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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

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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    More by this author

    Diane Koopman

    Writer, Author, Novelist, Self-Publisher

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    Last Updated on December 1, 2020

    How to Set Milestones to Progress Towards Your Goal

    How to Set Milestones to Progress Towards Your Goal

    When you define milestones for yourself, you build a ladder to your goals. The more rungs you add, the easier the climb.

    Taking those steps can be challenging. But for those who haven’t done it before, the tougher challenge actually comes first: carving out the steps.

    What do appropriate milestones look like, and how are they placed? Let’s start with a definition.

    What Are Milestones?

    According to Merriam-Webster, “milestone” has two definitions.[1] The first is literal: a rock used as a milepost. The second, “a significant point in development,” is what most people refer to when they talk about making progress toward a goal.

    “A significant point” is what you make of it—if you’re learning to cook, making eggs over easy without breaking the yolks may be significant to you. If you’re a professional chef, making eggs might not even count as a warm-up.

    How do you decide what’s significant?

    By looking at your larger goal.

    To the professional chef, the goal might be to master the full English breakfast so it can be added to the menu. The amateur may simply want to cook himself a quick meal before work.

    That’s what makes setting milestones so tricky—you need to understand your start and endpoints to know which markers to set in the middle. And on top of that, you have to plot them on a timeline, stay motivated, track your progress, and learn from your mistakes.

    How to Define Milestones for Yourself

    Defining milestones for yourself can be a tall order. Here are ways you can do it.

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    1. Define Your Endpoint

    What do you actually want to accomplish? Is it securing a job in your field? Boosting your grade point average above 3.0?

    Remember, goals come in many colors. They might be personal, financial, professional, social, emotional, or spiritual. There’s no “wrong” goal, just as long as you know your “why” and are committed to it.

    2. Start Where You Are

    To set milestones, it’s not enough to know where you want to end up—just as important is where you’re at now.

    Looking at yourself objectively is tough. Think about it, and ask others for a gut check. If you’re not sure how your basketball skills stack up to people who eventually go pro, ask a trusted coach or teammate for their opinion.

    3. Be ‘SMART’ About it

    Once you know where you stand and where you want to be, you’re ready to plot some waypoints for yourself. Define milestones just as you do your big-picture goals—with the “SMART” system.

    Milestones should be:

    Specific

    To be meaningful, milestones need to be carved out precisely.

    If you’re trying to get fit, what does that mean to you? Would you like to lose a certain amount of weight? Build muscle? Overhaul your diet?

    All of these might be milestones toward your goal.

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    Again, if you aren’t sure, ask a professional. When I decided to get healthy for my kids, I knew I wasn’t aiming to be an Olympian. For some “normal dude” coaching, I reached out to a friend at IVRY Fitness.[2]

    He helped me truly understand what specifically I needed to be my best self. I always tried to just jump on the Whole30 bandwagon or whatever was the hottest fitness goal at the time. He helped me understand that to achieve sustainability in your goals, they need to be targeted for you.

    Measurable

    To stay on track in my fitness regimen, my checkpoints had to be measurable. In some cases, this was a simple “yes or no”. One of my milestones, for example, was eating a real lunch every day.

    In other cases, my milestones were numeric in nature. For the cardiovascular component, I set a daily step goal for myself. To build strength, I needed to gradually increase the amount of weight I was lifting. Making each of these measurable helped me know whether or not I’d met the milestone.

    Achievable

    Not all measurable and specific milestones make sense. There’s no way I was going to bench press 400 pounds the week after I set my health goals, for example. Trying to do too much too quickly would have discouraged me, not to mention the risk of injury.

    For each milestone you’re considering, ask yourself: Is this a “stretch” milestone, an easy one, or a “goldilocks” one? Again, ask someone who knows you well if you’re not sure.

    Relevant

    Milestones have to make sense in the context of your larger goal to be worth setting. If you can’t explain how your milestone actually gets you closer to that goal, set a different one.

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    For example, mental health is an important part of fitness. But because I wasn’t depressed, there’s no reason I’d define a milestone for myself like “see a counselor once a week.”

    Time-Bounded

    When do you expect to reach your milestone? Is it an hour away? A whole year? Any time horizon is fine, so long as it’s factored into the milestone you set. Remember that milestones must be achievable.

    4. Take it One at a Time

    If setting a dozen milestones at once is too daunting, try setting a new milestone only after achieving the last one. If you’re learning to swim, for instance, you might decide which stroke you want to learn next depending on how difficult you found the last one.

    Doesn’t that make achieving your overall goal more difficult? Not necessarily. You just need to know the general arc. With the swimming example, your plan may be to learn a new stroke every other week. The specific strokes don’t matter until it’s time to practice them.

    5. Write it Down

    When you set a milestone, write it down. Not only does doing so help you further define the milestone — remember the SMART system—but it also makes you more likely to achieve it.

    Milestones really are goals nestled within larger goals, and research shows writing down goals makes you 42% more likely to reach them.[3]

    6. Be Flexible

    Try as you might, you won’t meet every milestone you set for yourself. Don’t punish yourself. Learn from your mistake, and set another—and hopefully more achievable—milestone.

    Do you need to scrap other milestones down the road because you failed to meet one? Not necessarily, but you may need to delay them.

    If you didn’t pass your driver’s test, you probably need to push back practicing merging onto the highway. To ace your test, you may need to first reach a new milestone of memorizing road signs.

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    7. Reward Yourself Along the Way

    Rewards aren’t just for reaching your big-picture goals. Motivate yourself to keep setting milestones by giving yourself small gifts along the way.

    Be careful, however, that they aren’t too small. Just as you wouldn’t give a friend or client a cheap gift, nor should you give yourself one.

    John Ruhlin, a gifting expert I know, recommends this rule:[4])

    Give yourself something you’d never normally buy but would love to own.

    Obviously, don’t go out and buy yourself a new car because you hit your step goal. But a high-end, personalized water bottle might be just the ticket.

    8. Give Yourself Breaks

    Another way people demotivate themselves is by working themselves into the ground just to reach that next milestone. They beat themselves up, for example, because the nice dinner they enjoyed on vacation blew their calorie budget.

    Life is bigger than any one milestone. If you have something to celebrate, indulge a little. If life deals you a setback, realize it may take some time to get back on track. What’s important is that you keep a positive attitude.

    9. Get an Accountability Partner

    If you’re struggling to set and stick to your milestones, don’t give up; get a partner. Make sure it’s someone who will be firm but fair with you, like a family member or a close friend.

    Don’t insist that the accountability partner progress through your milestones with you. Everyone has their own goals to achieve. Do, however, ask him or her to hold you accountable. Suggest some light consequences in case you aren’t progressing toward your goal like you’d hoped.

    Even if you can’t get an accountability partner, you can use one of your calendar apps to set daily goals that reminds you of each goal. At the end of the week, go through your calendar and track which goals you accomplished.

    Final Thoughts

    Some people already find goal setting difficult, so what more if they have to set milestones? To define milestones also means to progress toward your larger goals. Defining milestones on your own may not be easy at first, but you can start with these 9 tips until you get used to it.

    More Tips on Setting and Achieving Milestones

    Featured photo credit: Ante Hamersmit via unsplash.com

    Reference

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