A friend of mine shares a terrible habit with me: shopping addiction. When either of us are upset or stressed or just generally too overwhelmed to do anything, we turn to our favorite stores. Buying something new is an instant way to feel better. The satisfaction is this feeling of “yay, new stuff!” and it seems to temporarily replace all the bad stuff going on in our lives. But it’s short-lived gratification. After all, none of us are so wealthy that we don’t experience buyer’s remorse now and then.
The two of us had an “ah-ha!” moment when we were told our brains are coping with our mishandling of money by doing all that shopping. See, the money we are spending on quick fixes could have just as easily gone into savings or an investment account. But that doesn’t feel like a realistic goal. It’s so far away! It’s easy to understand instant-gratification-when I buy something, I have it in my hands immediately. I love that! How am I supposed to get excited about a large savings account if I won’t be able to see that it’s large for years?
Sound familiar? Probably so.
Delay-gratification seems wholly dissatisfying at first. But if we could accept the concept and start living by it, imagine how much stress would melt off our shoulders. Money is relatable, but you can take it a step further, too. Think about your last bad relationship. Did you stay in it so you wouldn’t have to be alone? This happens all the time. It’s “easier” to stay in a relationship and know you have a partner than to be single and not know if you’ll wind up with someone.
Instant Gratification is Just pleasure, Not Happiness!
When I blow all my hard earned money so I can quickly feel better about my life, do I feel better? Sure, for about five minutes. Then I’m overwhelmed all over again and stressed about how much money I just spent!
And what about that bad relationship you stayed in. Were you happy? Of course not! So why do we settle for unhappiness just to avoid practicing patience? The root of the problem comes down to how badly we want to get everything we desire instantly. No waiting required. Personally, I can’t recall a switch being flipped in my brain that suddenly made me this way; I feel like I’ve always wanted instant gratification. With shopping, with success, with my love life…everything. But there are habits in my life that could be making things worse.
Social Media Could Be Forcing You to Settle When It Comes to Happiness.
Unfortunately, your obsession with social media could be partially to blame for instant gratification over happiness.
“We gain instant feedback from our devices, because we’re constantly plugged in and turned on. Social media gives us the ability to upload videos, photos and status updates…Because our devices are ubiquitous, our connectedness is constant. There’s very little patience required. We even expect business growth — phenomenon long considered to be gradual — to happen overnight. Like the viral explosion of a YouTube video, we want to hack business growth for viral expansion. The pursuit is admirable, even if the results aren’t always what we desire” – Neil Patel .
How To Sustain Your Motives To Wait?
1. Be more aware to your actions
The next time you find yourself habitually reaching for your phone to scroll through Facebook or see how many new likes you have on Instagram, stop and take a breath. If you’re a visual person, keep a tally sheet and mark a line for every time you resist an urge .
2. Feeling uncomfortable is just temporary
When you find yourself seeking that instant fix, count to ten and try to understand why you’re so anxious to get something done instantly. Maybe you won’t know at first. That’s okay. But maybe you will realize you just feel uncomfortable without something to do or focus on.
3. How would you feel 10 minutes after taking actions?
You know when you’re binge-watching Netflix and realize you’ve eaten a whole bag of chips or sweets? You weren’t even hungry, and yet you ate all that junk while your brain was on auto-pilot. Practice some presence today and every day. Do things in a way of awareness and thoughtfulness.
4. Be patient with your own progress
Guess what – you didn’t develop the need for instant gratification overnight. So why in the world would you expect to break that habit overnight? You won’t and it’s okay! When you give in to that disappointing instant-gratification over delay-gratification, allow yourself to be disappointed in yourself and frustrated. Then make a conscious effort to do better.
5. You don’t ALWAYS need to be too hard on yourself!
If you would be truly happy by giving in to the instant-gratification like urge of eating a donut, awesome-do it! But if you know you would feel guilt afterward, opt for something else. Either way, applaud your conscious effort and realize how nice it feels to do something for happiness and not just the need to get something done quickly.
How delaying your enjoyments can benefits different parts of our lives?
Whether you realize it or not, your day-to-day actions are filled with choices made in an effort to achieve instant-gratification. We don’t have to wait to travel anymore thanks to Uber. We don’t have to worry about stopping what we’re doing to get food thanks to UberEats, PostMates, Seamless, etc. We don’t even have to get groceries ourselves anymore with grocery stores delivering or third party services like InstaCart.
So why would we expect our brain or heart to function any differently? We expect everything to happen instantly, and often without much effort. Yet even with this happens, we feel unfulfilled with the results. We are so disconnected with our own selves that we have trouble recognizing when we are settling vs. when we are ready to try delay gratification. Imagine how incredible it would be (for yourself, for your relationships, for your career) if you could make choices based on long-term happiness and satisfaction and not just instant-gratification and a quick-fix.
- Work: When you make professional choices for instant gratification, you often wind up cutting corners and making more work for yourself in the long run. In order to achieve less procrastination, more willingness to practice and do hard work, you have to master delay-gratification and know that even though it may not be until the end of your business quarter, you’re going to be so proud of your success and accomplishments.
- Relationships: It takes time to get to know a person before falling for them. While it may feel nice to accept a date from the first person who asks, imagine how much better it would feel to wait for a date with someone you truly have interest in. And if you’re already in a happy and committed relationship, practice awareness when it comes to communication. Sometimes it can feel like torture to sit down and talk about the other person’s day when you could be checking social media or sending out important emails, you’ll have a better relationship in the long run.
- Health: This is an obvious for so many of us. Do we take the time to prep meals for a week and eat well and feel better, or do we rush through a fast food restaurant on our lunch break and grab an unhealthy meal in a short amount of time? If you practice delay-gratification with your food habits, you can have less binge eating and even a more passionate relationship with exercise and health.
- Happiness: Do you ever feel like you have to work really hard to be happy? If you focus more on the last four points, you won’t have to put in that effort because the happiness will be an automatic result! You won’t have to chase for it, and you can feel it more deeply and in everyday life. You are less likely to become defeated because you know accumulated failure and lessons learned contribute to greater happiness later.
I don’t know about you, but life-long happiness sounds a lot better than a quick-fix. So what do you say? Are you ready to start delaying your gratification?
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