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Instant Gratification Is Short-Lived, You Should Aim For Long-Term Goals

Instant Gratification Is Short-Lived, You Should Aim For Long-Term Goals

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. It can make us complacent and lazy.

Instant gratification is tempting and, in this day and age, easily attainable.

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. What we don’t consider are the lessons and benefits we miss out on when we don’t 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 drawing benefit from the process by which we reach contentment.

Minimalist blogger and author Leo Babauta from zenhabits.net says 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:

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“….leads to debt, clutter, bad health, distractions, mindlessness.”

While having restraint and consciousness:

“….leads to simplicity, health and fitness, focus, achievement, mindfulness, appreciation for all the gifts of life.”

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

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Indulging in instant gratification is shortsighted—the immediate pleasure we seek is fleeting.

Our dissatisfaction with short-lived pleasure causes our needs to be magnified the next time we 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 body image through diet and fitness can become obsessive and have counterproductive results. That 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.

The key to achieving long-term goals is finding the motivational tools that allow us to take small steps towards bigger objectives.

Leo Babauta describes five simple ideas to help us to resist the urges to aim for instant gratification. Instead of dwelling in the need to indulge in immediate pleasure, he suggests ways to stay mindful and in control. This will allow us to think of the long-term desires we can achieve, instead of needing constant stimulation.

Being mindful of the urges we experience is primary. He suggests keeping a physical list of every time we 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.

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He also points out that instead of denying your urges completely, just delay the gratification. Put a period of time, some space between when you feel an urge and when you gratify it.

The key is to practice consciousness and hone your awareness of what is happening in your mind and in your body. 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, do it, 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.

Finally, you will have the strength and discipline to enjoy the moment without actually indulging the urge. 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.

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Investing in our future is underrated. With focus and repetition, we can learn to plan for long-term goals 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.

Featured photo credit: flickr via flickr.com

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Diane Koopman

Writer, Author, Novelist, Self-Publisher

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

When I wrote my book Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide, I was surprised at the various layers of review and editing necessary to get the book to publication. Before I ever submitted the manuscript, I enlisted a former colleague to read and copy edit my work. Then, I submitted my work to an editor at the publisher’s house, and once she approved it, she sent it to her colleagues and then her company’s editorial board.

Upon editorial board approval of my book, my editor sent my work to reviewers in my field, then a developmental editor, then a designer and layout team and, finally, another copy editor. There were a host of personalities with whom I needed to interact along the way.

It turns out that getting a publishing contract was just the beginning – a lot happens between developing a concept, writing the book, finding an agent and publisher, and getting the book on bookshelves or on Audible or Kindle. Through every milestone of the publishing process, my ability to interact with others was crucial. This underscored for me that no matter what or how much a person accomplishes, you never do it alone – everyone needs assistance from others.

While I conceived of the book and wrote the manuscript, there is no way my book could have hit booksellers’ shelves without the dozens of people who were involved in the publishing process. Further, interpersonal skills can propel or stonewall success.

Even as someone who has written hundreds of essays, press releases, pitch notes and other correspondence, writing itself is not a solitary endeavor. Sure, I may write in solitude, but the moment I am finished writing, there are always clients, colleagues, partners, peers and others who review my content.

What is more, even as a published author and contributor for this platform, I try to never submit final copy (content) that has not been copy edited. I send everything to my copy editor, whom I pay out of my own pocket, for her review, edits and approval. Once she has reviewed my work, caught unbeknownst-to-me errors, I am much more confident putting my work out in the world.

How Interpersonal Skills Affect Relationships

It is clearer to me now more than ever before that interpersonal skills are needed in every profession and every trade.

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People don’t elect leaders because the leaders are smart. Individuals are motivated to vote when they have a hero and when they feel they have something to lose. If they seriously dislike the other candidate, they are much more likely vote according to a 2000 Ohio State University study:

“A disliked candidate is seen as a threat, and that will be motivation to go to the polls. But a threat alone isn’t enough – people need to have a hero to vote for, too, in order to inspire them to turn out on Election Day.”

In a work setting, interpersonal skills impact every facet of your development and success. Trainers must collaborate with a design team or the company hiring them to facilitate the training. During the training itself, the facilitators must connect with the audience and establish a rapport that supports vulnerability and openness. If the trainers interact poorly with the trainees, they are unlikely to be invited back. If they are invited back, they may be unlikely to inspire cooperation or growth in their trainees.

Solopreneurs interactions with clients and subcontractors, and those interactions will, in part, support or adversely impact their business. If you enjoy a career as an acclaimed surgeon or respected lawyer, your interactions with patients, clients, health insurance agencies and a team of other practitioners – many of whom are shielded from public view – will improve or decimate your practice.

As a hiring manager, one of the things I consider when interviewing candidates is their interpersonal skills. I assess the interpersonal skills they display in their content and face-to-face presentation. I ask probing questions to learn how they interact with others, manage conflict and contribute to a team atmosphere.

When candidates say things like, “I prefer to work alone” or “I can hit the ground running without assistance,” I bristle. When candidates appear to know everything and everyone, I wonder if they will be receptive to learning or open to feedback. Could these statements be indications that these individuals lack interpersonal skills?

It stands to reason, then, that interpersonal skills are among the most valuable and the bedrock of all talents and skills.

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What are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills range from emotional intelligence, empathy, oral and written communication to leadership to collaboration and teamwork.

In sum, interpersonal skills are skills that enable you to interact well with others. They include teachability and receptiveness to feedback, active or mindful listening, self-confidence and conflict resolution.

From a communications standpoint, interpersonal skills are about understanding how colleagues prefer to communicate and then using the appropriate mediums to meet respective needs. It is about understanding how to communicate in a way to get the most out of different people.

For instance, in my career as a public relations practitioner, part of what I am constantly evaluating is which colleagues, clients and members of the media prefer email, text or phone calls. I am assessing how much frill to use with each person depending on what has worked in the past and depending on what I know about the person with whom I am interacting.

Making these decisions and being disciplined enough to follow each person’s known preferences helps me better connect with the various individuals in my orbit. Is this tiring at times? Yes. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

How to Improve Interpersonal Skills

There are tons of resources to teach interpersonal skills. I love books such as Leadership Presence by Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, and The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

There are also a host of books and articles on emotional intelligence, which is the ability to manage one’s emotions and perceive and adapt to others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence is likewise a critical component of positive interpersonal relations. You can learn more about it in this article: What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why It Is Important

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Active and mindful listening also support improved interpersonal skills. I recommend you take a look at this piece: Active Listening – A Skill That Everyone Should Master

I have further found that humility helps a ton with interpersonal skills. It takes humility to admit you have more to learn and that you can learn from the people around you. In fact, everyone with whom you interact has a lesson to teach you. And employers are increasingly looking for team members who are lifelong learners, meaning they believe there is always room for growth and professional and personal development.

Forbes contributor Kevin H. Johnson noted in a July 2018 article,

“That’s why, when anyone asks what the next ‘hot’ skill will be, I say it’s the same skill that will serve people today, tomorrow, and far into the future—the ability to learn.”

Don’t overlook introspection.

While interpersonal skills may seem simple enough, introspection is critical to learning where and in what ways you need to grow.

Through introspection and observation, I have learned that my interpersonal skills suffer when I am sleep deprived, because then I am short-tempered and irritable. I’ve observed this connection over a significant period in my life. Unsurprisingly, it is also true of others. Fellow LifeHack contributor, health coach and personal trainer Jamie Logie noted:

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When you are chronically sleep deprived, it really does a number on you. A lack of sleep can keep your body in a constant state of stress and over time this can get pretty ugly. Elevated stress hormones can be involved in creating a bunch of pretty nasty conditions including anxiety, headaches and dizziness, weight gain, depression, stroke, hypertension, digestive disorders, immune system dysfunction, irritability.

Additionally, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reported,

“Sleep deprivation can noticeably affect people’s performance, including their ability to think clearly, react quickly, and form memories. Sleep deprivation also affects mood, leading to irritability; problems with relationships, especially for children and teenagers; and depression. Sleep deprivation can also increase anxiety.”

The point is, even as you are identifying ways to improve interpersonal skills, think about what is getting in the way. While sleep deprivation is a trigger for me, your stumbling block may be different.

The Bottom Line

You cannot fix what you do not know is broken. Even as you work to understand and apply interpersonal skills, spend some time in mindful meditation to get clear on what is holding you back from developing solid relationships.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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