When was the last time you had to really wait to acquire something you wanted? I am not talking about a basic necessity; I am talking about a product or service that you didn’t really need–at least not right away–but you went ahead and fulfilled your heart’s desire anyway.
We live in times when it’s possible to get things at the click of a button. Crave a pizza? You’ll have it in 30! Want that new dress? Just order online. But have you knowingly or unknowingly been exploiting that privilege? Are you overwhelmed yet again with the desire for ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ may be?
Well, it’s not your fault and no, you are not weak. Us humans are made to want things on-demand and the worst part is, it has become socially accepted and cool to have the money and means to be able to do so.
The Dark Side of Instant Gratification
Although there’s no denying that immediate rush of excitement when you get what you want, instant gratification has a dark side. Why? Because once you get it, you’ll get a false sense of happiness for some time and then soon you’ll be lusting for the next shiny new object.
Sadly, instant gratification has become a global problem, particularly for young people. Psychiatrist Dr. Satyakant Trivedi explains, “We are living in a world that is filled with instant responses, information, and technology. There certainly are great changes because of this, but it has also caused some serious changes in our mindset. We are experiencing pleasure and fulfillment of our wish without delay or patience. Powerful Internet and fast technology fuel our need for instant gratification. With the touch of a button, we are connected to everyone or anything we want. We have access to anything we could possibly want on the Internet and we are not encouraged to be patient in obtaining it.”
“Our constant connectivity with the virtual world affects our behavior and communication in the real world. Instant gratification only gives short-term happiness–it cannot give satisfaction for a long time. It is intended to keep us coming back for more.”
“Satisfaction from immediate gratification quickly fades, and in its wake is a need for further connection. We need to put meaning into our lives. We need to learn to slow down our pace and enjoy a more patient and pleasant way of living a life. The important and solid achievements in our life never happen overnight. Life requires constant and consistent efforts, and that brings happiness in our life. Success is the result of long-standing patience, persistence, and dedication.”
How To Overcome Instant Gratification
Identify and limit the sources of IG
The first step to solving any problem is finding out why it exists in the first place. So figure out how IG seeps into your life. For most of us, it comes with our everyday companion: the smartphone. With its shopping apps, social media, email, instant messaging, video streaming and games, it is hands down the biggest source of IG. And since a phone is a basic necessity these days, it can’t even be eliminated completely. But there is a solution to this: trade screen time for real-world experiences. Devote some of the time you use on your phone to hobbies and side projects instead. This will not just help you grow as a person, it will also do wonders for your attention span. Physically distancing yourself from your phone, turning off the WiFi or going in airplane mode for some time are great ways to reduce the temptation to use your phone. Don’t worry, you still get to use your phone because moderation is key here.
Don’t mind, even love IG? Knowing how it is being used against you might change that!
Do you know that big and small corporations are using your inbuilt desire for IG as a huge part of their marketing strategy? No, really! Look around you. Those persistent text messages and emails about limited period sales and discounts, those compelling ads about being a better you right now, but only when you buy so and so product or service, etc…all these are created keeping your desire to self-gratify in mind. To get your power back, you simply have to learn to tame the impulse to act on your desire!
Chart long-term goals
Software engineer Aditya Gupta shares how this worked for him: “Build a concrete long-term goal and work your way back from there, down to what you need to do (or not do) every day. Now, this requires you to not give in to the things that may gratify you. While self-control is the problem, just like in assisted pull-ups, we gradually work it like a muscle. For instance, the best way to avoid junk food is to stop buying it. Simple. If you crave ice cream – it helps to not have jars of Ben and Jerry’s stacked in your freezer or a pack of cigarettes in your pocket. Don’t do it for about a month. That’s usually the habit formation period for humans.”
He also suggests you take time out to meditate. “This does two things, primarily. One, it extends the time-scope of your gratification. It gives you pleasure now from something that belongs far in the future. Second, it keeps you grounded and keeps you from deviating from your path. It helps you stay focused on long-term goals.” (via Quora)
Create an accountability group
To delay your gratification, it is best to get other people who are working towards the same goal on your side. Dr. Satyakant Trivedi recommends this as an extremely effective way to fight IG. He says, “Try to avoid people who require constant praise and instant gratification. Surround yourself with people who believe that things in life take time to happen. Also, try to be social and meet friends frequently. Avoid using gadgets during conversations, and when you are eating or driving. Lastly, if you are unable to do this, don’t hesitate to consult a professional. There is no shame in seeking help.”
Remember: in the desire to feel immediate happiness, we tend to make poor decisions that end up affecting our life in the long run.
It also ruins your current quality of life because whenever we get something immediately, we don’t value it as much as we would when we had to wait for it. Since you haven’t really earned it, you won’t even get to savor the sweet taste of victory on getting it. You wouldn’t want to do that to yourself repeatedly, would you?