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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
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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]

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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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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 unsplash.com

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    Diane Koopman

    Writer, Author, Novelist, Self-Publisher

    5 Things Most People Overlook When Setting Goals This Is How Mentally Strong People Deal With Guilt How to Grow Old Gracefully: 10 Ways You May Not Have Considered instant gratification Why Instant Gratification Holds You Back from Achieving What You Want How I Found My Passion to Make Everyday of My Life Exciting

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    Last Updated on August 4, 2021

    How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life

    How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life
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    Why is it important to be goal-oriented? If you make goals without asking yourself what your true strengths and values are first, you could put yourself on the fast track to disappointment. On the other hand, if you don’t set any intentions at all, you could bounce through life like a pinball doing what others want without accomplishing what’s really important to you.

    Fear not. Here are 8 powerful ways to be goal-oriented using the ENVISION method (Endgame – Nesting – Value – Inspiration – Superpowers – Intimates – Openness – Nourishment) that will help you create a successful, meaningful life:

    1. Start With the End in Mind

    To ensure that you make goals that matter, stand back and examine your life from a broader perspective. Think about the happy ending you would like to achieve, the “E” in ENVISION, and work backwards to determine how you’ll get there.

    For example, if you’d like to generate goals for yourself over the next five years, write down where you’d like to be professionally and personally five years from now.

    Where do you see yourself in relation to work? What’s your family life like? What type of friends and social support group do you have? What are your hobbies? 

    Next, ask yourself where you would like to be one year from now relative to what you’d like to accomplish in five years. Write the answer out in enough detail so that it seems real to you. Then, ask yourself where you’d like to be three months from now. Be specific.

    What about one month or one week? What one small action could you take this week to come closer to achieving your master plan?

    This exercise is a fun and eye-opening way to line up your goals with the bigger picture of your life so that you won’t waste your precious time on passing fancies and other people’s agendas.

    2. Create Nested Goals

    The most efficient way to achieve your goals is to nest action items inside them, the first “N” in ENVISION. Goal-oriented people get specific about when, where, and how they’ll reach their objectives by breaking them down into sub-goals.

    Make your aspirations challenging but not too hard. Each one should be measurable. Instead of writing “I’d like to write a book,” try setting an intention such as “I’d like to write two hours a day, four times a week” and mark space on your calendar for it.

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    Make your aims positive and keep track of your progress. Instead of business goals like “I’d like to quit my stinking job,” think about what a desirable career would look like. Try “I’d like to develop educational toys with like-minded people in a virtual office,” and then send out your résumé to companies with matching job openings.

    Come up with alternative pathways to your goals so that if one doesn’t work, you’ll already have plan B in place. It’s normal to fail and experience setbacks. This goal-oriented strategy will help you move forward on the pathway to your dreams no matter what happens.

    You can learn more on creating effectively goals here:

    3. Get Clear on Your Values

    Before you start setting goals, it’s important to ask yourself what you really value, the “V” in ENVISION.

    The number one regret of people on their deathbed is that they did not live their dreams. Don’t let that be you. To avoid living a life full of “shoulds” and obligations, make a wish list. Jot down what you really want, and put all the reasons you think you can’t have it aside.

    These aspirations can range from the material (such as a new car) to the psychological (high self-worth), to the spiritual (inner peace), to pretty much anything you can think of. What kind of life would be music to your ears? It doesn’t matter whether it seems unattainable or even downright crazy.

    Giving yourself permission to daydream about a rich and fulfilling life is the first step to getting it. Be sure your goals speak to your soul.

    4. Make Time for Inspiration

    As you put your goals together, think about how you can find downtime to become goal-driven and receive inspiration in your life, the first “I” in ENVISION.

    Americans put in the longest work hours and get the shortest paid vacation time in the developed world. Those of us “lucky” enough to have jobs have added another day to our work week because we now check work emails and calls from home. It’s easy to see why it’s hard to stay motivated toward specific goals in the long-term. 

    However, the second regret of the dying is that they wished they didn’t work so hard. Research shows that people who engage in creative hobbies and side projects are happier and flourish more in life because they can generate new ideas and express themselves uniquely.[1] Feeling energized and playful, they get more done in less time, become better problem solvers, and receive better evaluations at work.[2]

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    5. Form Goals Around Your Superpowers

    Research shows that people are more likely to succeed when they develop their natural strengths, the “S” in ENVISION, than work on their weaknesses.

    You can find your superpowers by answering these questions.

    Each of us has a unique purpose in life. Most of us don’t realize it, though, because we’ve been pressured to conform to someone else’s idea of who we should be. Fear of change and staying in our comfort zones stunts our growth. Stretch yourself and take a risk if you want to find out what makes your heart sing.

    Make an action plan to create a life in which you express your superpowers on a regular basis, whether it be through your vocation, a meaningful side project, a worthy cause, mindful parenting, volunteer work, or whatever else sparks your interest. This goal-oriented strategy guarantees you’ll thrive at work and at home.

    6. Make Time for Intimates

    When setting your goals, be sure to carve out time for your intimates, the second “I” in ENVISION. Intimates refers to close friends or people you have close relationships with.

    The fourth regret of the dying is that they were too busy to see their friends much.[3] Make it a point to connect with real friends, people you can turn to for sympathy when you need it, confide in about most things, and be your true self around.

    A new Cigna study shows that nearly half of Americans feel alone or left out.[4] According to Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad at Brigham Young University, the detrimental effects of loneliness is the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.[5] She warns that:

    “Loneliness and social isolation are linked to around a 30 percent increased risk of having a stroke or developing coronary artery disease.”[6]

    Become goal-driven to avoid loneliness

      Being with your friends is not only good for your soul, but it is also essential for your health and well-being[7]. Put it in your goals.

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      7. Open up Emotionally

      When crafting your goal-oriented life, be sure to include ways you can open up about your feelings, the “O” in ENVISION. The third regret of the dying is that they wish they’d had the courage to express their true feelings instead of stuffing their emotions down to keep peace with others.

      To lead a fulfilling life, it’s important to prioritize talking and behaving honestly with others instead of hiding your true feelings. According to Dr. Leslie Becker-Phelps[8]:

      “Start with identifying your emotions (e.g. angry, hurt) and understanding what triggered you to feel this way.”

      She recommends you try to understand your feelings and practice self-compassion for having them. When you’re calmer, try to understand the person who upset you. This will help you respect and care about yourself and the other person.

      If there is someone you need to talk to or a situation you’d like to resolve, honor your feelings. Whether it be writing a letter, making a phone call, or visiting someone you haven’t seen in years, put it on your goal list.

      Be sure to meet in a safe environment if you’re confronting someone who has abused or harmed you. Tell the truth as you see it, and try to be kind.

      Sharing your genuine feelings may bring you closer together, and it may not. It doesn’t really matter how the other person responds. What matters is that you expressed your true self. Make emotional honesty a habit by adding it to your goals.

      8. Nurture Happiness

      To be more goal-oriented and succeed in life, nurture the people and activities that bring you joy, the final “N” in ENVISION.

      The fifth regret of people on their deathbed is that they wished they’d let themselves be happier. Instead, they stayed stuck in old patterns and pretended to be content when they weren’t.

      If you don’t like your job, make it a goal to look for a new position that aligns your paycheck with your purpose. If you are entrepreneurially-minded, think about turning your passion project into a business you love. If you have multiple passions, consider pursuing a slash career (e.g., copywriter/coder/career coach).

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      According to Forbes Magazine, many companies are beginning to see the value in hiring employees who have side gigs that differ from their main vocations. You’ll bring in multiple streams of income and experience more meaning and fulfillment in your life.[9]

      If you are unhappy with your marriage or romantic relationship, set a goal to do something about it. Do you need to go to counseling? Do you need to move on?

      If you’re on the fence about whether to keep a friend in your life, be goal-oriented about getting closure on the issue. Take care of yourself in the process by completing positive daily tasks, like taking yoga classes or getting a much-needed massage.

      Whatever you do, make it a goal to show compassion as often as you can because it will boost your happiness.[10] By helping others in need, you not only can decrease their suffering, but you can also make yourself happier than you could by directly pursuing activities to make you happy.

      Final Thoughts

      In summary, the ENVISION method shows you how to blend lessons from the five regrets of the dying with effective goal-setting techniques that center around your strengths to become goal-driven.

      It may seem like a lot of work at first glance, but, in truth, it should only take you about an hour to piece together a list of goals following these guidelines. Why not trade an hour of watching television or engaging in social media to do this instead? You can always get online and watch TV later to reward yourself for becoming more goal-oriented.

      You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain by exploring what would make your heart sing. It’s worth investing in yourself this way. You have the power to create a life that totally rocks by setting the intention to do so. As the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi wrote,

      “What you seek is seeking you.”

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      Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

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