When we fail to exercise self-control, this may not be a "failure" as we traditionally think of it. In fact, it may be "a reasoned response to the uncertainty of time," writes Maria Konnikova in a provocative Sunday Review piece in The New York Times.
Konnikova uses the example of a commuter faced with a crowded train platform to rethink the ability to delay gratification. Do you wait for the subway because you reason one will arrive soon or do you split because you don't want to expend the resource of time when time is uncertain?
Konnikova writes that research shows that in this situation, "giving up can be a natural — indeed, a rational — response to a time frame that wasn’t properly framed to begin with."
The majority of situations in the real world, in fact, show us that waiting longer than we expect to is a logical cue that our expected reward will be delayed.