At dinner earlier this week, my children and I were discussing the things we are going to do when the lockdown has ended, and we realised how impatiently we wanted lockdown to be over and how much we really wanted to do those things. Usually, we’d get to do all of those things on a whim, and we can derive instant-gratification. I think many are finding it challenging not to be able to have the instant gratification that is usually inherent in our lives.
Maybe this is an opportunity to overcome that seeming need for instant gratification?
“We live in a world of instant gratification, the world of the quick fix.” – Rachael Taylor
We want it all. Now. As quickly as possible. And it is not surprising.
We are surrounded with things that are designed to deliver instant “happiness”: fast food chains deliver instant meals, mobile apps deliver instant notifications, home equipment delivers instant solutions.
Almost all the stuff around us is available instantly. And it is so convenient. We got used to have it all now. We acquired a habit that is not so easy to get rid of, but it makes many of us express zero tolerance towards things we have to wait for. Why bother waiting if we can have it all now?
Losing weight has become “easier” and “quicker” than ever. “Just follow our link to download this weight loss programme, and in just 2 weeks you will see incredible results”. What a miracle! What a magic! The only thing that they don’t tell us is that the quicker we lose weight, often the quicker we gain it back even with some “surplus”. Evidence tends to suggest weight reduction should involve a long-term strategy to be really effective.
“Earn six-figure sum in a month. Here is how…”, “Learn foreign language in just 3 weeks”, “Get into an ideal shape in just 2 weeks”. There are countless examples I could recite right now, you’ve seen them too. Go tune in to shopping channels where they use every method known to man to appease desires for instant gratification.
But do we actually benefit from some of these promises that are often hollow? The answer is probably obvious to all of us when reading something like this in the cold light of day. We realise that there must be something wrong about all that stuff and that we don’t actually benefit from it, but we still buy-in. We know better, so why is that? Why does the phrase “overnight success” makes our heart beat faster? Why do promises of “getting thousands in a month” increase the adrenaline in our body? Because we often seek to get immediate rewards and results. Many of us are conditioned that way. And those “hollow promises” are the perfect food for our inner “instant-gratification monster”.
“Most people wish they could erase suffering out of the dictionary. Today’s culture of comfort and instant gratification has no patience for suffering – most people want to drug it, escape it, divorce it; do anything but live with it.” – Joni Eareckson Tada
We have television shows dedicated to people seeking instant fame – singers, performers and even reality TV stars are seeking a fast-track to success.
Most of us acquired that habit of “getting things instantly”. We rush because life is too short. And we don’t even notice how we turn our lives into a race: race for immediate perfection, race for overnight success, race for fast growth. Slowly but surely we are becoming victims of “fast”. We don’t care about consequences. We rarely push “pause button” and reflect about actual value of “fast things” and their long-term impact.
That’s why so many people give up doing something after a few unsuccessful attempts. We don’t achieve desired results immediately and this leads to quick discouragement. We even fail to make time to do a thorough analysis of why things didn’t work out, why we keep making same mistakes over and over again.
That’s one reason why we don’t get long term results from quick diets. Instead, it all ends up with overeating and putting on even greater weight than it was in the pre-diet period.
That’s why we sometimes fail to build meaningful relationships. We expect to get benefit quickly with minimum investment, whereas relationship building, whether personal or professional, requires time, patience and nurturing.
So much of the modern world, our external world creates a buzz around the fast pace of life and dictates to us that we must fit in with the same rhythm or else we risk becoming irrelevant or getting left behind. But what is the price of the “fast”? Does it make our life more meaningful? Does it add more quality? Does it make us happier?
Just look at the child who craves for sweets. When you give him one sweet, he is happy for a few minutes only. Then the process starts all over again: “Mum, I want another one, and another one, and another one …” Does the kid stay happy for long?
Just think for a moment how quality of our lives would change if we were able to delay gratification.
Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Thomas Edison made 1,000 (or so) unsuccessful attempts at inventing light bulb. As he said,
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
But lot of people expect to “rest on laurels” without making any extra efforts.
The antidote to Instant Gratification is Delayed Gratification. So what does that really mean?
The concept of Delayed Gratification simply means making a choice, which limits your ability of getting something now for the pleasure of being able to have something bigger or better later. Day in day out we make different decisions, some are very basic and others require a level of thinking. Delaying gratification plays out in even the most basic decisions such as what to eat to more complex decisions such as to walk the beaten track or take the risky path.
“Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure of living in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with. It is the only decent way to live.”— M. Scott Peck
A very simple example of delayed gratification is for a person to be able to save now and spend the money on a much more desirable product in the future or to spend it all now. For example, if you want to buy a car worth £10,000 and you currently have £2000, the most logical thing for you to do is save up! It is at this point that the power of delayed gratification meets your willpower.
On a daily basis, we are all constantly challenged with a million and one things you can spend that money you have decided to set aside on…things like that dress, that wristwatch, those shoes, that perfume, that lunch with the girls, that hangout with the guys, unnecessary outings or whatever that thing you want is. It is almost like a struggle. You are faced with a choice each time you pull your wallet out. Would you spend that much money on that overly expensive gadget (that so many other people seem to have!) you don’t really need or would you go for something not as expensive so you can save some more and be one step closer to getting your dream car. The delayed gratification factor makes you see the bigger picture and shun the ‘‘distractions’’. Do not give up what you want most for what you want in the moment.
To help reach your goals, you really need to start thinking through what really matters the most. Taking action now for a small gratification or saving now for that much larger pleasure in the future. Every choice we make in our lives has consequences, which lead to a level of gratification being felt now versus a level of gratification that would be felt later.
Researchers have found that this ability to delay gratification is not just an important part of goal achievement. It might also have a major impact on long-term life success and overall well-being.
A well-known study conducted at Stanford University in the 1960s explains a lot about why it’s beneficial to delay gratification. In the study, children were placed in a room with one marshmallow on a plate. The children were given an easy instruction: eat the marshmallow now, or wait 15 minutes and receive two marshmallows. The researchers found that the children who were able to wait for the second marshmallow without eating the first one scored higher on standardised tests, had better health, and were less likely to have behaviour problems.
“As we get past our superficial material wants and instant gratification we connect to a deeper part of ourselves, as well as to others, and the universe.”— Judith Wright
Finally, here are some great strategies for Delayed Gratification.
1. Know your core values: This is a win-win situation. If you know your core values as an individual, you would be able to make choices that lead you to happiness and success. You should not be ‘’caught’’ doing things that do not resonate with you. Live your life according to those values – you’ll derive great benefit from living congruently according to those values.
2. Be clear on what you want to achieve: When you are certain about what you want to achieve and you have clearly defined goals, you would be able to make smarter choices. Remind yourself of these regularly and let them become more important than any whim or flight of fancy that instant gratification can offer you in the moment.
3. Create a plan: Creating a plan of how you want to get “there” serves as a constant reminder of the kind of choices you should be making.
4. Prioritise: Countless things demand our attention daily and at the end of the day you might realise you were busy doing nothing. Being able to place priority on what is important and what you want to achieve helps you make the choice to delay gratification.
5. Reward yourself: Delaying gratification is a lot of hard work. It requires discipline and self-motivation. You can set goals that might take weeks, months or even years to achieve. Regardless of how long it takes, once you can achieve that milestone, you should give yourself a treat! You can throw a small party, buy that bag you have been eyeing or that perfume you have been dreaming about or something!
There is not really such a thing as overnight success. And people who don’t expect immediate rewards are the ones who don’t give up too soon. Their mindset helps them to make great achievements. They are not focused on short term results. They are ready to contribute and learn in the process, devote their time and efforts to make a real progress.
And they realise that they need to think about impact in the long run, instead of letting impulses take control over them and their lives. They are good at delaying gratification and are firm believers that things worthwhile don’t come easy.
You have an opportunity to start afresh now. Make conscious efforts to take charge of your impulses and let your mind work more effectively for you!
“We live in a day when the adversary stresses on every hand the philosophy of instant gratification. We seem to demand instant everything, including instant solutions to our problems. . .It was meant to be that life would be a challenge. To suffer some anxiety, some depression, some disappointment, even some failure is normal.” – Boyd K. Packer
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