Anything worth having is worth waiting for

goals growth well-being

It’s Fourth of July week, and I hope you had a wonderful long weekend! Did you get to see fireworks? With such a dry spell in so many areas of the country, I saw that some areas were having “laser shows” rather than fireworks because the burn risk was so high. Whatever you did to celebrate July 4, I hope you had a wonderful weekend!

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about instant versus delayed gratification. I taught a program last week for a client about mastering digital distractions, and it came down to being able to handle some emotional discomfort in service of your larger goals - literally, delayed gratification in a nutshell.

In case you haven’t heard of these terms before, here’s what they mean:

Instant gratification: “Instant (or immediate) gratification is a term that refers to the temptation, and resulting tendency, to forego a future benefit in order to obtain a less rewarding but more immediate benefit.”

Delayed gratification: “The ability to delay an impulse for an immediate reward to receive a more favorable reward at a later time is the standard definition of delayed gratification.” 

Daniel Goleman, author of “Emotional Intelligence,” said; “Emotional self-control-- delaying gratification and stifling impulsiveness- underlies accomplishment of every sort.”

What goals do you have, and how can delaying that immediately pleasurable dose of the neurotransmitter, dopamine, you get from doing the “fun, easy” thing lead you to actually reaching your goals?

Physical Well-Being

  • You have a goal of losing weight, building muscle, or increasing endurance. Don’t give into the instant gratification of empty calories or sitting on the couch instead of working out. 

  • Don’t throw in the towel early on your workout when the going gets tough. That’s when you’re actually making real progress toward your goal! Go for the long term reward!

Social Well-Being

  • Sometimes the “instant gratification” comes from blowing your top and yelling at your partner. But the delayed gratification tactic would include staying emotionally regulated, trying to find a common ground, and taking a break from the argument until you are both in a headspace to continue.

  • Digital distractions keep us from being fully present with those we care about, so say “no” to the instant gratification of a social media scroll and focus on the delayed gratification (and sometimes instant gratification as well) of building deep relationships with others. 

Occupational Well-Being

  • What task or conversation are you avoiding because it feels hard? You know that once you navigate that challenging thing, there will be a reward on the other side that gets you closer to a long-term goal. Don’t give into the instant gratification of letting yourself get distracted by something that feels easier - put in the effort and energy to do what you need to do to reach your goals. 

  • It may feel good in the moment to stay up late binging Netflix, but does that really set you up for success on your long-term goals, like showing up as your best self each day at work?

The list goes on and on, but when you have long-term goals, watch for ways that instant gratification might sabotage you by calling you away and distracting you from what really matters. 

But remember your brain does love a little dopamine, so on the way to those long-term, “delayed gratification” goals, give your brain a little hit of the pleasure juice when you hit mini-goals or stay the course so that your brain says to itself, “Okay, this is good. Let’s do this again.” Just make sure the little instant pleasure is aligned with the larger goal. Check out this article for more info on how this works.

Whenever we shift our energy and attention from what we know we should be doing to something else that feels better in some way, we are giving into instant gratification. But you are stronger than that! 

See instant gratification for what it is - a distraction from your path to what really matters!

What kind of instant gratification distracts you from your larger goals? What kind of longer term delayed gratification is really what you want?

Let me know so I can cheer you on!