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Science Says Delayed Gratification Leads to Success in Life

Science Says Delayed Gratification Leads to Success in Life
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How do you stay ahead in a world where systems and standards appear to change overnight? How do you remain competent and original in a job market where it seems more credentials are required every year? How do you actually finish your best work in a world, where people often barely start? Most of all, how do you ensure you can look back on life and know for a fact you’ve lived life to the fullest?

Science shows us there’s only one skill needed to be successful in life: delayed gratification.

Yes, it’s true; countless newspapers and online publications have covered delayed gratification for years now. This may lead you to wonder why I’m covering the topic at all. While many papers and articles have detailed the scientific studies themselves, as well as direct quotes from researchers, few posts on delayed gratification actually equip the reader with concise and actionable tips for everyday use.

This article will not only express how crucial delayed gratification really is but will also break down the larger components into bite-sized pieces of practicality.

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Where Delayed Gratification Became Famous?

The concept of delayed gratification is best known in association with psychologist Walter Mischel’s marshmallow experiment.[1]

At Stanford University in the 1960s, Mischel and his students used marshmallows to determine how well children could embody patience and hold off for a better option in the future. Kids were given the choice to eat one marshmallow now, or wait 15-20 minutes alone and receive a second marshmallow, simply for being patient. Straightforward to understand, but not exactly easy to execute (at least, not for all children).

The results and follow-up results have been widely published[2] and circulated ever since, documenting that the kids who delayed gratification have done better in virtually all areas of life ever since.

The children who waited for the second marshmallow abused substances less frequently, achieved better grades, experienced greater health and proper weight ranges, built stronger social skills, and had a smoother time handling stress.

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Patience is a virtue in and of itself, but as Mischel’s experiment proved, patience offers an individual a whole host of long-lasting benefits.

Why Delayed Gratification Is Essential

At its core, why is delayed gratification so powerful and essential? The ability to delay gratification reveals emotional intelligence[3] and these two traits can take you long way in life. More specifically, delaying gratification shows that you recognize a better result is available after a certain amount or type of work is put in. As the old quote goes,

“The dictionary is the only place where success comes before work”

Genuine, lasting success and satisfaction only come as a result of putting in the right kind of work first. It’s easy enough to dream up what you want your life to look and feel like, but it’s entirely different to create a mental framework and then execute when and where you need to. Below, let’s look at three tips on how to optimize your use of delayed gratification.

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What’s the Situation I’m Faced with?

Getting clarity on the dilemma in front of you will help you assess whether your challenge is really worth it. To be honest with yourself from the outset, and determine if a challenge is worthwhile or not, is the best decision you can make. Look at what the end goal is, take stock of the work required and then decide if you know you’re up for it or not.

Do I Really Want This Result?

If you’ve found a challenge that leads to a highly desirable result, you know it’s time to make a battle plan. Anything worth having comes at a cost, so here’s where we get tactical.

In Mischel’s experiment and subsequent imitations, the children who remained patient often crafted games or tricks to play on themselves to be successful. Some sang a song, others “danced” in their chair, and some even played with the marshmallow without eating it. Regardless of the choice of distraction, the kids found a way to “make time shorter”. They employed some kind of method that made the waiting far easier.

It’s your job to do the same, no matter what your obstacle is. The people who are most successful with their goals are those who find methods of making the work more enjoyable by itself.

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What Kind of Rewards Do I Associate Hard Work with?

In his absolutely mind-blowing article, ‘Self-Improvement,'[4] author Brian Kim highlights an oft-overlooked aspect of delayed gratification. He points out that the real way to grasp the core of delayed gratification is to look not at the reward structure, but at the work structure.

In other words, when someone emotionally deploys delayed gratification, it’s because they first mentally sized up the work in front of them. Kim points out that delayed gratification users “associate hard work with high rewards.”

Final Thoughts

In order to utilize delayed gratification on the deepest level possible, it’s important to see the work required as a sacrifice that invariably produces an extremely desirable result. It’s not always about focusing on the reward; it’s about enjoying the work that is already necessary.

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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Reference

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Brad Johnson

Top 5 Kindle Author | Author of 10 Books

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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