The Art Of Delayed Gratification

The Art Of Delayed Gratification

I think it is safe to say that these days people are all about the instant solution, the instant fix on your pain with questionable medications, the instant gratification of that social media post bashing someone who doesn’t agree with you and of course the overnight success method or windfall of money.

I don’t state this as a bad thing by the way, so let’s take a quick look here at some facts behind why this could be…

The technological advancements in just these last 70 years trump that of the last few thousand years.

Just look at how fast we have moved through computing technologies….

The technology used in the first Apollo missions is now enclosed in the Iphone that every pimply faced kid has in his pocket. Really let that sink in for a second, that is incredible!

What this does to a generation and society for that matter is trains them to get instant answers to all their questions, after all the internet is always on and always there with things like Siri to help, Forums, and QA sites.

This naturally rubs off onto other areas of one’s life, and there is a misunderstanding that starts to surround problem and solution. Just because I can find an answer right now, or message that beautiful women right now on Instagram doesn’t mean I should be healed by tomorrow or send her a dick pic.

Overtime now you start to see this ability to have “instant” at our fingertips has future eroded the delay between finding and acting.

This is simply due to our immaturity with this technology.

I think back to this study published in 1972 that is deemed the “marshmallow experiment” which outlined this whole delayed gratification vs instant gratification argument beautifully.

Walter Mischel then did a follow up study in 1988 in which he found in short those same children went on to be significantly more competent.

Another follow up was done in 1990, which showed the ability to delay gratification led to higher SAT scores

In 2011 with new technology of fMRI machines these tests were revisited again and new tests devised to attempt to measure gratification and its effects on different areas of the brain.

What they saw was the prefrontal cortex (associated with executive decision) seemed to fire more in those kids that could delay and wait longer and a higher firing in the ventral striatum (associated with addiction) with those who were trying to fight the temptation to give in. [1]

It proved that those who are willing to wait, are in fact more successful than those who want it all now.

I want to note that this has nothing to do with deserving or abilities and has everything to do with patience, seeing the long term vision and ensuring one is in fact ready.

Not saying it’s impossible for someone to instantly remove all limitations, inner belief conflicts etc that are in the way of getting from here to there, just have never seen it.

Understand that this is something you see many people suffering from even famous people like Kanye West you see battling with the payoff and reward of posting instantly about your feelings and then coming back later on to remove it.

How to shift from Instant Gratification to Delayed Gratification?

So that leads one to naturally ask, how does one reprogram from instant gratification to delayed gratification?

Especially if you’re a sports fan and recently watched the Olympics where people like Michael Phelps (the most decorated Olympian ever) won yet again. Fun fact, Phelps has been swimming since around the age of 7.

How do we channel more of our inner Phelps and “play the long ball” here?

Me personally, I have been training myself on this for years now because you guessed it, I too was an instant gratification junkie.

At the moment of impulse, boom I was doing. This is a great character trait by the way when it comes to getting done work, study etc, it’s not so good when it comes to reactively responding to things you may not like.

The big thing you want to do is drive a wedge in between the moment of impulse and actual action or decision.

First let me breakdown the simple short term things you can do, then the longer term practices you can incorporate.

1.Delay your response- Sounds pretty straight forward but you want to delay posting your feedback on social media for a certain amount of time, then re-read your post and see if you still feel the same. If so then post, if not then don’t bother.

You can start to do that with other things too, I did it with this article for example- instead of just finishing, giving it a quick once over read I sat on it for a few days re-reading it a few times, proof reading outloud and then having a few close friends reading over it. This is to ensure I hit the points clearly and quickly.

2.Write it, don’t post it- The thing you have to understand is that this impulse you have to make that post, send that freshly taken dick pic you just snapped with perfect lighting or go on that emotional rant is not necessarily the best reflection of you.

So instead of trying to stop the habit itself we simply alter it a bit, write it all out in notepad, Evernote or Google Doc and sit on it. Don’t post it at all or share it with a few people close to you only. This allows the habit to run its loop and you to reap the reward of the payoff but without actually posting it publicly.

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I do this same thing when I have an idea hit me and I am in the middle of something else, out and about or just not in the mood to write or flesh something out, I will use a voice recorder app on my phone and record the whole idea or concept with its full emotion right then and there in the moment of it hitting me. Later on I will listen to it and if I feel the same then I have that inspiration caught on tape in its rawest form.


Over time by implementing these simple habit shifts you will see a big difference in YOU as an individual. First off you will be less reactive, and you will seek attention and EGO payoff less.

This also reinforces personal example and gives you proof that at a subconscious level will shift out old beliefs and limitations. Change itself is remarkably simple, it just requires a little time and effort.

Longer term strategies….

1.Meditation- The benefits of Meditation just keep stacking up the more its researched and applied in our current society. Meditation has completely taken off, not as crazy as Yoga but close to it. This applies to what we are talking about because it helps drive a wedge in between the moment of impulse and decision or reaction.[1]

It also helps remove/diminish the power of that voice inside our head that we think is us but in fact is not. This reflection time really helps us see ourselves for who we truly are and clear up old emotional loops.

2.Breathing- One of the first things a fresh Navy seal learns in their training is how to shift breathing patterns to bring forth more relaxation and awareness. This helps them in high pressure situations which they are sure to face in the battle field.

So they learn stomach breathing vs lung breathing and how to hold the space at the bottom and top of the breath to bring forth a very present feeling.

Old school yogis and spiritual teachers used to use breathing to reach altered states, no need for a psychedelic, you can do it with just your breath.

3.Later is worth it- Most people fall into the trap of right now vs waiting because they have a hard time seeing the future payoff or reward of working hard for something over time. This is due to our primary senses mostly, since we cannot feel, smell, see or hear the future it makes it hard for most to really stay the course.

If humans were great at goal setting, everyone would have more of what they wanted, the fact that we don’t has less to do with physical limitation and more to do with mental limitation.

Focusing on this future will take time, mental imagery and of course practice, over time you will gain clarity on this thing way “out there”. I wrote a post on the tools and daily/weekly structure that leads to long term goal accomplishment.

Again overtime these goals will change from being something that is hard to see to something that fuels you, drives you and motivates you to think completely differently with your time.

In the beginning, I used other people’s story as example who did what I was looking to do, that opens up the mind to the possibility of it, from there you start to build up your own examples of moments and situations where you in fact delay your gratification for this bigger goal or accomplishment.

As you continue to go through life and stack up this “proof”, this changes you as an individual and as you start to push more and more, build up your memory banks with rich stories of you waiting and holding in there, you build the muscle and reflex of doing it.


In Conclusion

Delayed gratification is not a character trait that only some people have, its not a brain malfunction or a disease that needs a pill. It is simply a muscle that the more we train the stronger it becomes until we are living and breathing that version of ourselves.

You have to start with being open to the possibility that this can happen for you, once you’re open then you need to find other people who started off an instant gratification junkie- like me, that have in fact changed their ways and use that as motivation as you transition yourself.

Simply look for proof and build up your “story bank” with situations where you in fact waited the course and that will start to shift out those older beliefs that you believed to be true for so long.

And finally, over time you will have cultivated this trait to wait, put in blind faith to this thing out there and work towards it.