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Why Instant Gratification is the Villain of Success

Why Instant Gratification is the Villain of Success

Please take a moment to consider some of the greatest creations in human history. I’m referring to magnificent structures like the Eiffel Tower; beautiful paintings like Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”; and heart-wrenching tragedies like William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” If the artists responsible for these works were ruled by instant gratification, do you believe they would have become masters of their craft? Somehow, I doubt it. They probably tried and failed a hundred times before they created art that still inspires people centuries later. Below are three signs your desire for instant gratification is destroying your odds of success.

You think the world owes you something.

Your parents might have raised you to believe you can do anything you set your mind to. They weren’t incorrect in that statement, but they might have left out a relevant detail. You can achieve anything you set your mind to as long as you put in the work that is required. Stephen King’s first hit novel, “Carrie,” got rejected dozens of times before he became a household name.

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J.K. Rowling, the author of the “Harry Potter” series, received a rejection note that told her “not to quit her day job” before she got published. Michael Jordan wasn’t born with an innate ability to play basketball. He spent years practicing his shot for six hours or more per day before he led the Chicago Bulls to ten NBA championships. If you’re not willing to put forth a high level of effort for a long period of time, then you might be ruled by instant gratification.

You believe you have all the answers.

Excellence requires precision and attention to detail. Self-published authors often dismiss marketing, because they think it is a distraction from writing (and then they wonder why their book didn’t sell better). Managers often dismiss emotional intelligence, because they think it is a distraction from productivity (and then they wonder why their employee turnover isn’t better).

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Personal trainers often dismiss positive psychology, because they think it is a distraction from training sessions (and then they wonder why their client’s compliance isn’t better). Our educational system might have raised you to believe you can be successful as long as you are good at a single thing. I hate to break it to you, but this belief is nothing but a pipe-dream. If you’re not willing to become well-versed in ALL of the subjects excellence requires, then you might be ruled by instant gratification.

You refuse to try things you’re not good at.

I’ve been attending a Pilates class for several months now, because my core strength needs work. My instructor told me she’s thrilled to have a dedicated male in her class. Most other men, she observed, struggle through one class and never come back. I know it’s hard to motivate yourself to do something you’re bad at, but that is the only way you will ever get any better at it.

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A few years ago, I went my first yoga class. I hated it. I couldn’t even reach my ankles in a bent-over stretch, much less my toes. Standing on one foot for balance poses made me so wobbly that I almost fell on my butt. My hips were so tight that I felt embarrassed. Now I love yoga. I can reach past my ankles, past my toes, and touch my palms to the ground. I can stand on one foot confidently, with no fear of falling. I can stretch my hips into positions that I couldn’t have imagined during my first class. Would I have achieved any of those things if I didn’t have enough patience to stick with it? Nope. I’d be just as rigid today as I was before. If you’re not willing to do things you suck at, then you might be ruled by instant gratification.

If it was meant to be easy, everybody would do it. Banish your desire for instant gratification, because it will get you nowhere.

Featured photo credit: I always wanted a happy ending…/Geraint Rowland via flickr.com

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Daniel Wallen

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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