“Rule your mind, or it will rule you.” -Horace

            What if I could show you a method that would greatly improve your chances of success, no matter what the task you were undertaking was?     How about if that method was incredibly straightforward, could be applied to multiple aspects of your life, and didn’t cost a dime?

 

            Sounds too good to be true? It’s actually very simple, and has been practiced by many successful people throughout human history. I’m talking about Delayed Gratification of course. But what is it exactly? Delayed gratification is defined as: resisting the temptation of immediate reward, in favor of a long-term greater goal.

 

            This practice is one of the many links in the chain to becoming a stronger, healthier, more successful person.

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Here’s an example:

            Say if I were to sit you down in a room for 15 minutes, put $50 on the table in front of you, and then proceed to tell you that if you want, you can take the $50 now… but if you wait until the 15 minutes are up, I’ll give you a second $50 for nothing more than waiting the stated period of time… What would you do?

 

            Well, if you’re reasonable, you can see the benefit in waiting to collect your money. This is a simplified example of ‘Delayed Gratification’… Foregoing immediate reward, or pleasure, in favour of a long-term greater reward.

 

The Marshmallow Experiment

            The above-stated was actually the setting of a prominent study, performed by Stanford professor Walter Mischel using 4 and 5-year-old children in the 1960s.

 

            One major difference: instead of using a $50 note, he used a single marshmallow. Another key difference, is that the experiment proceeded to follow the lives of these children over the course of the following 40 years… [2]

            What did they find? The children who were willing to delay gratification and wait for the time to run out ended up having higher SAT scores, lower levels of substance abuse, decreased likelihood of obesity, improved stress response, better social skills, and a range of other long-term benefits [2].

 

Benefits of Delaying Gratification

            There are many benefits that go along with implementing it in our own lives. The main areas where it has the greatest effect are your financial success, long-term health outcomes, fitness, career success, and relationship health. [1] Fortunately, the benefits of practicing it in one area can bleed over and benefit how you experience, and perform in other facets of your life as well.

 

            Do you look forward to having the mental fortitude to continue pursuing your goals when the going gets tough? Do you want it to be a habit, so when you reach a difficult period of your life, you don’t even have to think about seeking immediate relief and satisfaction, you’re focused to keep pursuing your goals?

 

            This is what practicing delayed gratification is all about… Building up the strength of will to invest in your future.

 

            Those who learn to manage their need to be instantaneously satisfied generally experience more fulfilling careers and relationships, better health, and exhibit more control over their finances and their ability to achieve their financial goals. On top of this, it also helps lead to achieving your long-term goals more quickly than if you were to give in to your every whim along the way [1].

            Many great philosophers have been advocates of delayed gratification throughout history, starting as far back as Aristotle.

 

            He noticed the cultural norms of ancient Greece led individuals to seek out Band-Aid solutions and temporary comforts. Many were unhappy, and according to Aristotle, they were confusing pleasure for happiness, as they weren’t investing in their futures, only seeking out that next quick-fix to their problems [1].

 

Sounds familiar in relation to today’s society doesn’t it?

 

How to Begin Practicing Delayed Gratification

            One of the foremost examples of one’s ability to implement delayed gratification is their ability to save money now towards a long-term purchase or financial security goal. So, of course, this is a great place to start!

 

            Making the actual decision to save is the hard part, but if you have trouble with the process these are a few steps that can help you:

1.       Set your goal

2.      Budget your money: dedicate what you need to your necessities (like food and rent), a set amount to your savings, and a final portion to fun things like movies and entertainment.

3.      Don’t drift away from your budget

4.      Enjoy the benefits of achieving your goal!

             This can work just as well if applied to anything… Fitness and health?

1.       Set your goal

2.      Budget your time: dedicate what you need to your necessities (work, sleep, and meals), a set amount to exercise, and a final portion to fun things like movies and entertainment.

3.      Don’t drift away from your budget

4.      Enjoy the benefits of achieving your goal!

            Eventually you won’t even need to budget things out as your self-efficacy increases. It doesn’t need to be this complicated. Practicing delayed gratification can be as simple as:

 

Don’t eat the burger now… Eat the chicken and salad when you get home

OR

Don’t watch TV now… Get your exercise in and relax later

OR

Don’t have a cigarette now… Keep up your effort towards quitting

 

            In the long run you’ll be able to consciously practice delayed gratification without stressing over the deprivation you may go through to reach your goal. The bleed-over effect that comes from practicing it in one aspect of your life will also help you be more effective in almost every other area.

 

            Do you already practice delayed gratification? Are you on the journey towards achieving your long-term goals? Let us know what you’re working on, and what you’ve achieved through this core life practice, and always remember to take it one step at a time!

  

 

Author: Kyle Rawlek

Published: May 13, 2019

 

References:

1.       Ilene Strauss Cohen PhD. The benefits of delaying gratification. Psychology today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/your-emotional-meter/201712/the-benefits-delaying-gratification. Published December, 2017. Accessed May 9, 2019.

 

2.      James Clear. 40 years of Stanford research found that people with this one quality are more likely to succeed. James clear. https://jamesclear.com/delayed-gratification. Published 2018. Accessed May 9, 2019.

 

3.      Fiscal Fitness PHX. 10 quotes about delayed gratification. Fiscal Fitness. https://fiscalfitnessphx.com/10-quotes-about-delayed-gratification/. Published November, 2015. Accessed May 10, 2019.

 

4.      Brendan Baker. 5 strategies for delayed gratification and why you should do it. Start of Happiness. https://www.startofhappiness.com/power-delayed-gratification/. Published November, 2012. Accessed May 9, 2019.

 

5.      Shane Trotter. How delayed gratification shapes your health. Breaking muscle. https://www.breakingmuscle.com/fitness/how-delayed-gratification-shapes-your-health. Published Unknown. Accessed May 9, 2019.

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