How are you doing in the tug-of-war between working toward your long term goals and the temptation of instant gratification? It is amazing how so many areas of life are affected by the gravitational pull of these two forces.
Have you ever wondered why it is so difficult to stick to a long term success plan and so easy to be derailed by things that only provide momentary pleasure? Why is it so challenging to go to the gym and watch your diet, and so easy to eat junk food and skip the exercise routine. Why would any of us choose to spend hours on social media sites rather than do the work that pays the bills?
What’s the real draw of instant gratification?
I am sure you realize that the vast majority of advertising is designed to trigger impulse buying. But do you know what impulse buying and instant gratification have in common? They both appeal to our emotions in a way that overrides our logic. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then, that impulse buying is one of the most common sources of instant gratification.
In contrast, long term goals usually involve a logical decision followed by a commitment along with a certain amount of discipline. We may be emotionally attached to the intended outcome, but that’s not the same kind of emotional impulse that feeds an instant gratification craving.
What is the draw of long term satisfaction?
The kind of satisfaction that comes from pursuing our long term goals is one of substance. Anything that requires consistent effort over a long period of time is bound to leave us with a deeper sense of accomplishment. Unlike instant gratification, this is the category where we work to make our dreams become reality.
Reasonableness dictates that truly significant achievements require significant effort and time to be realized. There is usually nothing instantaneous about it. In fact, this approach is often referred to as deferred gratification. It involves greater gratification, but we have to be willing to wait for it.
Is there room for both?
That’s really what we want, isn’t it? We want to reach for our dreams and the things that bring long term satisfaction, while having our days accented with some instant gratification. So, the question is, can we have both or will one always pull against the other?
Of course we can have both, but some management is required so that we maintain a healthy state of balance and don’t end up abandoning our long term goals in favor of the quick fix. Here are a few pointers to make sure that doesn’t happen.
3 ways to balance instant gratification with long term satisfaction
1. Use the reward system. We all like to be rewarded for our efforts and we naturally work harder when there is a reward in the near future. An example of this approach might be when we are watching our diet and trying to get in shape. The longer we go without those forbidden foods, the stronger our cravings become.
The solution is to reward yourself with a treat meal after a week of effort. This approach allows you to satisfy your craving so you won’t feel deprived. And, you will give yourself something to look forward to during the week. It’s a win-win situation as long as you control the frequency of those instant gratification treat meals.
2. Punctuate long term goals with regular celebration points. Identify milestones along the path of your long term goals and use them as opportunities to celebrate what you’ve accomplished up to that point. If you are building a business, you could choose to celebrate every time your income goes up by $100 or $200 per month.
You get to decide what constitutes celebration. The important thing is that it gives you a sense of gratification for your hard work. That way you feel rewarded for sticking to the plan and you have some motivation to keep making progress. This same reward system would apply to growing your blog or website traffic. Every time your traffic or RSS subscriber count increases by a certain amount, celebrate.
3. Give yourself daily approval and acknowledgment. One of the greatest sources of gratification is approval and acknowledgment. You don’t need to look elsewhere for this kind of gratification. All you need to do is take the time to commend yourself for what you’ve accomplished. Withholding this kind of approval can cause you to seek it from outside sources like comfort foods or mindless time wasting activities.
I suggest you make time to do this at the end of every day. It’s not a big deal, but it does make a big difference in your level of gratification. Simply review your day and give yourself your personal thumbs up for a job well done.
Instant gratification and long term satisfaction
With a little planning you can have them both and maintain a healthy sense of balance. If some form of instant gratification is throwing your life out of balance, apply one of these three strategies to help restore your equilibrium.
How do you seek instant gratification?
Has it ever prevented you from reaching your long term goals?
The lines are open!