Stay Focused Friday!

5 steps to help you stop confusing instant gratification with reward

Why do I find myself skipping out on exercise as a “reward” for being good with my choices in the food I’ve eaten? Or, even worse, rewarding myself with a 1000 calorie desert on a Friday night since I’ve been so good on my “diet” all week! Sound familiar to you?

The Hang-up of Instant Gratification:

Dorota Klop-Sowinska says, “Our society is obsessed with short-term pleasure. In fact, most advertisements and marketing companies are making use of this weakness. Have you seen these advertisements of companies that promise you will feel better after overeating or drinking if you buy and take their pills? Why do they not just recommend stopping overeating or drinking? Simple. Because it does not cater to our short-term instincts.

Forgoing instant gratification for long-term success is possible, but it is painful. Maybe not physically, but trust me, emotionally, it will beat you up! However, if you are determined to tackle this hang-up of giving in to what sounds good now but doesn’t align with your long-term goals and dreams, follow these 5 steps.

1. Recognize what’s happening
Recognize your triggers by figuring out what long-term goal you’re exchanging for short-term pleasure. An example could be a craving you give in to because not giving in to it causes temporary emotional or physical pain. So, instead of the more difficult task of battling it out, you choose the much easier option, and give in to the craving. In this example, the reality is, a craving usually last for a very short time and then it goes away. As another example, if you are kicking the habit of sugar, the physical pain of headaches will only last for a couple days. The short-term pleasure of giving in to sugar to subside the headache may sound great now, but it doesn’t align with your long-term goal of kicking the habit. If you give in, you will have feelings of guilt, frustration, and disappointment, which are far more painful in the long-term then the temporary reaction the headaches cause by a drop in your sugar consumption. Take some time to think through the choices you’re making and work hard to practice discipline. This is the first step in tackling the hang-up of instant gratification.

2. Focus on what your future reward will be
The second step is to constantly envision what your future reward will be. Maybe you’re
considering changing companies or your career for a pay increase or a better chance of moving up, but you keep procrastinating on updating your resume and applying for the new position. The pain of taking the time out of your already packed schedule seems overwhelming, so you cash in your long-term goal for temporary comfort. Take time to focus on how different your future will be if you earn more money or have a higher-level career. Focusing on the future reward can help you tackle the hang-up of instant gratification.

3. Trick your brain
You may be a long way from achieving your goal. The thought of delayed gratification months down the road or even years, is more than your brain can handle. You can trick your brain by giving in to short-term pleasures that align with your long-term desires. For example, instead of treating yourself to a high calorie desert as a reward for eating healthy all week, treat yourself to a spa day instead. This short-term pleasure meets your long-term goal of being healthy. Write down a few short-term pleasures that will help you achieve your future success, so you can be ready for battle when the instant gratification desire sneaks up on you.

4. Stop confusing disappointment with disaster
No one is perfect, so you can be sure that one day you will make a mistake and give in to your short-term pleasure and forget your long-term goals. This is NOT disaster. It is simply a disappointment. What happens after you make the mistake will determine if it becomes a disaster or not. What tends to happen, is after we mess up, we throw in the towel completely on our success and decide to just give up. When that happens, your mistake becomes a disaster. On the other hand, if you can quickly recognize that you simply made a mistake, forgive yourself, and restart, you can be successful in tackling the instant gratification hang-up.

5. Find someone to keep you accountable
Don’t’ expect to tackle instant gratification without accountability. Find a mentor, coach, a friend, a co-worker, or anyone who will help you stay on track and hold you accountable. Additionally, surround yourself with a great community of people who are on the same path as you to fulfill their goals and who will cheer you on when you feel defeated or feel like giving up. I may have saved accountability as the last step, but it’s not least. Accountability is a necessity for sure!

The experience of long-term success in achieving your goals and dreams will not happen without experiencing short-term discomfort, but if you follow these 5 steps to tackling the hang-up of instant gratification, you can do it, and it will be worth your efforts!

Kim Martin