Instant Gratification Paradox

image credit:cathyse97
Instant gratification, we all fall for it it’s when:

  • we eat that greasy fatty junk food, that tastes oh so good in our mouth yet is bad for our health, energy levels, productivity, and our weight loss plan
  • we skip doing a chore like going to the gym, buying groceries, cleaning the house and instead watch useless mind numbing tv
  • we get red of our hobbies, and forget about our dreams just because they require too much work, time and effort
  • we overspend, buy stuff we don’t need, and maybe even get in debt instead of investing and saving our money
  • we are always looking for the magic pill, whether it’s to lose 30 pounds in 30 days without getting off the couch or becoming the next millionaire by following the newest get rich quick scheme

We all know instant gratification doesn’t work, it’s a rip off.  We eat the junk food, and while it tastes amazing, afterwards we feel too full, dehydrated, sleepy, lazy, and want to take a nap.  We skip our chores, watch some tv, and afterwards realize that we just wasted our a block of really valuable time.  We give up on our dreams, and discard our hobbies and live like zombies doing the least we have to do to get by.  We go on shopping sprees, buy things we don’t need and know we can’t afford and eventually encounter financial problems and might even get in debt.  We want to lose weight without putting in the effort so we order that magic diet pill and are disappointed when it doesn’t work.  We want to become millionaires without putting in the hard work and the long hours so we order that new get rich quick program yet are disappointed later when we find out it’s either a rip off or is a lot tougher and requires more effort than we initially thought.

Instant gratification is a paradox.  It’s a lie, however it’s one that we keep buying into.  Marketers know this, that’s why advertising works.  Does that mean advertising is evil? No, it’s what you make of it.  If it wasn’t for advertising and marketing you might have never found out about the last great book you read, movie you watched, or product you bought.  A great example of this is the 4 hour work week.  It’s a great book, yet it takes a lot of work to setup a business that only requires 4 hours of your time to manage per week.  It took the author himself over a year just to get his business to make him good profits, and another year to automate it.  It’s also important to point out that this wasn’t his first business idea, he’s certainly tried and failed plenty of times in the past.  While the 4 hour work week is a great book, and is becoming more and more popular, how many people do you think will end up creating their own 4 hour work week?  how many people are willing to put in 2 years or more of hard work into setting such a business up?  how many people are willing to try and fail with different business ideas until they find the right one?  I’d like to be optimistic and say many, yet in reality it’s very few.

Can you wake up one day and just eliminate all of the temptation of indulging in instant gratification? No.  Besides you wouldn’t want to go to the other extreme of always thinking long term.  While thinking long term is a healthy habit, it can certainly distract you from enjoying the moment and making the best of your current life situation.  Besides many people get too hung up on long term thinking that they live their whole lives to create a better future, yet that future never comes, how could it when they are always busy creating it and can never stop to enjoy their present?

How to deal with instant gratification?

Step 1: Start looking at your choices and actions and see if they are motivated by instant gratifcation.  Take some time right now and write down at least 3 choices/actions in your day to day life that are an attempt to indulge in instant gratification.  Don’t judge those choices, and don’t be hard on yourself.

Step 2: In the next 7 days become conscious of when you make those choices and take those actions and how you feel afterwards.   Start becoming more conscious of how instant gratification is a paradox, it doesn’t really exist.

Step 3: After a week of conciousness, start taking small steps to decrease the frequecy of those 3 choices/actions or even to eliminate them if possible.  For example if you chose to watch tv regularly, try to watch less tv, eliminate one of the shows you watch etc.  If your eating a lot of junk food try to incorporate one healthy meal into your diet each day.  If you are living from paycheck to paycheck try to go shopping less often and mostly buy necessaties instead of luxuries.  There isn’t an easy way to do this, it’s just a matter of knowing that you need to do the right thing and doing it anyway whether or not you feel like it.  Of course after making the right choices for a while, they become habits that are easier to maintain.