Many people don’t know what the term “delayed gratification” truly means. By definition, the term means that you have enough willpower to resist the lure of an immediate reward instead of receiving a bigger reward later.
For example, you are craving pizza, but being on a diet; you realize that it’s better for your health to eat only a slice of pizza instead of the entire thing. In addition, you know that practicing self-restraint provides more significant benefits in the long run.
Another example is knowing that spending long hours indoors studying for your exams or finishing the research paper you had been working on will help you improve your grades. On the other hand, short-term gratification, like partying with your favorite friends in the middle of the week, will only prevent you from reaching your goals.
Someone starting out in life and living on a small budget should choose to rent a small apartment and set aside the extra money for a larger home later. By delaying their gratification, that person puts themselves in the position to save money for a downpayment to purchase their dream home at a later time when their income has grown to match their dreams.
The Marshmallow Test
An experiment conducted by Stanford Professor Walter Mischel on preschool children in the 1960s gave them a choice between eating the first marshmallow right away or being rewarded with a second marshmallow if they waited for 15 minutes until the researcher returned to the room without touching the first marshmallow.
The purpose of this behavioral experiment was to test the children’s self-control. Factors framing this experiment were created by a series of questions asked of the parents. Those questions pertained to their ability to deal with stress, their cognitive skills, and their ability to practice self-control.
The first tests were conducted during grade school and followed up with additional tests in high school, where they looked at the child’s SAT scores and further tests on self-control. The results showed that the children who waited for the second marshmallow had increased self-control, were less obese, had better SAT scores, and exhibited superior social skills.
Self-confidence vs. Self-control
The Marshmallow test has been conducted many times throughout the years and has, unfortunately, exposed some negative factors. For example, there were tests where children were split into two groups, one containing children from wealthy homes and the other from less fortunate households.
The researchers concluded that the children from wealthier homes tended to have higher self-confidence and were more willing to practice self-restraint because they knew and trusted that they would get the additional marshmallow.
On the other hand, the children from lower-earning households lacked the self-confidence that there would be any marshmallows if they waited. This study also underlines the need to teach children to have stronger self-confidence.
Discipline and Accountability
Highly successful people are usually known for possessing tenacity, self-discipline, and strong goal-setting abilities. These traits are summoned by the knowledge that waiting for the reward will add to its value and be worth it. Moreover, these characteristics are not necessarily inborn but require practice and can be learned.
The biggest stumbling block comes from people succumbing to their passion or desire to have something at this very moment. This often causes drawbacks in the process because important factors get overlooked. Instant gratification often comes at the loss of doing what is right or ethical.
Those who hold themselves at a higher level of accountability tend to make choices that might delay their rewards but have an overall higher benefit for all parties involved.
Suppose you want to be a leader in your line of business. In that case, you have to view yourself as already having monetary success and being a person of integrity who is fair to his employees or co-workers, offers value to their customers, and is dependable and trustworthy.
Different Ways To Make Behavioral Changes
Once you are aware of your impulsive behavior, you can counteract the bad habit through mindfulness and discipline. Impulse purchases can get you into financial trouble. Spending more than your budget allows you to experience the thrill you get from instant gratification might be a rush at first, but it usually ends up being a long-term headache.
Set a goal for yourself whenever you are about to respond to an “I want it now” stimulus. For example, whenever you see a shiny new object, make it your goal to do ten sit-ups or complete a chore. Substituting a vice with constructive behavior offers a rewarding and beneficial outcome.
If you want to eat healthily, stock your refrigerator with healthy food instead of sweet snacks or ice cream. Then, drive the extra mile to get home if it helps you avoid the fast-food restaurant that always magnetically attracts you.
Another way to counteract instant gratification is to write down what you want to change, the triggers that cause you to react impulsively, and the strategies that will allow you to avoid these triggers.
An additional technique is to list the adverse physical effects that occur when, for example, you consume too much alcohol or eat sugary or fatty food. As we know, this type of food damages your liver and can cause weight gain and diabetes.
List a reward you will give yourself whenever you practice delayed gratification. For example, you could take a walk along the beach or through the woods. Find an outside stimulus that can replace negative and unhealthy stimuli.
Use positive self-talk that will motivate you to get through rough patches. Affirming that the feeling you get by using self-control and delaying the reward you want so badly will be an incredible celebratory feeling.
Becoming more mindful and thus self-disciplined when faced with temptations and distractions by not giving in to or satisfying your desires are small victories that should be rewarded. By practicing self-discipline and delayed gratification, you will have earned them.
In closing, let me leave you with this quote from Brian Tracy:
“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 ~