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Instant Gratification: Self Sabotage?

Updated on January 29, 2015

Marshmallows, Anyone?

Who would not love it? This soft and spongy, sugar candy most kids find delightful is also a fave of mine. I was a young girl prepped for church on an early sunday morning and would eagerly accede to going, though I hated laces of gold and silver braids on my sunday dress. It was all because of marshmallows that followed as promised to me by my Papa. It was always a lovely day for me and all went well because of my being obedient and behaved the rest of the day, but this is not what I meant to write.

We all heard of the Marshmallow Test or the Mashmallow Experiment, a series of studies on delayed gratification. Self-control is the critical factor here as it predicts ability to wait. The act of delaying gratification helps to strengthen the mind and shape our character, it builds our willpower, promotes higher levels of self-discipline, and teaches us about the value of patience. People with high self-control tend to stay calm when making risky decisions, so they are shielded from the stress that people with low self-control feel on making losses.

Self-control is not genetically predetermined, but can be taught. We have to be particularly clear on the importance of mindset and what is mindset? Most people believe that their basic qualities, like intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They also believe that talent alone creates success without effort, but this notion is wrong. Brains and talent are just the starting point. Our basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. Come to think of it and going back to the Mashmallow Experiment, the virtue of waiting and resilience can be honed and mastered as a skill.


The Quick Fix Age

Once, in my assigned undertaking at work I got the opportunity to travel to Singapore. Oh! It was a city where they take pride in their history, nature, wildlife, and cultural treasures. Their stories on culture were told through the great variety of food and delicacies enjoyed. So it was just surprising to check on one of the hotels that got this slogan: Try our Singaporean Express Buffet. Eat all you can in 30 minutes and pay just half the price.

When did it all begin, this urge to do it now, to get it over with? Why are we in such a hurry to save time? Do we believe it will give us immediate success or instant benefit perhaps?

So off I tried their offer. I said to myself, "it was quick, convenient, and inexpensive." I thought it was too rewarding and beneficial. Dear me, I lost my decorum, stuffing my mouth with lots of food.. with yet more and so on. I lost my civility and propriety gone. I lost my appetite for the rest of the day and the day following. So severe was my heartburn and dire nausea.

Can we not, instead of rushing through things spending time to save time, enjoy the time we try to save by taking things slow?

Hard Work and Self Discipline

After that experience, I know I did not feel great and thought I made a very poor choice that lead to all the negative consequence all because at that immediate time, I got the urge to satisfy a want not a need. I missed the real benefits of being patient and practicing discipline to achieve long term satisfaction. Instant gratification is short term.

So how does one strike a balance?

The proper mindset has to be considered. Here are some helpful points to consider:

1. Acknowledge that the process is not easy. Set a goal that is attainable through compliance and consistency.

2. Expecting things to be easier will lead to frustration and stress. As the process continues you will become stronger and have a better idea of what your limitations are.

3. Remember that the goal is to not achieve perfection, but to strive for a healthy balance. A balance is healthy and not an extreme of always achieving long term satisfaction nor always succumbing to instant gratification.

4. Identify your temptations that leads to instant gratification. Is it weight loss? Procrastination? An addiction? Buying habits? Financial planning? Sex or commitment in relationships? You can never start this journey without knowing what tempts you.

5. Identify your long term goals. You must know exactly what you want. Is it about saving? Investing? Plans of buying a home? Pay off debts? Once you define your specific goals, you need to work towards it.

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