Delayed gratification is one of the most effective personal traits of successful people. People that delay gratification are more successful with their career, relationships, health, finances and really, all areas of life.
How important is your health to you? What about security of purchasing your own home? Perhaps having a successful career is what you’re after? Whatever you’re trying to achieve, one thing is for certain…
GREAT THINGS come to those who wait!
The power of delayed gratification is an essential element of being able to reach your ultimate goal. Whether it be saving now to spend later, choosing healthy to get energy later, or putting up with a job to help boost your career later. These examples plus more are all areas where delayed gratification can bring about tremendous returns while developing your willpower. Let’s explore the power of delayed gratification.
Delayed Gratification Defined
Delaying gratification is a pretty simple concept. Simply, it means making a choice which limits the ability of getting something now, for the pleasure of being able to have something bigger or better later.
The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment
The power of delayed gratification is best know from a the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment, a study conducted by Professor Walter Mischel at Stanford University. In this experiment, Mischel studied a group of four to six-year-old children who were given a marshmallow and left in a room for fifteen minutes. They were given the choice of being able to eat the marshmallow now, or if they were to wait the fifteen minutes, they will be able to have two marshmallows. Ultimately, some children were able to wait the fifteen minutes, whilst others were not able to.
The study didn’t finish there however. Researchers continued to study the development of the children into adolescents. They found that those children that were able to delay gratification were psychologically better adjusted, more dependable persons, more self-motivated, and as high school students, scored signficantly better with grades. With the latest study conducted on these exact same participants in 2011, the research has shown that the characteristic has remained with the individuals for life.
The study shows that delaying gratification is a choice of the individual. You can choose to have something now, or you can choose to have something bigger or better at a later time. Delaying gratification improves your willpower and ultimately helps you reach your longer-term goals faster. Lets now take a look at some specific examples where delaying gratification can have a positive impact in your life.
Spend Now or Save Now?
One of the most common examples of delayed gratification is for a person to be able to save their money now to be able to purchase a more desirable product in the future. For example, you want to purchase a new car for twenty-thousand dollars and at this stage you only have a quarter of that in cash, so what do you do? Start saving!… Simple!… Or is it?… This is where the power of delayed gratification meets will-power. You will constantly be challenged on a daily basis with opportunities for you to spend money… for that coffee, for that lunch, for that movie, for that dress, for that thing you want whatever that thing may be! You have a choice presented to you in every single situation you have your wallet out. Do you have a number of alcoholic drinks that night, or do you decide to drink water and save that money and know that you would be a day closer to buying that dream car? Many people are often surprised by the amount of money that they can save now simply by making smarter choices with their finances, to help them with more desirable purchases in the future. For example, do you REALLY need the branded $10 laundry liquid, or will the cheaper liquid of $3 do just a good of a job? To help reach your financial goals, start thinking through what really matters most… spending now for a small gratification, or saving now for that much larger pleasure in the future.
Walk the Beaten Track or Take the Risky Path? – the Entrepreneurial Way
Linked in with the above, another form of delaying gratification IS to actually spend money, but it is NOT spending money to give you gratification now, but with the PURPOSE of delaying gratification. This is where risk comes into the equation of delaying gratification, and hence it is the entrepreneurial way. To illustrate this, lets say someone wants to purchase a property for $500,000, instead of saving now to spend later, they invest now, taking on risk that their investment may go down or it may go up, delaying their gratification but with the intention to get to that gratification faster. Another example is having the ultimate goal of running your own business and financially being independent. A person wanting to achieve this would need to spend now, take on risk to establish their business, work hard putting in long hours, perhaps at the expense of sleep, relationships, health, however, they are delaying a gratification which is ultimately of highest importance to them. Once they go through the hard yards and come out the other side with a successful business, the reward will be MUCH greater than what they would have achieved otherwise.
Eat the Burger or Eat the Apple?
Health is another area where delaying gratification can have significant benefits. The Western world today is witnessing an obesity epidemic like never before. A common reason to this is the simple willpower and choices people are making in their everyday lives, without delaying gratification. To illustrate this, lets say your hungry… you probably are right now.. and what do you feel like? Many people when eating snacks or eating daily foods prefer to eat the stuff that tastes good, normally full of fats and sugars. By delaying gratification and choosing for the more healthy option, the glass of water over the glass of coca-cola, you will reap the rewards of delayed gratification by being more healthy in your life, have less illness and have more energy to live your life to its fullest. And heck, you’ll probably be surprised at how most healthy foods will actually give you instant gratification too!!
Similar to the above, many people do not like to exercise or go to the gym, this is seen as a chore and something that MUST be done! Try the concept of delayed gratification. Go through the hard yards of sweat and tears now to be able to live a healthy and energetic life, all while looking good too!
Smoke Now or Not to Smoke Now?
Smoking is the ultimate test of willpower and a risky one to bring into this post, but it provides a great example of the power of delayed gratification. Smokers have the choice, although a hard one, of having a cigarette now to give them an instant and short-term ‘hit’, or they can choose to not have that cigarette and reap the rewards of a healthier life later on. Heck, once again the delayed gratification of this is also an instant gratification for your healthier lifestyle!
Boring Job Now or Exciting Job Now?
Now here is another interesting one. This illustration is to show that depending on what your ultimate goal is, putting up with some harder experiences in your life right now might be the best thing you can do long-term. Lets say you are wanting to be the best financial investor and advisor the world has ever seen, to ultimately get to this goal you may need to put up with some pretty boring or less-interesting roles to start with, so you can build your fundamental understanding of what it is you need to know. As hard or as boring as it may be, it might just be the best thing you can do to help you get to that depth of understanding that you need.
Honestly, I could go on for days around examples of delayed gratification as basically, every choice we make in our lives has consequences which lead to a level of gratification being felt now versus a level of gratification being felt later. Previously I have spoken around understanding your values and using this understanding to make choices in your life. Now, coupled with the understanding of the power of delayed gratification, you will be able to make even more consistent choices to help you reach your ultimate goals.
Ultimately, delaying gratification is making a choice that enhances your willpower, and helps you reach your bigger goal at a later time. How do you suppose Olympians live their lives? Through years of hard work, sweat and tears with the vision of delaying their ultimate gratification, performing well at the Olympics, being recognised for it, perhaps using it as a launching pad for a future career.
Strategies for Delayed Gratification
1. Know Your Values
As we explored in Understanding Your Values, when you know what is important to you, you are able to make choices that lead you to happiness and success.
2. Know What You Want to Achieve
Ensure you have clearly defined goals. What is it that you want to achieve exactly? Having a clear understanding of what you want to achieve longer-term can help you make a choice in delaying gratification to help you reach your ultimate goal.
3. Create a Plan
When you understand your values and know what you want to achieve, creating a plan to help you get there can remind you of the choices you need to make along the way and reinforce the process of delaying gratification.
Being able to prioritise what is important to you and what you want to achieve helps you make the choice to delay gratification.
5. Reward Yourself
Delaying gratification can be hard-work. Depending on what you want to achieve, it may take weeks, months, years, and sometimes even decades. Breaking down your goals and rewarding yourself along the way can remind yourself that delaying gratification is leading you to where you want to go.
For the Comments
Do you delay gratification and what is your reason? What areas in your life do you feel you need instant gratification and find it difficult to delay? What other strategies do you have for delaying gratification?
Feel free to leave a comment below!
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