Last Updated on November 26, 2020

Why Instant Gratification Holds You Back from Achieving What You Want

Why Instant Gratification Holds You Back from Achieving What You Want

We often hear advice like “live in the moment” and “the time is now.” These are wise words, and being mindful of the present moment is an excellent way to live well. However, getting everything we want when we want it is not necessarily good for us. Instant gratification can make us complacent and lazy.

In this article, you will learn why immediate gratification holds you back from achieving what you want, and what you can do to overcome impulsive behavior and short-term pleasure.

Why You Are Tempted Into Instant Gratification

We have access to fast everything—information, food, technology, entertainment, comfort. We don’t have to exert a lot of effort into fulfilling our desires and, in many cases, we can purchase goods and services in an instant that will gratify our every requirement. Social media has trained us to want things here and now.

What we don’t consider are the lessons and benefits we miss out on when we don’t resist temptation and delay fulfillment. We experience personal growth when we work harder to achieve satisfaction. We also take for granted the value of aiming for long-term goals and benefitting from the process by which we reach contentment.

Minimalist blogger and author Leo Babauta points out that we don’t have to deprive ourselves of the good things in life in order to achieve balance. It’s simply a matter of restraint and mindfulness—being conscious about the decisions we make and having boundaries.

He says that instant gratification “leads to debt, clutter, bad health, distractions, mindlessness,” while practicing deferred gratification and consciousness “leads to simplicity, health and fitness, focus, achievement, mindfulness, appreciation for all the gifts of life.”[1]


Do You Struggle with Instant Gratification? You Must Try These 5 Steps

    In a luxury- and technology-centered world, it is easy to become detached from our core values and the important things in life[2]. We start to give priority to superficial things: objects, material wealth, acquisition, and appearance[3].

    We discard the need to acknowledge the future and possible consequences for our actions. We don’t consider waste, damage to our health or the environment, or other possible adverse effects of our actions in the pursuit of immediate gratification. We lose the desire to experience the pleasure of achieving long-term goals and their positive outcomes.

    Why Is Instant Gratification Bad for You?

    Instant gratification can feel good in the moment, but it can often get you into a routine of seeking out short-term fixes for long-term problems. Here are some reasons instant gratification is bad for you and how you can fix it.

    1. The Feeling Doesn’t Last

    Your dissatisfaction with short-lived pleasure causes your needs to be magnified the next time you seek fulfillment. This can often lead to disastrous and largely unforeseen costs, like addiction.

    There are many examples of this. Overindulging in food, alcohol or drugs, technology such as the internet, gaming and gambling, even seemingly harmless indulgences like shopping or improving body image through diet and fitness can become obsessive and have counterproductive results.


    How to Overcome It

    This doesn’t mean we have to completely discard our opportunities to enjoy these things. We just need to have limits, and we need to be aware of how we do things and how much or how often we indulge.

    That is the difference between living our life and wasting it. Of course, it is wise to live in the present and take advantage of the things that make us happy, but we need to do things in a healthy way and plan for the future. It takes foresight and consideration to ensure we achieve a balance.

    2. You Can Lose Motivation and Control

    When we feel the need for instant gratification and constant stimulation, we can lose motivation to achieve goals that aren’t bringing in fast results. We may begin to feel a loss of control as our mind seeks out anything to offer a reward.

    Short-term gratification will get in the way of your long-term goals. Your mind may not be used to having to wait, and patience will become a serious issue.

    How to Overcome It

    Being mindful of the urges you experience is primary. Trying keeping a list of every time you get the urge to do something, and instead of fulfilling it, just making a note of it. Examples of these urges include snacking, checking your phone, or buying something unnecessary.

    Instead of denying your urges completely, just delay the gratification. Put some space between when you feel an urge and when you gratify it. This will train your brain to wait, which will make it easier next time.


    For more tips on how to increase motivation, check out this article.

    3. Your Awareness Will Diminish

    If you’re constantly giving in to in-the-moment desires through immediate gratification, you’re not taking the time to analyze what’s happening or notice how you’re feeling or what you’re doing. Impatience or boredom will become foreign, and getting out of those states will become your biggest priority.

    How to Overcome It

    The key is to practice consciousness and hone your awareness of what is happening in your mind and in your body through mindfulness. We sometimes indulge urges without even thinking, and before we know it, we’ve devoured the entire tub of ice cream or put another $1000 in a poker machine.

    If that’s exactly what you want to do, then fine, but know that what you are doing is a conscious decision and own it. Take responsibility for it.

    These skills take practice, and it is important to allow yourself to learn lessons in good time. If instant gratification has been your way of life for a long time, don’t expect it to change overnight. Just get better with each experience. Allow yourself to fail and try and do better the next time an opportunity to practice resistance and mindfulness comes along.

    4. You Lose the Moment

    If you indulge urges, your mind is so focused on the indulgence that it blocks out everything else. Delaying gratification can heighten your awareness of a specific moment and help you learn how to experience it with a sense of peace instead of frustration or desperation.


    How to Overcome It

    After practicing this kind of mindfulness, you will have the strength and discipline to enjoy the moment without actually indulging in immediate gratification. It gives us a great sense of accomplishment and achievement when we realize how capable we are of exercising willpower. These skills can be extremely rewarding and sometimes lifesaving; quitting smoking is a prominent example that comes to mind.

    Check out this article for more on how to live in the moment.

    Final Thoughts

    Investing in our future is underrated. With focus and repetition, we can learn to plan for our goals in the long run and minimize our need for instant gratification. We can find a balance and still be able to enjoy the best things in life without overindulging and making decisions that will affect our lives adversely.

    Sit with boredom instead of fighting it. Analyze feelings of desperation instead of trying to immediately calm them. This will all take time, but it will lead to less reliance on immediate gratification, which will ultimately be completely worth it.

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    Featured photo credit: Daria Nepriakhina via


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    Diane Koopman

    Writer, Author, Novelist, Self-Publisher

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    Last Updated on May 6, 2021

    How to Be More Assertive and Go After Your Goals

    How to Be More Assertive and Go After Your Goals

    Life can be tough sometimes, which is why we need to be tough sometimes, too. Learning how to be more assertive is a great way to tick off your tasks and go after your goals and dreams.

    It’s not always easy being assertive, especially if you’re used to being a people-pleaser. You might fear that if you act assertively, you’ll be regarded as a demanding and unkind individual.

    However, as I’ll show you in the next few minutes, you can be both assertive and kind-hearted. Most importantly, if you sincerely want to achieve your goals, then it’s essential that you call upon the power of assertiveness.

    Having an assertive nature will help you overcome obstacles and reach your goals quicker than you may have imagined possible. Assertiveness is a core communication skill[1], one that allows you to stand up for your beliefs and to express yourself effectively.

    Of course, there are other advantages to being assertive:

    • Earn other people’s respect
    • Boost your confidence and self-esteem
    • Create win-win situations
    • Gain more career satisfaction
    • Create open and honest relationships

    At this point, you’re likely wondering what it takes to learn how to be more assertive. It will take some work on your part, but with a little effort, you can tackle this powerful skill.


    1. Be Direct

    The first suggestion I have for you is based on the classic “less is more” philosophy of effective communication.

    When it comes to being direct, you shouldn’t make accusations or cause the other person to feel guilty or wrong. There’s no need for long-winded explanations, which can be misleading or confusing for the recipient. Offer a simple answer that doesn’t go too deep into unnecessary thoughts and feelings.

    Instead, get straight to your point as soon as you can. For example, instead of making excuses for why you can’t help a coworker on a project, simply say, “I’m really busy right now, so I can’t help with this. But please ask me again next time!” It’s direct, as well as kind, which makes both parties happy.

    Being direct will also help you avoid procrastinating when it comes to offering someone an answer. Instead of waiting to say no, you’ll learn how to offer the no immediately. If you find you struggle with procrastination in this area, check out Lifehack’s Fast-Track Class: No More Procrastination.

    2. Stay Calm

    Another key component of learning how to be more assertive is having the confidence to keep your emotions in check when you need to convey something to someone. This helps in avoiding conflict while various points of view are being discussed.

    The trick is to detach your emotions from the situation and think logically. This will help make it easier to come across as in control, and it will inevitably gain a more respectful response from the other party.


    3. Use “I” Statements

    Make it a habit to use statements like “I feel ” or “I believe.” Avoid phrases like “you never” or “you always,” which put people on the defense immediately and can lead to poor communication and shutdowns.

    “I” statements make you come off more confident and don’t make the other person feel as though you’re attacking them. In other words, state why you believe something rather than criticizing the other party’s viewpoint. 

    4. Say “No” More Often

    There is a great way to practice assertive behavior, which only requires you to utter a 2-letter word: no. 

    By practicing saying no to things you cannot or don’t want to do, you’ll be exercising your assertiveness in a simple but effective way. You don’t need to feel that saying no is selfish; it’s simply a way to make sure you’re putting your energy toward things that matter to you.

    5. Don’t Apologize 

    Many people have the tendency to begin every potentially assertive statement with an apology. For example, you may say something like, “Sorry to bother you, but could you…” 

    These come across as weak and passive — and certainly not assertive. 


    There’s a time and place for being apologetic (e.g., when you’ve accidentally knocked over someone’s drink), but when it comes to being assertive, don’t let an apologetic tone get in the way of what you want to say.

    Studies have found that women are more likely to begin statements or requests with apologies[2]. This is because they have a lower threshold than men for what they consider offensive. This means that women need to be more aware of their tendency to do this, but men should also catch themselves before apologizing when it’s unnecessary.

    6. Your Body Language Should Match Your Words 

    When was the last time you paid attention to your body language and facial expressions?

    If it’s been a while, then I suggest you keep a close eye on it in the next few days, particularly when it comes to talking to someone in person.

    To come across as confident and assertive, your body language needs to match your words. For assertive people, this means not slumping your shoulders and avoiding eye contact. Instead, it means standing tall and erect, and looking directly in the person’s eyes.

    This will serve two purposes. It will consciously and subconsciously impress the person and help them have faith in what you’re saying, and it will make you feel strong, assured, and confident.


    You can check out this TED talk from Amy Cuddy to learn more about how body language shapes the way we feel and speak:

    The Bottom Line

    Learning how to be more assertive comes down to the simple tips above. However, knowledge is useless without action. So, next time you need to make a request of someone or say no in order to make room for time to achieve your goals, put one of the above tips into practice.

    Within a few weeks, you’ll notice you’ve become a stronger, more assertive, and more dynamic person. Furthermore, with these enhanced traits, you’ll find that reaching and exceeding your goals will become second nature to you.

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    Featured photo credit: Cytonn Photography via


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