In life, we are always presented with two choices. The first choice is where we choose to avoid pain and go for the immediate pleasure. And the other choice is a more painful and difficult one where you choose to delay the pleasure for a bigger purpose.
Muhammad Ali said it wisely:
“I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'”
Choose the difficult path now, do the hard things, and suffer now so that you can enjoy the rest of your life later.
- You can choose to work on your blog right now or you can choose to watch TV.
- You can choose to exercise or choose to eat the junk food.
- You can choose to work on your goals or choose to play games on your phone.
As you can see, it is all about making the right choices. And to make the right decision, you must learn how to delay gratification.
Immediate Pleasure VS Delay Gratification
Have you heard about the famous Marshmallow Experiment that has been widely spread in the personal development industry?
A professor from Stanford University, Walter Mischel conducted a series of experiments to discover what is the most important characteristics to succeed in life. And one of the tests is the Marshmallow Test.
In the experiment, Mischel and his team conducted the test on hundreds of children between the ages of 4 and 5.
The test began by bringing each child into a room and got them to sit down on a chair. And then Mischel and his team placed a marshmallow on the table in front of the child and made an offer.
The researcher told the child that he was going to leave the room for a couple of minutes. And if the child did not eat the marshmallow while he was away, he would reward the child with a second marshmallow. However, if the child ate the first marshmallow that was placed in front of him/her before the researcher came back, they would not get the second marshmallow.
In short, the test was simple: to eat one treat right now or to have two treats later.
And so the researcher left the room for 15 minutes. The video footage of the children waiting alone in the room was rather entertaining.
- Some kids jumped up and grabbed the marshmallow and put it into their mouths right after the researcher left.
- Others wiggled, scooted, and moved around to suppress their temptations for the marshmallow.
- Some would try to close their eyes but eventually gave in.
- And some of the children actually waited until the researcher got back and got two marshmallows.
The Power of Delayed Gratification
The Marshmallow Test was just the beginning. Many years later, a follow-up study was conducted on the grown-up children.
What Mischel and his team discovered on the follow-up was surprising.
According to Mischel, the children who delayed gratification and waited to receive the second marshmallow ended up getting higher SAT scores, have better social skills, and able to cope better with stress according to their parents.
In general, the children who resisted the temptation and delayed their gratification did better in most areas of their lives.
From this article published on Britannica.com, another similar study was also conducted on delay gratification and here’s what the article said:
“The situation, adapted for adolescents and teens by the psychologist Edelgard Wulfert and her colleagues, also revealed that middle- and high-school students who can wait a week for a monetary reward earn higher grades, show less problem behaviour in school, and are less likely to use cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs than their peers who choose not to wait.”
In conclusion, you must develop the power of delay gratification to experience more success in life.
I bet you can relate…
When you delay the gratification to watch TV or play games and get your work done, you will produce more results and make progress toward your goals.
When you delay the gratification to eat the cake or dessert and choose to exercise and workout, you will have a healthier and fitter body.
When you delay the gratification to check updates on social media or to watch YouTube and choose to write articles for your blog, you end up having more content on your blog that will bring in more traffic.
And more real-life examples, which I think you can relate.
How to Improve Your Ability to Delay Gratification
Can you see why your ability to delay immediate pleasure is important right now?
So how can you improve your ability to delay gratification? Here are some tips for you:
1. Start with a goal
Start with a goal. You need to have a goal to guide your choices. The more specific your goal, the better you are able to make the right decision to reach it.
You want to have a goal to remind yourself of what you need to do.
For example, if your goal is to write a blog post today, and when you are bombarded with the options whether to write the blog post or to watch TV, you know how to choose.
Your goal serves as a great reminder and helps you in making the right decision to get what you want.
Most people fail to produce extraordinary results in life because they choose immediate pleasure rather than delay gratification. This is because they don’t have a clear and specific goal to guide them.
Even if they do have a goal, they are not truly committed to the goal.
They know that writing an article is important for their blog’s growth, but still, they choose to watch TV or play games instead. Their goals are not something that they truly desire. Their goals are just mere wishes.
When you are truly committed to achieving your goals, you will do whatever it takes to make progress and reach it.
You will delay gratification and choose to work on your goals rather than choose to have immediate pleasure right now.
2. Hold yourself accountable
If you want to develop the ability to have better self-control and delay gratification, you need to hold yourself accountable.
There is no point to say what you want to achieve. Saying and doing are two different things. And this is why accountability is important.
What you can do is to get someone to keep an eye on your progress.
Get yourself an accountability partner. It can be anyone from your friends, colleagues, to your spouse. As long as there is someone where to hold you accountable, you will do much better than having no accountability at all.
According to a study done by Dr. Gail Matthews, when you send a weekly progress report, your chances of reaching your goals improve as much as 76%.
You put yourself on the line when you tell someone your commitment actions and what you are going to do.
You know that your reputation is on the line and you will do what you say you will do.
For instance, when you tell someone that you are going to hit the gym and workout for an hour this evening, you will feel more committed to doing it because you have made a promise to yourself. Not just that, you have told someone about it too.
This action increases your commitment and highly likely, you will be in the gym and workout for an hour.
Do you get it? So share your committed actions with someone. Tell them what you are going to do. Better yet, send them a progress report so that they can know how you are progressing.
3. Take a mental break
When you are busy, tired and lacked motivation, you are more likely to choose to procrastinate and get rewarded immediately.
Hence, get some mental breaks, especially during the day. Take enough sleep. And exercise regularly to boost your willpower and your ability to focus.
According to this article from FastCompany, one good way to delay gratification is to daydream.
“…that people who let their minds wander from time to time–at least when it’s not critical to stay focused–are more likely to reconnect with the longer-term goals they have, which mean a lot more to them than the stuff that’s instantly gratifying.”
So take your time to have a mental break and daydream.
Whenever you have completed a task, don’t jump straight to your next task on your to-do list. Instead, take a couple of minutes to rest and recharge your mental energy.
You need to maintain your willpower and keep your motivation strong in order to say “no” to whatever temptation that comes later.
A lot of people have the thought of starting a part-time online business. They thought that they can work on their websites after they got back from work at night.
The truth is that most people are tired because they have used most of their willpower and mental strength in the day when they work.
And when they get back home, they are exhausted and they just want to rest and do something that is more pleasurable.
This is why most people fail to stick to their plans.
When your willpower and mental strength are low, you will choose immediate pleasure rather than delay gratification and work on what you have planned.
Thus, get some rests. Recharge yourself from time to time so that you will have a higher energy level to act on your goals.
4. Avoid the temptation in the first place
Another clever idea to increase your ability to delay gratification is to avoid the temptation in the first place.
Well, you know, if you are someone who cannot resist shopping, just don’t go to any mall and shopping center.
If you are on a diet plan and you don’t want to take in any junk food, stop meeting your friends in a dessert café. As easy as that.
When you remove the temptation, you stop the trigger that invites you for the immediate pleasure.
This is why productivity experts suggest turning off the Wifi when you don’t have to work using the internet.
Allowing yourself for internet access only increases your chances of procrastination and distractions. Of course, this is for the case when you don’t have to get online to work.
Therefore, remove yourself from the temptation when possible.
5. Build a supportive environment
The environment or the surrounding that you are in is one of the most underrated factors that influences your willpower and motivation.
In fact, the environment plays a very important role in shaping your life.
When you try to ask most people what does it take to be successful, they will tell you that you need willpower, motivation, hard work, grit, talent, effort, etc.
But you will never hear them say that you need the right environment or the surrounding. It is true that willpower, motivation, effort, and talent do contribute to someone’s success, but environment also plays an important role.
I suggest you read this article from James Clear to understand how the environment can impact your life.
If you want to know how the environment can affect your mood and thus, your performance, just imagine yourself trying to read a book in a noisy location, like in a wet market. Can you do that?
Of course you can, but the noise can distract you and it will be wiser to read the book somewhere more quiet, right?
The culture of your company, the people you mix around with most of the time, and your surroundings, can influence your decision and hence, shape your destiny.
Therefore, if you want to improve your ability to delay gratification, use the help of this invisible force.
There was a study done in a hospital by a physician named Anne Thorndike at the Massachusetts General Hospital. In the study, Thorndike and her team changed the location of how the food was placed in the cafeteria of the hospital.
Thorndike and her team discovered that when they add bottled water to refrigerators that were filled with soda and also placed baskets of bottled water throughout the cafeteria, the sales of water bottled increased while the soda sales dropped.
This is how your environment and surrounding can affect you.
Thus, change and improve your environment to work for you, not against you.
Transform your environment so that you become more likely to delay gratification to work on your goals rather than to procrastinate and choose immediate pleasure.
Read this article to learn how you can do so:
6. Remember your bigger purpose
One of the biggest reasons why some people are able to delay gratification is because they constantly remind themselves of their bigger purpose.
If losing weight becomes your main priority and you keep this goal in your head all the time, when a plate of chocolate dessert placed in front of you, you can still push it away because you are conscious about losing weight.
This is why vision boards and affirmations work.
Brian Tracy once said:
“You become what you think about most of the time.”
And he is absolutely right. You are always affected by your thinking. Your thinking shapes your life.
Most of the time, people procrastinate because they fail to connect themselves with their bigger purpose.
This is why you must keep your goals in your head all the time. Consciously think about them. Create reminders like using a vision board to remind yourself of what you want.
This way, whenever the temptation comes to you, you are able to say no and reject the immediate pleasure.
Always remember this quote:
“When you think and dream in terms of instant gratification, you fall flat on your face.”
So choose to think about your dreams and goals. Choose to think about your purpose and why you want to achieve what you want in life.
This is how you avoid can avoid procrastination and get into the action mode.
7. Maintain and grow your momentum
In order to delay gratification and to choose to work on what you are supposed to do, you must maintain your momentum.
In other words, you must immerse yourself deeply into what will make you avoid instant gratification so that you will do the work.
Let me give you an example.
If you want to build a successful blog, but you are only talking, thinking, and working on your blog once a month, guess what, there is no momentum at all.
If you want to grow the momentum and keep your motivation strong, you must think, talk, and work on it as much as possible.
Professional sports athletes have better skills because they immersed themselves whole-heartedly into the sports and the games.
Working on your goal full-time allows you to focus your energy and effort fully into achieving the goal.
If you are working part-time and treat your goal like a hobby, guess what, you will receive hobby-like results.
And when this happens, you are more likely to procrastinate and to choose instant gratification over delayed gratification.
Somehow, what you want may not be truly important to you. Thus, you are alright even if you don’t work on it and did not achieve the results you want.
This is why a lot of people say that they want to build a successful internet business, but they don’t do it. They choose the instant pleasure of playing games or watching the TV rather than working on their business.
Because they did not fully immerse themselves in their goals. They can still survive and it is absolutely alright even if they did not accomplish their goals.
Never let this happen to you.
Truly commit to your goals. Approach them like a professional and put in all your focus and effort into this.
This is how when you are seduced by the temptations, you are still able to say no and move on with your goals.
Your ability to delay gratification is one of the most important keys to success. How do you think Warren Buffett is able to earn so much money from the stock market?
Well, it is because of his ability to delay gratification. When he bought a stock, he holds on to it, no matter how the market performs. Most people choose to sell immediately when everyone is shouting that the market is collapsing, but not Buffett.
He knows how to divorce himself from his surroundings. You can read my article here to learn how Warren Buffett did this.
Here are the 7 tips again to help you develop your ability to delay gratification:
- Start with a goal
- Hold yourself accountable
- Take a mental break
- Avoid the temptation
- Build a supportive environment
- Remember your bigger purpose
- Maintain and grow your momentum
Do you think delay gratification is important in your life? And what can you do to say “no” to the immediate temptation?