] Success is actually a short race, a sprint fuelled by discipline just long enough for habit to kick in and take over. [ Gary Keller
We live in a world where we want everything based on instant gratification. Everything we want is within our grasp, like instant buying, instant streaming, instant viewing so on and so forth. Almost whatever you want, you can have it instantaneously which is why a lot of us are accustomed to crave for both immediacy, faster outcomes and ease. The ease at which everything is available immediately at our finger tips can cause more harm than good. Such instantly gratifying behaviours often become habitual and roll into other areas of our life and can have a markedly negative impact on our personal or professional lives.
Not everything can be achieved instantly and many of our long-term goals and objectives require patience, self-discipline, and will power to endure. And the fact is that the more we get used to instant gratification, the more we become accustomed to instant gratification bias in other areas of our personal or professional endeavours. And the more we get habituated to getting what we want right now, the more we become impulsive and less patient than we used to be which makes it hard to stay course on our long-term goals.
What is instant gratification bias?
Instant gratification bias is the tendency to minimise the future benefit and cave into short-term highs like a temptation or an urge or a craving. It is a tendency to forego a long-term gain in order to obtain a less rewarding but more immediate benefit. It is the experience of satisfaction upon receiving a reward immediately after an action or without delay.
Instant gratification is very closely linked to pleasure principle according to which our basic inherent human drive is to seek pleasure and avoid pain. In other words, we are mostly governed by the desire for pleasure and gratification. We all want good things and want them now. We don’t like delay of any sort and don’t want to engage in self-denial, we lean towards seizing an opportunity for pleasure as it comes. We hinge most of our decisions on the immediate benefit far more than those intended for long-term gain due to this bias.
Instant gratification vs productivity
Even though immediate gratification makes us feel an instant positive emotion for whatever it is we are doing, it is self-sabotaging to a larger extent in key areas of your life like relationships, business, work, or health, because important things always need due diligence and take time to build and grow. The culture of immediate reward also affects workplace productivity negatively.
Instantly gratifying behaviours and habits not only lead you to make unproductive or unhelpful personal choices but also result in self-defeating behaviours. As a result, most struggle with these urges to procrastinate with different degrees of success. For instance, when it comes to personal productivity habits, we tend to give into an urge to indulge in unhealthy high calorie treat instead of a healthy snack, impulsive binge watching instead of working towards a long pending presentation, or unhelpful habits like drink or smoke to relieve yourself of stress. Instant gratifying behaviours also make us experience negative emotions like guilt, low confidence and low self-esteem
A negative aspect of this bias is that delay can make many of us impatient, giving up on new opportunities, creative projects, innovation or to learn something new. Even though certain actions or decisions taken in the here and now might prove advantageous in some situations, but constantly giving into impulses can lead to unproductive habits and when it comes to going after your long-term goals, the habit of having whatever we want immediately weakens our self-regulation ability.
Other negative consequences of this bias include poor decision-making, lack of focus, planning and stress. For instance, strategising a balance between long-term initiatives and immediate rewards will play a part in many areas of employee engagement. It negatively affects our decision-making process where our focus is more oriented in the ease of present, ignoring lessons from the past and disregarding the future. It also has growing influence in remote workplaces where they rely heavily on instant feedback, check-ins and recognition instead of long-term planning and goal-setting.
What is delayed gratification?
Delayed gratification, or deferred gratification is the ability to resist the temptation for an immediate reward and wait for a greater and a more enduring reward in the long-term. It helps us realise the value of things we earn with hard work in our life. People who invest in delayed gratification associate hard work with high rewards and have capacity to resist their temptation for future.
Delayed gratification can lead you to make right choices
According to the research, people who learn how to delay their gratification thrive more in their personal or professional relationships and physical/psychological health, and social competence than people who give into it. It is also related to skills which are important for self-regulation such as patience, greater self-control, will power, reinforces self-discipline and keeps us mindful of the bigger goals.
Choosing delayed gratification helps you achieve your desired future by resisting your short-term pleasure for long-term benefits. It keeps you future focused which motivates you to overcome your impulsive habits and behaviours. But at the same time, constantly suppressing your desires can also result in resentment and dissatisfaction. Similarly, a little instant gratification may not hurt once in a while, but if you constantly choose the immediate over the long-term, you might again struggle overcoming instant gratification bias. The key is to find a balance between instant and long-term satisfaction to stay on track with your goals to improve your personal productivity.
How to delay your gratification
So, how do you resist the urge to put off what you need to get done without giving into short-term gratification? It is important to learn how to put off instant gratification in order to reach your full potential by developing your delayed gratification ability that improves patience and will power to work hard towards a larger goal. This can be directed towards anything in your life including academic success, physical or psychological health and social competence. Each time you find yourself giving into short-term urges, review the following to practice delayed gratification.
Become aware of your impulses
One of the way to start practising delayed gratification is to develop mindful awareness of your temptations and reactions to impulses. We all have urges like for instance, to procrastinate, or give into distractions or cravings. The more you become aware of your impulsive behaviours, the better prepared you will be to delay those impulses. The first step is to become aware, the second is to pause before acting on your impulses.
When some temptation or impulse creeps in to for some reason, retreat from the situation before giving in. Hold off and rethink about the situation. Practice forgiving and empathising with yourself for failures as opposed to criticising yourself. Weigh the consequences of giving into your impulses or overcoming your craving. Think about which choice supports your desired result that you want to make a conscious decision instead of allowing yourself to act on the urge right when it arises.
Know your ‘why’
When your why is not strong enough, we give into instant gratification. Knowing your why is most important things to keep working at something for a long time with the same intensity you had at day one. Knowing your why helps you when you are about to quit or give into a small reward in the present instead of a larger reward in the future.
Be purposeful in your goal-setting and be specific like in which areas of your life you would like to delay your gratification. For instance, What goal do you have and what is your intent for accomplishing it? Being purposeful in your tasks motivates you for long-term rewards. It is knowing where you are heading and being motivated in the process helps you avoid the trap of instant gratification.
Break your big goals
Breaking your long-term or bigger goals into small chunks with rewards after each step makes you more committed towards making effective decisions. When you consider your future self while making important decisions, and make your goals more manageable, you find it easier to not to give into immediate temptations.
When you set realistic and measurable goals, you can delay your impulses. Big goals are motivating, but they can also seem overwhelming or far off at times.The key is to make big goals more manageable by breaking them into small chunks. When you must decide between instant or a delayed choice in the attempt to meet a distant goal.
Rethink, reflect and reward
Delayed gratification doesn’t mean that you will always need to say ‘no’ to things that make you feel good. It is okay to be spontaneous in life even when striving for goals. You can still give into instant gratification once and a while. Giving yourself a break once in a while is important. Once you achieve a goal, reflect on your work and how far you have come and reward yourself.
The key is to learn from your choices and making decisions consciously. Focus on your choices and practice reward replacements each time you overcome these triggers. Focus on your end goal for a moment and then go ahead and react. Backing away and putting things in perspective will drive you away from the instant need of immediacy.
The most effective way to overcome instant gratification could come down to how well you are able to master self-control. With self-control, you can resist your impulsive urges, emotions and behaviours to pursue your long-term goals. Having self-control is not about total abstinence. Denying yourself or suppressing what you need is as bad as over-indulging. It is more to do with finding the right balance.
Separate your needs from your wants to strive for balance. Use cognitive strategies such as will power, distraction, and reasoning. Rely on right emotions such as gratitude, compassion, persistence, and cooperation to nudge yourself towards favourable long-term goals.
The moment you find yourself caught up in an instant gratification trap, distract yourself with another activity or separate yourself from the temptation you are currently indulging in. Ask yourself, what is the long-term impact of this moment of pleasure? Is it really worth indulging in this temptation? How could this delay my most important goals I want in my life ?
Consider the rewards and long-term benefits you will get by walking away from the temptation in the moment. Refocus on your primary goals and objectives by asking yourself, What is the big picture? Why is it important to achieve this outcome? How will I benefit from achieving this outcome? To avoid your justifications for your excuses, adopt a different perspective and keep yourself accountable for your choices and actions.
Be future focused
When we expand our focus beyond the current moment, we create an opportunity to build our future selves. We take into consideration how the now affects the later and thus make effective choices rather than let our immediate gratification blinding us. This does not mean that you do nothing, but it means put in the work every day but without expecting significant returns in the short-term.
Most of us want our long-term goals fast, but in the process, we procrastinate on the short-term activities that lead us to these long-term goals. When pursuing a goal, working on if-then scenarios ahead of time help you to practice delay gratification when temptations present themselves. Focus on your future self by asking yourself, if you opt for a certain choice, how will your future self feel? Will you be happy for the decision you made or will you wish you had opted for delayed gratification?Use positive self-talk to replace an unhealthy choice with a healthy one and this can improve delaying of impulses.
Space for self-reflection
How clear and committed are you of your long-term goals ?
How often do you give into your momentary impulses by discounting the value of future benefit?
Do you often over indulge in things you like?
Can you recall a time you demonstrated strong self-control in overcoming temptations?
Which areas of your life you will benefit from by practising delayed gratification?
Is your need for instant gratification triggering your self-sabotaging patterns?
What different perspectives help you in practising delay gratification?
What instant gratification habits are holding you back from achieving your full potential?
Spend some time to mindfully reflect on these questions and consider what your answers are to identify your immediate gratification urges and to practice delayed gratification.
True happiness is about developing habits that help you move towards your greater potential and they include delaying pleasure, putting in time, discipline and patience required to achieve your goal instead of giving into Immediate gratification. Each time the temptation of instant gratification creeps in, choose how you want to respond to your impulses. Recognise the areas where you are giving into instant gratification and use the above strategies to strengthen your resolve.
Practising delayed gratification takes consistent practice in small ways. If you can remind yourself of the important things in life and keep your temptations at bay, not only will delayed gratification be easier, but the delay that holds you back from achieving your desired goals, is the very thing that will help you achieve your important goals. Choose to consciously think about your goals and your purpose and why you want to achieve what you want in life to say ‘no’ to your immediate temptations.