If you’re like me, you’ve probably been modeling the idea of delayed gratification to your kids for years. I remember when I was growing up my parents had a favourite saying— ‘you can play now or you can play later’ which basically meant that in order to be successful, we had to be willing to do the things that unsuccessful people weren’t willing to do.
Delayed gratification refers to the act of resisting an impulse to take an immediately available reward in the hope of obtaining a more-valued reward in the future.
In my work as a fitness trainer I’ve witnessed firsthand, the struggle that many people have with this concept, but particularly as it relates to diet and nutrition. More often than not, a person will thwart their healthy nutrition regimen, in exchange for instant gratification. Not realizing that the true rewards come when we put off what we want now in order to get a bigger pay off later on.
And if you haven’t guessed it already….I’m a huge advocate of delaying gratification, in all areas of life.
Dan Ariely and Jeff Kreisler write in Dollars and Sense, “[w]e’re confronted by self-control issues all the time, from the mundane—we procrastinate, waste hours on social media, have a third helping of dessert. Delayed gratification is one way to help our self-control.”
Researchers have found that this ability to delay gratification is not just an important part of goal achievement; it might also have a major impact on long-term life success and overall well-being. The ability to delay gratification is essential to self-regulation, or self-control. Two qualities–I’d venture to say– most people would like to hone.
To become good at anything, you need to be disciplined and learn to forego the easy option for the slightly more difficult or time-consuming one.
And while it may seem that some people are simply better at controlling themselves than others, Clear writes that other experiments proved it’s a skill that can be built like any other. A great example would be cultivating a strong mindset. Which might also be considered a central component in building this (the DG) skill.
How To Build The DG Skill
Normally, I’d opt to share a short list of ways on how to build the skill of delayed gratification. But I believe the secret lies in the way in which we talk to ourselves. Sound simple? It is…How we communicate with ourselves is arguably the answer to many of our perceived problems. If you continuously tell yourself that you want something, even knowing that it’s not the best thing for you, then chances are you’ll give in. But if you acknowledge that you want something and then immediately acknowledge to yourself that what you want won’t serve you at this point and time will help you foster and exercise your DG muscle.
Delaying gratification certainly isn’t easy in most cases, especially if we are not sure if the sought after rewards we seek will ever happen. But researchers have found that this ability to put off our immediate desires to pursue long-term goals just might be a critical part of success. While you might not always be able to resist instant gratification, trying a few new strategies and working on your willpower is certainly worth the effort. And remember this when your willpower begins to waiver…You can either dance in desire tonight or burn in love a few years from now.