How do you to react to impulses? Do you give in immediately or do you resist the temptation and make a rational decision to satisfy that impulse at a time and place of your choosing? The issue of gratification is one of the most studied in psychology. Delayed gratification of your desires generally leads to greater rewards in the future compared to the instant gratification of your desires.
In psychology, it is called willpower or self-control and the ability to exercise willpower is very critical to the success of an individual. One of the central components of the willpower is delaying your gratification to a later date and time of your choosing. When we exercise willpower, we put off what we want now so that we are able to get something even better at a later time.
It is a situation where choose the long term reward over the immediate gratification of our desires. It can also be a challenging and risky challenge in our lives. This is because when you put off a reward to later date, you are also sacrificing something in you. But it is a very important component in the achievement of our goals, a fact that has been widely proven through empirical research methods. It does not only positively influence the achievement of your goals, it will also be critical to your long term success in your life. One of the most popular psychological experiments that studied the effect of delayed gratification was the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment.
The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment
In this experiment, a researcher offered kids a treat and gave them two options. They could either have the treat immediately or wait a short while and get two treats. He then left the room and many of the kids ate their snacks immediately but some of them waited so as to get the reward of two snacks for the wait.
On studying the subjects, the researcher found that the kids who had waited had several advantages over those that had eaten their marshmallows immediately. For example, they performed better academically than those who ate their treats immediately. They also had fewer behavioral problems and got higher SAT scores. Later on in the life, they had bigger achievements than those who had been unable to resist the urge to eat the treats immediately.
Why Waiting is Hard
Delayed gratification is always very difficult and only a few people are generally able to master it. One of the reasons why it is difficult to exercise willpower and wait is that the rewards of delayed gratification are not always guaranteed in real-life. Because of this uncertainty in life, many people find it difficult to postpone immediate gratification. A goal that will happen in the future seem so far away and many feel they might not live even long enough to reach it. They consider the “bird in hand” a better guarantee and low hanging fruit that they can easily pick without much uncertainty.
Delayed gratification is always difficult because we are often uncertain about the future. The future does not hold any guarantees and it might just not deliver on the wait. Some psychologists suggest that immediate gratification might not necessarily be an irrational surrender to the impulses but a rational decision that we make subconsciously on calculating the odds of the benefits of the delayed gratification which are always uncertain.
Increasing your ability to delay gratification
Given the empirically proven benefits of delaying your gratification, it is important to learn how best to master delayed gratification. Here are some important steps that you can undertake in order to train your eyes on the future rewards rather than your immediate needs:-
Give Clear Time-Frames:-If you are not sure about the expected time-frames of achieving the rewards for the delayed gratification, it is important to give yourself a set and well defined time-frame over which you expect to harvest the rewards. Do not leave things to the hands of fate.
Put realistic deadlines: It is not just necessary to have deadlines but the deadlines must also be realistic based on your abilities. A more realistic goal enables you to easily see the results of your efforts.
Delayed gratification is not easy but it is critical for success. It takes considerable effort in order to impose your willpower on things for you to achieve particular results. But the willpower is like a muscle. The more you train it for the delayed gratification, the more you will be able to deploy it almost effortlessly.