Is Delayed Gratification Key to Success?

There is so much more to what causes people to do what they do, there are so many factors which motivate us.

For myself particularly, I do consider rewards or gains that arise from a particular behavior of mine- also known as gratification, as an influencing factor on my motivation.

A person’s behavior and influences on motivation can either be driven by instant gratification or delayed gratification.
People who seek instant gratification are less likely to control their impulses hence are more prone to giving into their temptations. They focus on the present and seek immediate satisfaction.

However, people who delay gratification are likely to be more in control of the choices they make, they have the patience to resist their impulses and opt for putting off rewards to a future date. They are comfortable in choosing future benefits over present ones.

“The ability to discipline yourself to delay gratification in the short term in order to enjoy greater rewards in the long term, is the indispensable prerequisite for success.” – Brian Tracy

I am a shopaholic and in my states of unstoppable mania, I would spend ridiculous amount of money buying whatever I liked without thinking twice.

I was addicted to the feeling of excitement and pleasure that spending money on buying things I like gave me.

Soon after, when the thrill subsided- I would be left feeling guilty, sulky and depressed for my erratic behavior and mountain of debt that I had accumulated (worse was the realization that the things I bought are either not that good in reality or are not worth the amount I paid for them!).

Before I knew it, I began ignoring how the aftermath made me feel, I was back on my spree again simply to get rid of the feelings of sadness and to make myself feel better.

Rather than addressing the issue and asking for help, I had created problems for myself by pursuing instant gratification wildly.

What lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do. Aristotle Click to Tweet

I am a big supporter of the notion that a job well done, needs to be rewarded. Similarly, there is no harm spending on yourself or on things you like.

The problem however arises when one falls in the trap of believing that

‘you NEED this NOW to be HAPPY’.

This has implications because then an individual ties his/her happiness to immediate rewards on an ongoing basis and would not feel happy unless he/she is not instantly rewarded.

In order to feel true happiness, align what motivates us and make gratification sustainable- one must consider conditioning him/herself towards delaying gratification; that means forgoing small/mild rewards right now and wait for a greater reward in future.
It’s all about understanding the difference between short-term versus long-term thinking, but this is not as easy as it sounds since it is not a conscious choice!

delayed-gratification marshmallow experiment

The brain responds to short term need fulfillment because of an outburst of potent pleasure hormone reaching high levels- it causes us to feel excited and thrilled.

The same hormonal outburst is experienced in cases of drug addiction, hyperactivity/attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder etc.

Modern society is driven by consumers who are motivated by instant rewards- don’t we all look for ‘express’ shipping, instant downloads, one-stop solutions?

But at the end of the day we do experience emptiness, we face challenges while trying to concentrate. Similarly, delays and uncertainty make us uncomfortable.

The shift of having everything now is creating a havoc in our personal lives and hence, the importance of recognizing one’s own impulses cannot be undermined.

Scientific Evidence to Support Delayed Gratification: Marshmallow Theory Revealed!

Walter Mischel, an American Psychologist at Stanford University, conducted a social experiment on pre-school aged children during the 1970s. The children were put in room and given a single marshmallow.

They were informed that they could either choose to eat the marshmallow now or wait for 15 minutes and get their 2nd marshmallow.

However, if they chose to eat the first- they would not get a second. Some children gobbled the 1st marshmallow without thinking twice (instant gratification) while others waited to get the 2nd one (delayed gratification).

Children who opted for delayed gratification showed more positive traits later in life, they had higher self-esteem, better intelligence since they planned ahead and did not gave into greedy impulsive demands for instant gratification and felt happier.

People who actively seek instant gratification give into their impulses more easily, they struggle to focus and dedicate efforts to work for a better future reward.

They seize on realizing rewards now out of habit and this in turn acts as a barrier which stops them from reaching their full potential.

This experiment gives us insights into self-control and how by exercising a little control we can enjoy greater rewards.

Having said that, the struggle to keep on track is real once a person gets fixated on something and it becomes difficult to stay focused and deny immediate rewards- then how can one build resilience for delayed gratification?

1. Question your Impulses: Do I really want it?

All of us can relate to getting obsessed over things like a new dress, new gadget or probably a new car so much so that we experience that burning desire of getting that ‘one’ thing that we want even though deep down inside we may know it’s not worth the value or may even be impractical!

Before making a purchase decision, remind yourself that it’s not responsible to give in to your impulses blindly. Wait before you spend money and do so on the right thing, at the right time and for the right reasons!

Do not simply give in to your desires- before springing into action, deliberate. For example: people fighting with obesity and stress-driven compulsive eating have found mindful eating to yield incredible results.

By chewing food for longer, turning off TV, putting down cutlery between morsels and by staying focused entirely on chewing and swallowing- one tends to eat more consciously hence controlling the calorie intake.

2. Always Plan

List down the things you want and what choices must you make in order to get them. In my case, I have always struggled to save.

As soon as I used to get my monthly salary- the first thing I did was spend lavishly on dining out and going on a shopping spree.

Before mid-month, I recall being in a crisis situation- having no money and opting for a small loan to help me survive till month end.

This toxic behavior was jeopardizing my life, time was passing by and I had no savings, no funds allocated for emergencies or future studies.

I started by taking small steps and making a list of items I needed (believe me once you start jotting what you ‘think’ you need, you will end up crossing half the items in your list yourself because they will seem absurd to you or you may already have them!).

Once I got my salary,I allocated the funds I needed to buy those items and transferred the remaining funds to my savings account.

A simple amendment to a habit: planning before spending and separating savings first, not only bought me immense mental comfort but also curtailed my impulse buying patterns greatly.

I feel good about myself and looking at my savings now I feel proud that with a little self-control I was able to establish a firm foundation for myself.

3. Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

Prioritize!

There are some things that would yield a higher reward if you wait, all you need to do is prioritize and decide what’s worth waiting for.

Once you break down your goals, take one step at a time. Make sure you rewards yourself for small wins.

That being said, one cannot wait forever so it’s essential to set definitive time frames to manage expectations related to when the reward will be received.

4. Establish Shared Objectives

Make delayed gratification a family habit by establishing common, shared objectives.

For example: you can encourage children to save for something they want and open a savings account for them, allow them to plan and put an effort while working towards achieving those goals.

Communicate with them openly and regularly discuss on how their efforts today will yield better rewards tomorrow.

Be realistic when setting objectives and deadlines.

For example: while trying to lose weight an individual may set an unrealistic goal of losing 10 pounds per week, failing to achieve this target may cause the person to crumble and give in to temptation. Setting a goal which is achievable and realistic (let’s say one pound per week) is important.

Flip Side of the Coin

Trust and certainty are critical factors for delayed gratification to work. Researchers like Joseph W. Kable and Joseph T. McGuire from University of Pennsylvania suggest that it’s the uncertainty related to future rewards which makes delayed gratification so challenging.

To be honest, in today’s time we may never know when will we be rewarded?

Or if the rewards will ever arrive?

At times, instant gratification may make more sense when promised rewards seem unlikely.

Similarly, having faith in one’s own self to be persistent and achieve those goals may seem a far-fetched thought for some. Then comes the issue of deceit and fake promises as well- what the promise of reward never gets fulfilled?

Celeste Kidd (University of Rochester) explored the issue of trust with respect to delayed gratification.

The experiment was essentially the same as Mischel’s with the only difference being, half the researchers broke their promise of offering a second treat and just gave children an apology.

When a consequent experiment was conducted, majority kids who received the promised treat during the first experiment were once again able to wait for the second treat.

However, the kids who were deceived the first time, were not willing to wait and they ate marshmallows instantly.

Why does it even matter?

Gaining an understanding of human behavior in terms of whether they choose to be rewarded now or delay taking the benefit(s) can help one appreciate on how to persuade people for example: if an individual delays gratification, then he/she can be motivated to accomplish assignments by being shown how completing these current tasks can help them in future.

Delayed gratification promotes better problem solving skills, enhances one’s self-control and helps curb anxiety.

A person is much more comfortable once he/she has a plan, they are clear on what they need to do in order to achieve their goals and working their way towards its accomplishment becomes more fulfilling. Rewards achieved thereafter are more satisfying.

By being better prepared and making informed choices and decisions an individual is following a more driven and focused approach of gratification.

temptation-of-homer

By resisting temptations and sticking to one’s goals- an individual is re-wiring his/her brain to become more controlled, determined and exercise a logic-driven approach while taking decisions.

It enhances one’s emotional and mental well-being significantly. You can use distraction techniques to ensure you don’t give in to your impulses like:

Diverting your attention.
Focus on the happiness you will derive once you get a more fulfilling reward.
– Put on music to calm your nerves and not take hasty decisions.
– Move yourself away from triggers or places which heighten your impulse.
Remind yourself of negative emotions like guilt and sadness which you experienced when you acted on your impulse.

While lack of trust and uncertainty may make delayed gratification a challenge but holistically- researchers have found that not giving into your immediate desires and staying focused towards achieving long term goals may be a critical part of success.

We are humans and are bound to give into instant gratification some times, but let’s not make that a toxic habit- finding a balance is always healthy!



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Is Delayed Gratification Key to Success?

There is so much more to what causes people to do what they do, there are so many factors which motivate us.

For myself particularly, I do consider rewards or gains that arise from a particular behavior of mine- also known as gratification, as an influencing factor on my motivation.

A person’s behavior and influences on motivation can either be driven by instant gratification or delayed gratification.
People who seek instant gratification are less likely to control their impulses hence are more prone to giving into their temptations. They focus on the present and seek immediate satisfaction.

However, people who delay gratification are likely to be more in control of the choices they make, they have the patience to resist their impulses and opt for putting off rewards to a future date. They are comfortable in choosing future benefits over present ones.

“The ability to discipline yourself to delay gratification in the short term in order to enjoy greater rewards in the long term, is the indispensable prerequisite for success.” – Brian Tracy

I am a shopaholic and in my states of unstoppable mania, I would spend ridiculous amount of money buying whatever I liked without thinking twice.

I was addicted to the feeling of excitement and pleasure that spending money on buying things I like gave me.

Soon after, when the thrill subsided- I would be left feeling guilty, sulky and depressed for my erratic behavior and mountain of debt that I had accumulated (worse was the realization that the things I bought are either not that good in reality or are not worth the amount I paid for them!).

Before I knew it, I began ignoring how the aftermath made me feel, I was back on my spree again simply to get rid of the feelings of sadness and to make myself feel better.

Rather than addressing the issue and asking for help, I had created problems for myself by pursuing instant gratification wildly.

What lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do. Aristotle Click to Tweet

I am a big supporter of the notion that a job well done, needs to be rewarded. Similarly, there is no harm spending on yourself or on things you like.

The problem however arises when one falls in the trap of believing that

‘you NEED this NOW to be HAPPY’.

This has implications because then an individual ties his/her happiness to immediate rewards on an ongoing basis and would not feel happy unless he/she is not instantly rewarded.

In order to feel true happiness, align what motivates us and make gratification sustainable- one must consider conditioning him/herself towards delaying gratification; that means forgoing small/mild rewards right now and wait for a greater reward in future.
It’s all about understanding the difference between short-term versus long-term thinking, but this is not as easy as it sounds since it is not a conscious choice!

delayed-gratification marshmallow experiment

The brain responds to short term need fulfillment because of an outburst of potent pleasure hormone reaching high levels- it causes us to feel excited and thrilled.

The same hormonal outburst is experienced in cases of drug addiction, hyperactivity/attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder etc.

Modern society is driven by consumers who are motivated by instant rewards- don’t we all look for ‘express’ shipping, instant downloads, one-stop solutions?

But at the end of the day we do experience emptiness, we face challenges while trying to concentrate. Similarly, delays and uncertainty make us uncomfortable.

The shift of having everything now is creating a havoc in our personal lives and hence, the importance of recognizing one’s own impulses cannot be undermined.

Scientific Evidence to Support Delayed Gratification: Marshmallow Theory Revealed!

Walter Mischel, an American Psychologist at Stanford University, conducted a social experiment on pre-school aged children during the 1970s. The children were put in room and given a single marshmallow.

They were informed that they could either choose to eat the marshmallow now or wait for 15 minutes and get their 2nd marshmallow.

However, if they chose to eat the first- they would not get a second. Some children gobbled the 1st marshmallow without thinking twice (instant gratification) while others waited to get the 2nd one (delayed gratification).

Children who opted for delayed gratification showed more positive traits later in life, they had higher self-esteem, better intelligence since they planned ahead and did not gave into greedy impulsive demands for instant gratification and felt happier.

People who actively seek instant gratification give into their impulses more easily, they struggle to focus and dedicate efforts to work for a better future reward.

They seize on realizing rewards now out of habit and this in turn acts as a barrier which stops them from reaching their full potential.

This experiment gives us insights into self-control and how by exercising a little control we can enjoy greater rewards.

Having said that, the struggle to keep on track is real once a person gets fixated on something and it becomes difficult to stay focused and deny immediate rewards- then how can one build resilience for delayed gratification?

1. Question your Impulses: Do I really want it?

All of us can relate to getting obsessed over things like a new dress, new gadget or probably a new car so much so that we experience that burning desire of getting that ‘one’ thing that we want even though deep down inside we may know it’s not worth the value or may even be impractical!

Before making a purchase decision, remind yourself that it’s not responsible to give in to your impulses blindly. Wait before you spend money and do so on the right thing, at the right time and for the right reasons!

Do not simply give in to your desires- before springing into action, deliberate. For example: people fighting with obesity and stress-driven compulsive eating have found mindful eating to yield incredible results.

By chewing food for longer, turning off TV, putting down cutlery between morsels and by staying focused entirely on chewing and swallowing- one tends to eat more consciously hence controlling the calorie intake.

2. Always Plan

List down the things you want and what choices must you make in order to get them. In my case, I have always struggled to save.

As soon as I used to get my monthly salary- the first thing I did was spend lavishly on dining out and going on a shopping spree.

Before mid-month, I recall being in a crisis situation- having no money and opting for a small loan to help me survive till month end.

This toxic behavior was jeopardizing my life, time was passing by and I had no savings, no funds allocated for emergencies or future studies.

I started by taking small steps and making a list of items I needed (believe me once you start jotting what you ‘think’ you need, you will end up crossing half the items in your list yourself because they will seem absurd to you or you may already have them!).

Once I got my salary,I allocated the funds I needed to buy those items and transferred the remaining funds to my savings account.

A simple amendment to a habit: planning before spending and separating savings first, not only bought me immense mental comfort but also curtailed my impulse buying patterns greatly.

I feel good about myself and looking at my savings now I feel proud that with a little self-control I was able to establish a firm foundation for myself.

3. Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

Prioritize!

There are some things that would yield a higher reward if you wait, all you need to do is prioritize and decide what’s worth waiting for.

Once you break down your goals, take one step at a time. Make sure you rewards yourself for small wins.

That being said, one cannot wait forever so it’s essential to set definitive time frames to manage expectations related to when the reward will be received.

4. Establish Shared Objectives

Make delayed gratification a family habit by establishing common, shared objectives.

For example: you can encourage children to save for something they want and open a savings account for them, allow them to plan and put an effort while working towards achieving those goals.

Communicate with them openly and regularly discuss on how their efforts today will yield better rewards tomorrow.

Be realistic when setting objectives and deadlines.

For example: while trying to lose weight an individual may set an unrealistic goal of losing 10 pounds per week, failing to achieve this target may cause the person to crumble and give in to temptation. Setting a goal which is achievable and realistic (let’s say one pound per week) is important.

Flip Side of the Coin

Trust and certainty are critical factors for delayed gratification to work. Researchers like Joseph W. Kable and Joseph T. McGuire from University of Pennsylvania suggest that it’s the uncertainty related to future rewards which makes delayed gratification so challenging.

To be honest, in today’s time we may never know when will we be rewarded?

Or if the rewards will ever arrive?

At times, instant gratification may make more sense when promised rewards seem unlikely.

Similarly, having faith in one’s own self to be persistent and achieve those goals may seem a far-fetched thought for some. Then comes the issue of deceit and fake promises as well- what the promise of reward never gets fulfilled?

Celeste Kidd (University of Rochester) explored the issue of trust with respect to delayed gratification.

The experiment was essentially the same as Mischel’s with the only difference being, half the researchers broke their promise of offering a second treat and just gave children an apology.

When a consequent experiment was conducted, majority kids who received the promised treat during the first experiment were once again able to wait for the second treat.

However, the kids who were deceived the first time, were not willing to wait and they ate marshmallows instantly.

Why does it even matter?

Gaining an understanding of human behavior in terms of whether they choose to be rewarded now or delay taking the benefit(s) can help one appreciate on how to persuade people for example: if an individual delays gratification, then he/she can be motivated to accomplish assignments by being shown how completing these current tasks can help them in future.

Delayed gratification promotes better problem solving skills, enhances one’s self-control and helps curb anxiety.

A person is much more comfortable once he/she has a plan, they are clear on what they need to do in order to achieve their goals and working their way towards its accomplishment becomes more fulfilling. Rewards achieved thereafter are more satisfying.

By being better prepared and making informed choices and decisions an individual is following a more driven and focused approach of gratification.

temptation-of-homer

By resisting temptations and sticking to one’s goals- an individual is re-wiring his/her brain to become more controlled, determined and exercise a logic-driven approach while taking decisions.

It enhances one’s emotional and mental well-being significantly. You can use distraction techniques to ensure you don’t give in to your impulses like:

Diverting your attention.
Focus on the happiness you will derive once you get a more fulfilling reward.
– Put on music to calm your nerves and not take hasty decisions.
– Move yourself away from triggers or places which heighten your impulse.
Remind yourself of negative emotions like guilt and sadness which you experienced when you acted on your impulse.

While lack of trust and uncertainty may make delayed gratification a challenge but holistically- researchers have found that not giving into your immediate desires and staying focused towards achieving long term goals may be a critical part of success.

We are humans and are bound to give into instant gratification some times, but let’s not make that a toxic habit- finding a balance is always healthy!



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