Human beings are hardwired to want things, and we tend to have the urge to want them right away. Instant gratification is a habit where we forgo long term goals for short term activities. It’s the habit where we indulge in immediate pleasures that ultimately result in long term pain.
Instant Gratification and sudden impulses cause us to find reasons and excuses not to do something because of the pain it creates at that moment, even though we know we should be doing something else that helps us attain our long term objectives.
Instant gratification is a form of procrastination. We self-sabotage ourselves to feel good immediately where we get caught up indulging in temptations at a high cost. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work in the long run. We must give something to get something back.
When it comes to decision making, there are two paths we can choose. We can avoid pain at that moment, or we can delay pleasure for a bigger goal.
We want to lose weight. It doesn’t come off quick enough, so we give up.
We want to save money but need to eat. So we pay the delivery fee to get food immediately.
We want to wake up early and start the day. So we hit snooze and sleep in.
We want to eat healthily. We create excuses for ourselves and eat high-calorie foods that don’t contribute to our health.
Our cultural norms often allow us to seek temporary comfort. A lot of the time, we don’t see value in having patience during vulnerable or uncomfortable times. We often make our choices according to how we can avoid pain in that exact moment and, in doing so, we fail to see that delayed gratification is where solutions to our problems lie.
The difference in rewards from delayed gratification is significant in creating a happier life. Delaying gratification can have positive effects on ourselves. It can create academic success, physical health, social competence, and better psychological health. The struggle to recognise and act on delayed gratification can lie in the efforts to overcome the instinctive libidinal drive of what’s known as, ‘the id’.
We want to lose weight. We become patient, we enjoy the process and the weight starts to come off.
We want to save money but need to eat. We drive to the grocery store and spend very little.
We want to wake up early and start the day. We go to sleep earlier.
We want to eat healthily. We go to the grocery store and buy fresh, healthy foods for the week.
“In a world where people are hungry for quick fixes and for instant gratification, there’s no patience for the long, slow rebuilding process.” – Dan Hill
Austrian neurologist, Sigmund Freud believed that the human personality consisted of three components: The id, the ego, and the superego. Freud coined the term ‘Pleasure Principle,’ which is used to characterise the tendency of people to seek pleasure and avoid pain. It’s argued that people tend to go to great lengths to avoid momentary pain, especially in times of vulnerability and weakness.
In psychoanalytic theory, the id is responsible for our unconscious mind, which refers to a part of our mind that is responsible for our thoughts, feelings, and memories of which we are not consciously aware of. The pleasure principle is driven by our id. According to Freud, the id is the most evident in early childhood and infancy, whereas the ego and superego develop later on.
Think about children in their earlier life and how they seek instant gratification. A child wants food, but when told ‘no,’ the child cries. A child wants to stay up late, and isn’t allowed; so the child throws a tantrum. As a child gets older, they become more realistic about their desires and must tolerate pain to delay gratification, which is because of the constraints on life.
Unlike young children, adults are characterised by their ability to delay gratification and tolerate hard work, discipline, and vulnerability to fulfill their responsibilities and achieve their goals. Delaying gratification brings a whole range of benefits in terms of our happiness and what we’re able to achieve in life.
We are in a world full of distractions where we are constantly plugged into social media or the internet. Our connectedness with the internet brings information, communication, and entertainment to us in real-time and brings a gratification that we are so used to. By learning how to manage our needs in the moment of decision, we can thrive more in our careers, health, and relationships.
It’s not the easiest skill to acquire and takes practice. Simply because it involves a process of being uncomfortable. Choosing to have something now might feel good, but making the effort to have discipline and impulse control will improve our results over time, ultimately helping us reach our goals faster.
“We are talking about an attitude. Be able to give up something now to get something later.” – Joe Hill
4 Strategies To Delay Gratification:
- Know Your Values – Understand what’s important to you. By doing this, you will find it easier to set useful goals. Choices are made a lot easier and indecision isn’t as prevalent. It leads to happiness and success.
- Set Goals – Having a clear understanding of what you want to achieve helps keep your focus on the long term and resisting temptations becomes a lot easier than if no goals were set at all.
- Plan – When you know what you love, you set goals to generate that fulfilment and love for yourself. Creating a plan to help you get there only enhances delaying gratification and helps resist temptations.
- Reward Yourself – Delaying gratification can take weeks, months and years. When you’ve understood what you want, set goals, and mapped out a plan, it’s important to reward yourself. Breaking down those goals and rewarding yourself along the way reminds you that you’re on the right track of where you want to get to.
We don’t always need to say ‘no’ to the things that make us feel good instantly. Having healthy breaks is important. The breaks we take should be dependent on how much time and energy are consumed delaying our gratification. By saying ‘no’ all the time, it means we often aren’t rewarding ourselves.
According to Aristotle, true happiness is about developing habits and surrounding yourself with people that grow your soul. This is how our greatest potential can be reached.