How to overcome an instant gratification bias
Patience isn’t my strong suit. It never has been.
As an 8 year-old bee in a bottle with big dreams and no time to waste, I thought ‘taking my company public’ meant pulling my lemonade stand from the backyard out to the street.
After a short and sour taste of reality (two sales in a day – thanks mum and dad!) lemonade production soon dried up.
In fact, throughout my journey to date there have been a number of times where I’ve pulled up stumps on certain projects as a result of not making the kind of progress I envisaged in the timeframe I expected.
Naturally, I have a bias towards instant gratification.
Definition: 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. AKA The human urge to want good things and to want them NOW.
Today, the presence and the temptation for instant gratification is greater than ever. You want to buy something? You go online and it arrives the next day. You want to watch a movie? Log on – there’s no waiting to check screen times. Even if you want to go on a date these days there’s no awkward period of fumbling courtship. It’s swipe left or swipe right!
Almost everything you want these days you can have instantaneously, which is why a lot of us are wired to an instant gratification mindset. But the reality is, for some of the most significant things in life – the things that we’ll eventually find the most joy in achieving – there are no shortcuts.
Things like job satisfaction, building genuine relationships and achieving BIG goals all involve gradual and meandering processes that you cannot fast track. Much like climbing to the top of a mountain, there are certain things in life that you just cannot achieve without patiently staying the course and doing the work.
So how do we push our bias for instant gratification aside, opt for delayed gratification and learn to enjoy the process of climbing the mountain?
Below are 5 tips that I’ve gathered from a combination of expert advice, as well as my own life experiences. Each time the temptation of instant gratification creeps in, try reviewing the below points before doing anything else.
1. Become aware of your impulses for immediate gratification and delay your actions.
Self-awareness is often a good place to start when looking to make a change in your behaviours. From years of experience and the benefit of hindsight, I’ve been able to gain a huge amount of self-awareness and an understanding of my often impatient tendencies. Knowing this, when it comes to making big decisions these days, I consciously and deliberately take my time to ensure I dedicate enough rational thinking needed to handle the situation appropriately.
2. Break down big goals into small, manageable chunks.
Big goals are fun to set and can be extremely motivating, but they can also seem overwhelming or far off. When you must decide between instant, easy gratification and delaying gratification in the attempt to meet big, distant goals, it’s hard to stick to your long-term goal. Breaking these big goals into smaller pieces with rewards after each step makes you more committed and more likely to make the best decisions (Akerman, 2020).
3. Build a support network.
When it comes to making certain decisions it’s helpful to discuss your potential choices with people who know you and what it is you really want. When the going gets tough (and if your goals are big enough at some point it definitely will get tough), your network can keep you accountable, or they may be the supportive push you need to pivot your plans. Either way, I’ve found talking it out with people who want what’s best for me vital when making considered choices.
4. Accept your choices and enjoy the moment.
There is no point in beating yourself up about a conscious decision. Pick and stick! Once a decision is made to chase a certain goal, avoid exploring other options until you’ve given your choice the energy, the time and the commitment it really needs to potentially eventuate. The whole premise of delayed gratification is that it doesn’t happen overnight. Accept that fact and do your best to enjoy the ride along the delayed route.
5. Don’t be in such a hurry.
It’s okay to slow down and take your time to craft quality. Today’s society is extremely fast paced and it’s easy to get swept up in societal pressures of doing certain things by a certain time. Although this beautiful life is in so many ways extremely short, life expectancy statistics show that you have plenty of time to achieve what it is you want, even if it takes a little longer than you thought.
There is no doubt that practising delayed gratification can be hard when we live in such an instant world. In younger years, I’d often be too reliant on a ‘result’ to generate fulfilment, but as I’ve gotten deeper into my own journey, I’ve learned to find joy in the process. The points above have definitely helped me to get there.
If, like me, you occasionally suffer from impatience with your career or life, and get tempted by a form of instant gratification that may have the potential to derail your big, beautiful, longer-term plans, don’t hesitate to book in and speak with UTS Careers. The team are always here to help UTS students.
Finally – a relevant and thought provoking quote from Bill Gates:
“Most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in ten years.”
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash
By Simon Jaeger
Simon Jaeger is a dynamic Sydney-based marketing consultant, currently working at UTS Careers. With over 10 years of experience across a multitude of disciplines, including experiential, digital, and integrated marketing, Simon brings a holistic and data-driven approach to driving creativity and innovation to the tertiary education space.