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Why Instant Gratification is the Villain of Success

Why Instant Gratification is the Villain of Success
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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 3 signs your desire for instant gratification is destroying your odds of success:

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1. 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.

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.

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2. 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).

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.

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3. 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.

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.

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

If you feel like giving up because you haven’t seen the ultimate results you want yet, check out this article: 8 Things To Do When You Want To Give Up

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Featured photo credit: Joanna Kosinska via unsplash.com

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Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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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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