April 15, 2023

  •  

[rtime]

 mins

Quitting the Instant Gratification Habit

At a glance


Welcome to the new friends of the A Players newsletter who have joined us since last week!

This week, we tackle taming instant gratification. Let’s get to it!


Fast Summary

  • Instant gratification is the practice of giving into the ‘now.’

  • Giving into instant gratification changes our habits and can make us more likely to make impulsive decisions in the future.

  • Delayed gratification is the practice of putting off immediate satisfaction in favor of a long-term reward.

  • Adopting a future-oriented mindset, and asking yourself, “Where do I want to go?” can help you understand your true intentions. Think about your intentions when you’re faced with instant gratification temptation.


But first, are you interested in becoming a multidisciplinary thinker?

The Latticework is an application only, all-in community providing the most thoughtful approach I’ve seen to learning the big ideas from the big disciplines. I’ve been a member for 1 year and am now proud to offer my community priority access to join as well as a sneak preview of some of the key content. Head over using this link to check it out.


Quitting the Instant Gratification Habit

You’re on a long run in your local park. You’ve been on the path for a while, and your shirt sticks to your skin. It’s hot out and the sun beats down on your back while you pass other joggers, people walking their dogs, and children playing by the swingsets. You’ve set a goal: You’re going to make it two more blocks, then you’re done.

But you’re tired, and the sweat on your forehead isn’t going away. So, like many of us, you stop, take a breath, and drink some water. There’s nothing wrong with this, but you didn’t reach your goal.

You gave into instant gratification, and, in all likelihood, you didn’t start running again, instead choosing to meander back home.

This is simply one example. Giving in to instant gratification takes many forms. In addition to the last example, you might experience a strong afternoon sugar craving and forget your New Year’s Resolution: You head down to the vending machine for a chocolate bar.

Each of these examples seems relatively innocuous—one chocolate bar won’t kill you—but the habit of giving in to instant gratification is just that: A habit. And, as you well know, habits, when consistently practiced, become behaviors.

In other words, the one chocolate bar won’t break your diet, but the cookies, ice cream, and pizza cravings you’re teaching yourself to indulge in most certainly will.

Over time, constant exposure to instant gratification disrupts our brain’s dopamine reward system, increasing the rate of impulsive decisions. When we repeatedly give into instant satiation, our brains experience a dopamine surge (our reward system is triggered) before we receive the reward, whether it be a break, a snack, or a purchase.

If you’re thinking, “That doesn’t sound so bad,” think again! After repeated exposure, simply exposing ourselves to the habit causes a craving or desire.

Think back to the chocolate bar example: Over time, passing the vending machine on the way to the water fountain causes a sugar craving, one that won’t subside.

When we repeatedly give into instant gratification, “the more likely we are to be distracted from longer-term, more meaningful goals.2 ” And as I said, habits become behaviors.

Delayed gratification is an important process that involves balancing time delay with reward. In other words, delayed gratification is the process of putting off immediate satisfaction and focusing on more meaningful, ‘big picture’ rewards.

It sounds like a bit of a drag, but many scientific studies prove that delayed gratification is among the most effective personal traits of professionally successful people.

Those who learn how to manage their short-term goals with their long-term ones are more satisfied with their careers, relationships, finances, and physical health. Most people want to be self-satisfied, right?

Delaying gratification and focusing on the big picture as opposed to giving in to the ‘now,’ is a step we can take to get there.

So how can we do it? It’s not easy, but it’s possible. To practice delayed gratification, we must adopt what’s called a future-oriented mindset. Debbie Millman, a prominent designer and speaker, uses what she calls her “Remarkable Life” exercise to get started.

Ask yourself, “Where do I want to go?” If the word ‘go’ isn’t helping, try, ‘be.’

  • Where would you like to be in two years? How about five? Let’s up the ante: Where would you like to be in ten years?

  • Consider where you’d like to be financially, physically, professionally, etc. What would you like your life to look like? Be honest with your answer and write it down.

After we find our answer, or, in many cases, answers, we have to ask, “How will we get there?” This question might be trickier than the first.

  • What do you need to do to achieve your goals?

  • What’s involved? If you’d like to finally buy a house or achieve a promotion, consider the steps you might take to get there. Now that we’ve set a course, we put it in motion.

Once we know what we need to do, we’re able to do it! It’s up to you how you choose to reach your goals. Some people prefer to take large, sweeping strides while others prefer smaller steps. Neither is better than the other.

You might need to adjust your course, and that’s fine! Adjusting your course and giving into immediate gratification are two different things:

When we adjust, we acknowledge our limitations, but we’re not sabotaging or abandoning the goal.

When we give in, we’re saying, “I knew I couldn’t do it—it’s impossible for me.”

Delaying gratification isn’t easy, but, for many of us, it’s what we need to find true happiness. You might slip up, and that’s alright.

As I said, we must acknowledge what we can and can’t do. You might only be able to walk a few miles today, but doing that is a step in the right direction—pun intended. If you’d stayed home and turned on Netflix, thus giving into instant gratification, you wouldn’t have taken any steps at all!

When we abandon an ‘immediate’ or ‘right now’ ideology, we’re able to improve our reality, and, in turn, our lives.

This Week’s Practical Challenge

For this week’s challenge, I ask you to put the “Remarkable Life” exercise into action. As always, you don’t need to share with anyone what you write. Focus on honesty, and be as specific as possible when writing down your answers to each prompt.

  1. Where would you like to be in five years?

    a. Think about your professional, personal, financial, and familial life. Write down the first things that pop into your head—often, our instincts are more honest than conscious thoughts.

  1. What’s your instant gratification habit? What do you think is triggering it?

    a. Do you have a sweet tooth? Are you foregoing your exercise routine? Maybe you’re a bit of a couch potato. Be honest about your guilty pleasure—write it down.

    b. Do some mental digging. When did the habit start? Is there a setting or time of day that seems to trigger the habit? What might be contributing to the habit?

  1. How can you delay gratification?

    a. Consider your responses to question 1, and think about how instant gratification is blocking you from reaching your personal goals.

    b. How can you start combatting your instant gratification habit?

    c. Which concrete steps can you take?

You have control over your future. Delaying gratification is a tool you can use to reach your full potential.

Conclusion

I’d love to hear from you:

Question 1: What’s your instant gratification habit?

Question 2: When you ask yourself where you’d like to be, what comes to mind?

Question 3: What did you learn in this article, and how can you apply it?

Tweet at me (@_alexbrogan) or respond to this email — I’ll try to respond to everyone.

Until next week,

Alex



Welcome to the new friends of the A Players newsletter who have joined us since last week!

This week, we tackle taming instant gratification. Let’s get to it!


Fast Summary

  • Instant gratification is the practice of giving into the ‘now.’

  • Giving into instant gratification changes our habits and can make us more likely to make impulsive decisions in the future.

  • Delayed gratification is the practice of putting off immediate satisfaction in favor of a long-term reward.

  • Adopting a future-oriented mindset, and asking yourself, “Where do I want to go?” can help you understand your true intentions. Think about your intentions when you’re faced with instant gratification temptation.


But first, are you interested in becoming a multidisciplinary thinker?

The Latticework is an application only, all-in community providing the most thoughtful approach I’ve seen to learning the big ideas from the big disciplines. I’ve been a member for 1 year and am now proud to offer my community priority access to join as well as a sneak preview of some of the key content. Head over using this link to check it out.


Quitting the Instant Gratification Habit

You’re on a long run in your local park. You’ve been on the path for a while, and your shirt sticks to your skin. It’s hot out and the sun beats down on your back while you pass other joggers, people walking their dogs, and children playing by the swingsets. You’ve set a goal: You’re going to make it two more blocks, then you’re done.

But you’re tired, and the sweat on your forehead isn’t going away. So, like many of us, you stop, take a breath, and drink some water. There’s nothing wrong with this, but you didn’t reach your goal.

You gave into instant gratification, and, in all likelihood, you didn’t start running again, instead choosing to meander back home.

This is simply one example. Giving in to instant gratification takes many forms. In addition to the last example, you might experience a strong afternoon sugar craving and forget your New Year’s Resolution: You head down to the vending machine for a chocolate bar.

Each of these examples seems relatively innocuous—one chocolate bar won’t kill you—but the habit of giving in to instant gratification is just that: A habit. And, as you well know, habits, when consistently practiced, become behaviors.

In other words, the one chocolate bar won’t break your diet, but the cookies, ice cream, and pizza cravings you’re teaching yourself to indulge in most certainly will.

Over time, constant exposure to instant gratification disrupts our brain’s dopamine reward system, increasing the rate of impulsive decisions. When we repeatedly give into instant satiation, our brains experience a dopamine surge (our reward system is triggered) before we receive the reward, whether it be a break, a snack, or a purchase.

If you’re thinking, “That doesn’t sound so bad,” think again! After repeated exposure, simply exposing ourselves to the habit causes a craving or desire.

Think back to the chocolate bar example: Over time, passing the vending machine on the way to the water fountain causes a sugar craving, one that won’t subside.

When we repeatedly give into instant gratification, “the more likely we are to be distracted from longer-term, more meaningful goals.2 ” And as I said, habits become behaviors.

Delayed gratification is an important process that involves balancing time delay with reward. In other words, delayed gratification is the process of putting off immediate satisfaction and focusing on more meaningful, ‘big picture’ rewards.

It sounds like a bit of a drag, but many scientific studies prove that delayed gratification is among the most effective personal traits of professionally successful people.

Those who learn how to manage their short-term goals with their long-term ones are more satisfied with their careers, relationships, finances, and physical health. Most people want to be self-satisfied, right?

Delaying gratification and focusing on the big picture as opposed to giving in to the ‘now,’ is a step we can take to get there.

So how can we do it? It’s not easy, but it’s possible. To practice delayed gratification, we must adopt what’s called a future-oriented mindset. Debbie Millman, a prominent designer and speaker, uses what she calls her “Remarkable Life” exercise to get started.

Ask yourself, “Where do I want to go?” If the word ‘go’ isn’t helping, try, ‘be.’

  • Where would you like to be in two years? How about five? Let’s up the ante: Where would you like to be in ten years?

  • Consider where you’d like to be financially, physically, professionally, etc. What would you like your life to look like? Be honest with your answer and write it down.

After we find our answer, or, in many cases, answers, we have to ask, “How will we get there?” This question might be trickier than the first.

  • What do you need to do to achieve your goals?

  • What’s involved? If you’d like to finally buy a house or achieve a promotion, consider the steps you might take to get there. Now that we’ve set a course, we put it in motion.

Once we know what we need to do, we’re able to do it! It’s up to you how you choose to reach your goals. Some people prefer to take large, sweeping strides while others prefer smaller steps. Neither is better than the other.

You might need to adjust your course, and that’s fine! Adjusting your course and giving into immediate gratification are two different things:

When we adjust, we acknowledge our limitations, but we’re not sabotaging or abandoning the goal.

When we give in, we’re saying, “I knew I couldn’t do it—it’s impossible for me.”

Delaying gratification isn’t easy, but, for many of us, it’s what we need to find true happiness. You might slip up, and that’s alright.

As I said, we must acknowledge what we can and can’t do. You might only be able to walk a few miles today, but doing that is a step in the right direction—pun intended. If you’d stayed home and turned on Netflix, thus giving into instant gratification, you wouldn’t have taken any steps at all!

When we abandon an ‘immediate’ or ‘right now’ ideology, we’re able to improve our reality, and, in turn, our lives.

This Week’s Practical Challenge

For this week’s challenge, I ask you to put the “Remarkable Life” exercise into action. As always, you don’t need to share with anyone what you write. Focus on honesty, and be as specific as possible when writing down your answers to each prompt.

  1. Where would you like to be in five years?

    a. Think about your professional, personal, financial, and familial life. Write down the first things that pop into your head—often, our instincts are more honest than conscious thoughts.

  1. What’s your instant gratification habit? What do you think is triggering it?

    a. Do you have a sweet tooth? Are you foregoing your exercise routine? Maybe you’re a bit of a couch potato. Be honest about your guilty pleasure—write it down.

    b. Do some mental digging. When did the habit start? Is there a setting or time of day that seems to trigger the habit? What might be contributing to the habit?

  1. How can you delay gratification?

    a. Consider your responses to question 1, and think about how instant gratification is blocking you from reaching your personal goals.

    b. How can you start combatting your instant gratification habit?

    c. Which concrete steps can you take?

You have control over your future. Delaying gratification is a tool you can use to reach your full potential.

Conclusion

I’d love to hear from you:

Question 1: What’s your instant gratification habit?

Question 2: When you ask yourself where you’d like to be, what comes to mind?

Question 3: What did you learn in this article, and how can you apply it?

Tweet at me (@_alexbrogan) or respond to this email — I’ll try to respond to everyone.

Until next week,

Alex


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