The Steps You Need To Overcome Instant Gratification

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overcome instant gratification

Why is it we need everything right this minute?

Our world has become so fast paced, if we don’t have the answers to our questions or get what we want immediately, we get upset.

I am guilty of this. And I don’t like it.

I noticed that I was becoming more impatient and wondered what was going on.

At first, I blamed the aging process.

Somehow, impatience must come with age.

But then, I started to research the idea of instant gratification, and realized age has nothing to do with it.

That is, unless you are three years old. Then, impatience is a part of life.

However, chances are you are not three years old.

How do you overcome instant gratification?

In this post, I share with you the things I found to help you deal better with the fast paced world we live in.

A Proven Plan To Overcome Instant Gratification

What Is Instant Gratification?

now chalkboard

When I speak of instant gratification, I am referring to the temptation and tendency we have to act on a desire for something deemed pleasurable at that very moment.

Many people also call this short term gratification or immediate gratification.

For example, if you are staring at a delicious piece of chocolate cake but know you will be eating supper in 30 minutes, the logical thing to do is forego the cake so you can gain the greater reward of a nutritious meal.

However, if you’re like most people, you want the good thing now, so logic gets thrown out the window in favor of the chocolate cake.

Other examples of instant gratification include the following.

  • Deciding to hit the snooze button instead of getting up
  • Deciding to skip exercising and binge watch TV
  • Deciding to order take out instead of making dinner
  • Deciding to stay up late instead of getting a good night’s sleep

But what exactly is the meaning of instant gratification?

In basic psychological terms, the need you and I have for instant gratification is known as the pleasure principle.

First coined by Sigmund Freud, the psychology refers to the basic human instinct to seek out pleasure while avoiding pain.

And as you and I both know, passing up chocolate cake can be one of the most painful decisions you’ll ever make.

Unfortunately, when we make it a regular habit to give in to instant gratification the result is self-defeating behavior, resulting in various problems later on.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the reality principle.

This is the ability you have to understand what is happening around you and act in a way that has you remain patient.

You know that by not giving in to your immediate need, you will be rewarded with a larger or more meaningful reward later.

In other words, by delaying gratification, you will be more likely to achieve long term goals and more success in the future.

Why Are We Prone To Being Instantly Gratified?

As for why we are prone to being instantly gratified, there are various reasons.

While it may start with Freud’s pleasure principle, there are many other reasons as well.

To begin with, you and I dislike uncertainty.

When we are born and progress through our first few years of life, we have unlimited trust.

However, as we get older, we become aware of uncertainty that comes with more and more situations.

This leads us to place a greater value on the certain and immediate benefits rather than those that force us to wait it out in hopes of a long-term benefit.

In addition, our imagination plays a critical role in making you and I covet instant gratification.

As we use our time to daydream and envision how great we believe life will be if we do certain things, it becomes harder to choose delayed gratification over instant gratification.

Thus, once we establish a picture in our minds of how much better we believe our lives will be by doing something immediately, little if any motivation is left for us to think a delay will be beneficial.

Finally, your mood can play a big part in determining whether or not you can delay gratification or give in to temptation of instant pleasure.

We all experience periods of boredom, stress, and impatience that tend to leave us in a bad mood.

When this occurs, an immediate desire for something will always be very attractive, especially if we convince ourselves it will bring immediate relief to our current mood swing.

While trying to be logical in such situations can sometimes help, chances are you and I will both be guilty of pushing logic aside in favor of whatever our mood dictates at the moment.

The Benefits Of Delayed Gratification

So if we enjoy the feeling of instant pleasure, why wait?

Are there any benefits to long term gratification?

There are many.

If you can learn to not give in to your urges, you will experience the following.

  • Better decision making
  • Better at long term planning
  • Lower anxiety
  • Less anger
  • Lower chance of developing addictions

As you can see, learning to avoid short term gratification has a major impact on your overall life.

How To Practice Delayed Gratification

clock and calendar

If you are determined to overcome instant gratification, the good news is that there are many steps you can take to do so.

If you are ready to get started, here are some of the most popular and effective delayed gratification exercises that are ready and waiting for you.

#1. Decide What You Want

Since your imagination, mood, and other factors can play a large part in leading you down the path of instant gratification, always make the effort to decide exactly what you want and expect from a situation.

By setting goals for yourself, I have found almost anything can be achieved.

For greatest success, ask yourself the following questions.

  • What do I want to achieve?
  • Why is it important to me?
  • What benefits will I reap once my goal is achieved?

By immediately setting priorities, you lessen the chances of being indecisive, which promotes uncertainty and leads to instant gratification.

#2. Identify Your Obstacles

No matter what task you want to complete, you will have obstacles placed in your way.

To lessen the chances you will become too discouraged early on, always identify various obstacles by asking yourself these questions.

  • What will be my greatest temptations along the way toward completing this task?
  • What ways could I get sidetracked?
  • How will I choose to handle temptation?

While you may be tempted to do so, I suggest you not try to find solutions to problems during this stage.

Instead, simply focus on not letting temptation lead you astray.

#3. Have A Support Network

Perhaps more than anything, I recommend having a strong support network of people around you whom you know and trust to help you overcome your desire for instant gratification.

Since there will be tough moments along the way, choose people carefully based on the following questions.

  • How can this person support me?
  • What role will they play along the way?
  • Whom do I trust most to help me?

Without a strong support network, chances are you will not achieve the results you desire.

#4. Have Clear Boundaries For Yourself

In any situation where you are trying to change behavior, I suggest you set clear boundaries of which you will follow.

Without these, you will always give in to temptation and find yourself going around in circles, never achieving your goals.

Once you commit to this, make sure you ask yourself these two critical questions.

  • What will I allow myself to do?
  • What will be off-limits?

Once you ask and answer these two questions, success can be yours.

#5. Have A Reward System

Finally, create a reward system to keep you motivated over the long-term.

For example, if you are trying to get in shape and eating healthy through the week, allow yourself to have a special treat on the weekend, such as an ice-cream cone.

By having a small reward now and then, you’ll stay motivated to do your best.

How To Avoid Falling Into The Instant Gratification Trap

man avoiding traps

To avoid the instant gratification trap, I recommend doing three things.

First, break down big goals into smaller, more manageable goals.

Second, have empathy for yourself, since this will let you forgive yourself should you have an occasional relapse.

Finally, commit early on to doing whatever it takes to achieve your goals.

By doing so, you’ll realize how important your goals are to you, making it harder to change your mind or backtrack.

If you find yourself in the middle of succumbing to short term gratification, you need a quick exit plan.

The best one is to phone a friend.

Tell them that you are having trouble practicing discipline.

They will work through it with you, or simply be enough of a distraction to help you get through this sensitive time.

Once you are through with it, take the time to reflect.

Try to see if there were any circumstances that led to you give into temptation.

For example, if you are eating healthy, you might find yourself bored one night and end up raiding the pantry.

You know that being bored is a trigger for you and you need to be aware of it.

By knowing your triggers, you have a good chance of talking yourself out of the situation next time it happens.

Final Thoughts

While instant gratification does feel great during a particular moment in time, resisting the urge pays far greater dividends.

Not only will your health improve, but you will experience more personal grow as well.

Once you decide to implement many of the above-mentioned tips into your life, I’m sure you’ll discover many new paths to success.

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