Sideways,” where Maya tells Miles: “The day you open a ’61 Cheval Blanc, that’s the special occasion.”

Or, give yourself a deadline. Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, wine columnists for the Wall Street Journal, have proclaimed the last Saturday of February to be “Open That Bottle Night.”

Dust off that bottle, get out the corkscrew…..Carpe diem!

Redeem those miles!

Open that bottle!

Robyn Waters is president and founder of RW Trend, LLC. She is the author of The Trendmaster’s Guide: Get a Jump on What Your Customer Wants Next, and The Hummer and the Mini: Navigating the Contradictions of the New Trend Landscape. Learn more about Robyn at All Rights Reserved.

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