- What does it mean to practice delayed gratification?
- But why do we seek instant gratification?
- The 7 Benefits of Practicing Delayed Gratification
- Okay. So how do you practice delayed gratification?
- Some examples of practicing delayed gratification
- Please note:
Would you love to have everything you want in life right now? After all, life’s too short and you probably have things you need and things to do and places to go!
However, life isn’t like that. You can’t have it all now, and unfortunately, so many people get into financial trouble because they don’t have self-control or patience. They don’t practice delayed gratification, which is one of the best life skills you can develop.
If we want to strengthen our delay muscles, we’d be wise to strengthen our connection to our future selves!
What does it mean to practice delayed gratification?
Delayed gratification is your ability to forgo instant rewards, believing that you’ll get better and bigger rewards later. It can be resisting that small temptation to buy now so that you can get the bigger dream later.
Case in point: It may also be that you refuse to eat that delicious-looking treat so that you can reach your ideal weight.
Having patience and self-control trains your subconscious to wait. It can help you stick to your goals and achieve success in various aspects of your life—your health, your relationships, your finances, or your career. I speak from personal experience!
But why do we seek instant gratification?
This behavior is built in and part of our psyche, according to Freud. He calls it the pleasure principle. He says that instant gratification is the “id” or instinctual desire where we seek immediate pleasure. This is especially common in children. As we grow up we need to acquire delayed gratification skills, especially in social situations. And while we may not act impulsively in many situations, we do find it really hard to practice delayed gratification and resist when it comes to, say, losing weight, reacting in our relationships, finances, and other life goals.
So let’s look at why you should practice delayed gratification.
The 7 Benefits of Practicing Delayed Gratification
1. You Achieve Better Health
Yes, it is fun to eat chips, peanuts, ice cream, chocolates, cookies, and pizzas while sitting on the couch and binge-watching your favorite TV series.
However, these goodies will only bring you short-term satisfaction. When you avoid unhealthy foods and do not give in to the convenience of eating junk food, you can keep your body healthy.
Resisting the temptation will help you stick to a healthy diet and be consistent with your exercise or workouts. You can lose weight faster and maintain it at the right levels. Achieving your ideal weight will make you feel happier with your body, and there’s no better reward for yourself.
2. You Increase Your Self-Worth
When you practice delayed gratification and self-control, you are able to do more things in life. In the process, you realize your capabilities and achieve your goals. This boosts your self-worth.
Self-worth makes you appreciate yourself more because you know you have value and you’re loved. It also allows you to make better decisions, which is important in all aspects of your life.
3. You Achieve Long-Term Success
There are many bright shiny objects in life. Going after them can be exciting and fun, but if you jump from one thing to another, it can compromise your career and relationships.
For example, you may not like the job you have right now, but you know that you need it to hone your skills. By being patient and getting the most out of your tenure, you’ll see the benefits it will have in your career later on. It will be the stepping stone you must walk on to move to a better job.
4. You Accomplish Your Goals
So you have a project deadline. But you’re probably wondering—wouldn’t it be more fun to go out with your friends and have some fun, rather than staying home and finishing your project? Now, of course, you should have fun, but delaying gratification is about making tradeoffs so you can achieve your goals. You may have to sacrifice the little pleasures in life occasionally, in preparation for bigger rewards in the future.
5. You Enjoy Financial Security
Do you enjoy browsing and shopping online, and ultimately adding things to your cart? Shopping has been made easier and more convenient with brands shifting to eCommerce. However, that also contributes to unhealthy spending habits.
Before you start browsing, ask yourself, do I need anything? If you do go shopping, before you hit the check-out button, take another look or two at the items you’ve added. If you don’t need them right now, and you know you can live without them, don’t buy them. Think about the big purchases you could make later if you don’t spend the money now on things you don’t really need.
This temporary satisfaction of being able to buy things can hurt your finances. When you practice discipline in spending your money, you’ll have better financial security.
6. You Become Disciplined
As you get into the habit of controlling your impulses, being patient, and resisting temptation for temporary pleasures, you develop self-discipline. You won’t easily grow impatient, quit your job in a snap when things get tough or give up on your weight loss efforts when you don’t get results in a week.
Your self-discipline can take you far in your career, health, and life in general, and the results you’ll get are even more gratifying.
Also read: 7 ways to master your Self-discipline
7. Experience True And Lasting Happiness
There’s a saying that the best things in life are worth the wait. When you practice delayed gratification you will achieve true and lasting happiness when you finally receive the bigger rewards.
Okay. So how do you practice delayed gratification?
It may seem intimidating at first, but the good news is you can actually train yourself to do it. A good way to begin is to start small. Pretty much like with exercise.
Tell yourself: if this, then that.
Repeat this until your mind is convinced that if you do something, the reward is worth waiting for. Eventually, you will also realize that you CAN do it.
- Start with small steps, just as you would when you start a new habit. It must be so easy that you don’t mind doing it.
- Repeat this the next day.
- Be consistent.
- Make it easy to begin.
For me, this was about writing. Yes, I write a lot but hit a wall when I couldn’t find the time to get around to sitting down to do it. So I set aside ten minutes at 11 am every morning when I sit down with my coffee. Except now, I told myself I’d write for ten minutes and then enjoy my coffee (reward). It’s working!
Some examples of practicing delayed gratification
- Not spending money on things you don’t need and save it for the future instead.
- Resisting the temptation to eat that whole pack of fries and keeping some for later instead.
- If you are a parent, give your child a reward only after the chores are done.
Delaying gratification isn’t a new concept. Back in 300 B.C., Aristotle saw that the reason so many people were unhappy was that they confused pleasure for true happiness.
True happiness, according to Aristotle, is about developing habits and surrounding yourself with people who grow your soul. This allows you to move towards your greatest potential. True happiness entails delaying pleasure, and putting in the time, discipline, and patience required to achieve a goal instead of feeling good now. (Source)
Dr. Rick Hanson, in his book Buddha’s Brain, says:
“It’s a general moral principle that the more power you have over someone, the greater your duty is to use that power benevolently. Well, who is the one person in the world you have the greatest power over? It’s your future self. You hold that life in your hands, and what it will be depends on how you care for it.”
I’d love to know what you think about the concept of practicing delayed gratification.
As interesting as this study is, life is far more complex. The choice of a four-year-old at that point may not determine her whole life. And yet, one thing is clear—to succeed in life, you need to be disciplined and take action rather than take the easy way out.
In fact, in every aspect of life, you have to ignore the easy path (practice delaying gratification) and choose the tougher path (do the work). And as I said earlier, even if you find the thought of practicing delayed gratification scary, you can learn to do it.