10 Benefits of Delayed Gratification
In today’s society, the concept of delayed gratification seems almost quaint. Thanks to technological advances and near-instantaneous access to cash, it is relatively easy to get what you want exactly when you want it. Most retailers have online stores, provide in-store credit cards, and offer fast delivery. As a result, you might not ever have to wait long for any product. Some may even offer same-day delivery. The internet has also made gaining access to a variety of services much easier. For example, if you are thinking about suing your neighbor you can get a ton of legal information just by browsing online. You may even be able to chat with a lawyer without leaving your home. Thanks to instant messaging, email, and texting, we do not even need to wait long for responses.
Our culture’s obsession with instant gratification does make many things in life easier. Unfortunately, it does not necessarily make them better. Simply because you can buy something on credit and have it delivered tomorrow does not mean it is a good idea. There are morals, lessons, and values that can be found in learning to delay gratification. It can be hard to learn. After all, society has not exactly trained us to be experts in self-control. Thanks to our ability to access anything at virtually any time, learning how to exercise willpower may be tricky. However, it is a skill that will help you in all areas of your life. There are numerous benefits for your mind, body, pocketbook, and lifestyle to learning the value of waiting.
10Teaches Benefit Of Hard Work
Learning how to delay gratification will teach valuable lessons about the true benefit of hard work. For example, saving your money instead of spending it frivolously will give you a renewed appreciation for the work you put into earning that money. Reckless spending is usually the result of giving into the desire for instant gratification. Not having something you can proudly show for the work makes it hard to value your paycheck. In turn, it makes it harder to find job satisfaction. Delaying gratification reinforces the value of your work.
Saving up for something over several paychecks is hard work in and of itself. There are countless temptations to dip into those savings for something else. The longer it takes to save the more temptations you may face. Continuing to save rather than caving to the pressure to spend your money elsewhere requires prioritization and careful goal creation. Once you have made your eventual purchase, you will appreciate the hard work that went into obtaining it. Finally having a highly sought after item will reinforce the importance of prioritization and goal making as well. Learning to delay gratification will help you discover the true value of the work you need to put into obtaining the item or service. Not only will you appreciate your on-the-job work, but you can also feel proud for your ability to wait, and to prioritize appropriately.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s a psychologist named Walter Mischel conducted a series of experiments on children about self-control and delaying gratification. These results are often reported together using the term the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment. The subjects were children around the age of six when the experiments began, and researchers followed the children throughout their lives. The test itself was very simple. The kids were left alone in a room with a marshmallow for fifteen minutes. If they did not eat the marshmallow, they were told they could get two of them later. Simply put, the children had to choose between instant gratification and a potential payoff if they wait. Researchers found that the children who waited grew up to have higher levels of self-motivation than their peers who did not wait. As a result, they had fewer behavioral issues, were more dependable, and had much better grades. These types of results followed them into adulthood, with the children who were able to wait having better earning jobs.
The lesson the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment teaches is that being able to delay gratification leads to greater success later on in life. It reinforces the importance of having a lot of self-motivation. This lesson is simple, but learning it early has powerful benefits. Applying it to your own life as an adult can seem hard, but you can use the same sorts of strategies the children in the experiment used. Distraction was a common one, as was focusing on the end goal instead of the temporary temptation.
8Learn And Teach Impulse Control
Impulse control is something many of us struggle with, regardless of age or status. However, learning how to control our impulses is crucial to day-to-day life. At best, poor impulse control can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle and financial difficulties. At worst, impulse control can lead to reckless behavior and addictions. Learning to delay your own gratification, and to plan for future events or purchases can help reinforce good impulse control. Seeing that there is a benefit to waiting can reinforce the advantages of impulse control. Over time, practicing delayed gratification will lead better control over your impulses in just about every area of your life. In some cases there is a bit of freedom that comes from being able to act impulsively. However, those circumstances are limited and can only present themselves if you are able to practice impulse control on a regular basis.
Teaching your child impulse control is one of the most valuable lessons you can give them. It is much easier to learn if you learn young, before getting into the habit of practicing poor impulse control. Children are sponges, however, and despite your best intentions, if they see you behaving impulsively it will encourage them to do the same. If they see the enjoyment that comes from not behaving impulsively and delaying gratification, they will pick up on that behavior instead. Be careful of even seemingly minor things like picking up a pack of gum impulsively at the cash register. Children see everything, so try and reinforce impulse control lessons where you can. Over time, they will understand the value of waiting.
Delaying gratification can impact every area of your life, including your health and well-being. One way most of us indulge in instant gratification is through the foods we eat. In a misguided effort to save time, most of us turn to fast food. Fast food is available just about everywhere, and can give you a meal that you can eat now without waiting. Unfortunately, fast food is incredibly unhealthy. Caving to the temptation of instant gratification by ordering it on a regular basis can lead to health risks later on down the road. It is much better for you and your body to delay that gratification and spend the time cooking healthy food instead. You can make a meal that is just as flavorful and healthier.
Delaying gratification can also have huge benefits to your mental health. Repeated studies have shown that people who delay gratification are happier and enjoy life more. These individuals also report feeling calmer in general, and more goal-orientated. Individuals who suffer from mental health challenges in particular can benefit from learning how to delay gratification. While it is initially uncomfortable to delay acting on those immediate impulsive urges, over time, it encourages the individual to develop healthier coping mechanisms. As a result, they report fewer distressing symptoms and greater adaptability. Resisting those impulsive urges also leads to a better financial situation. This lack of financial stress can also have huge benefits to your mental health, and in some cases you physical health as well.
In most cases, resisting the urge to impulsively purchase a product now will save you money later. Even if you decide to save up for that item or experience, you may still find that you are able to do so and save money at the same time. Some consumers turn to credit cards or in-store lines of credit to get immediate access to a product or service. Use of credit in this way can often lead to high interest rates and expensive annual or monthly fees. Choosing to save up for an item and purchasing it without relying on credit saves you a lot of money. You may even decide that you no longer want that particular item after saving for a few weeks. That can turn into extra money for something else you may be waiting to purchase.
Over time, resisting your impulse to buy something immediately can save you a lot of money. Turning down random chocolate bars and other impulse purchases can sometimes turn out to be a savings of fifty dollars per month. When you save up to purchase an item or experience, you also have a bigger window to take advantage of any sales or deals. Saving for an item rather than purchasing it on the spot will always result in bigger savings to you. You may also find that delaying gratifications saves you money in surprising areas as well. For example, cooking healthy foods at home instead of buying them pre-cooked can save you a surprising amount of money each month.
5Be More Appreciative
Appreciation is another skill that comes with learning how to delay gratification. Individuals who save up their money and make careful decisions about their purchases find that they appreciate those items much more. They also appreciate the hard work, the planning, and their own effort that went into obtaining those items. When people spend money recklessly or frivolously, they do not have the same level of appreciation. Both the money spent and the items purchased are not as valued as much as they would have been if the purchase had been delayed. Waiting to make major purchases or to go on vacations will lead to a bigger sense of appreciation for the product or event when you are able to experience it.
Appreciating a purchase can make it last longer. For example, a person who saves up for a laptop over the course of a few months will appreciate it much more than someone who bought one impulsively. Delaying that gratification means that you now have a goal in mind, to purchase the laptop. Working to achieve that goal over the course of months will make you appreciate the end result, the laptop, that much more. In some cases, this will lead to the product lasting longer. Someone who has saved up for something will likely care for it better than someone who does not have the same appreciation for its value. Over time, waiting to make major purchases can lead to fewer repairs and more money in your pocket.
4Develop Healthier Habits
Practicing delayed gratification requires the acquisition of numerous other skills. Individuals need to be able to carefully plan, to set achievable goals, and to resist temptation. When a person becomes proficient in these areas, they find that delaying gratification becomes much easier. Eventually, it can become second nature. This does take time and effort, but learning how to plan, resist temptation and goal-set will eventually make delaying gratification that much easier. These skills can be challenging to develop on their own, but have numerous applications across your life.
Goal setting, for example, is an important skill that not many people learn. It involves setting achievable goals, and being specific in your language. A vague goal cannot be reached. However, turning a major purchase into an ultimate goal and setting out how you plan to achieve it will have results. Goal setting also requires careful planning, just as delayed gratification does. You may need to plan how to save, where the money will be held, and how long you need to save before you can achieve your goal. Careful planning like this will make it easier to avoid temptations and to monitor your progress towards your goal. These skills can be applied to almost every other area of your life. You can set out personal health, financial and business goals. Learning how to set specific, achievable goals will help you reach them. Figuring out how to plan your path towards your goal will always help you succeed. These skills are incredibly valuable on their own, and when combined can help drive you to success in any area you choose.
3Focus On Other Areas Of Gratification
Individuals who delay gratification on a regular basis report finding enjoyment in other areas of their lives. Delaying that major purchase does not mean that the individual does not have any joy until they are able to bring that item home. It does, however, force people to find that same type of joy and gratification in other areas of their lives. For many people this may involve rediscovering the joy of having a hobby. Other individuals may find that delaying gratification in one area of their lives leads to them enjoying small pieces of immediate gratification in others. For example, they may find that the anticipation of a new television makes them find more enjoyment in existing shows. Sometimes delaying gratification gives you time or money you may not otherwise have had, which can be a small joy in itself.
There is a myth that delaying gratification means delaying all gratification in a person’s life. While this simply is not so, it is a hard myth to dispel. Obviously finding no gratification without waiting months for it is not sustainable. Still, the myth persists to the point that people sometimes opt for instant gratification out of fear of the alternative. In reality, individuals who practice delayed gratification on a regular basis do report finding joy in other areas of their lives. Not getting the instant gratification that comes with an impulse purchase just means that a person will look for that gratification somewhere else. Everyone needs daily slices of joy, and delaying gratification with major purchases or decisions simply helps you find those small bits of joy in other areas.
2Ditch The Guilt
Whenever a person caves to the temptation of instant gratification, there is always a small element of guilt that goes along with it. In some cases, it is financial guilt after spending more than you should or purchasing an item on credit. This guilt can come back each month until the purchase is paid off, leading to financial and emotional distress. Individuals may also feel a bit guilty for the lesson that caving to temptation teaches younger ones in their lives. Despite the immediate benefit of making an impulsive decision, the long-term drawbacks can lead to unpleasant feelings. In some cases it can get so bad that the individual can no longer enjoy the original purchase at all. It can also lead to cases of consumer regret.
Even if you have not made a financially impulsive decision, refusing to delay gratification can still lead to feelings of guilt. For example, putting off a work project to attend a movie will inevitably lead to feelings of guilt. There will be guilt about not fulfilling work obligations, which will ruin the subsequent movie. Individuals may also feel guilty for not being entirely present while watching the movie, further ruining the experience. In the long run, it would have been easier to complete the project then see the film. Learning the skills required to delay gratification will lead to a lot less guilt in an individual’s life. As a result, they may find that they are happier, more at peace, and can enjoy life a lot more.
1Enjoy Things More
Delaying gratification will inevitably cause you to enjoy life more. There is virtually no drawback to delaying gratification in your own life, and only benefits. For example, choosing to cook a flavorful meal instead of ordering fast food will make you enjoy the meal better. Your food will taste better, not only because it is healthy and fresh but because you put the time in to cook it. Saving up for a major purchase or vacation will also help you enjoy it more. It ceases to become an impulsive item and transforms into a goal that you work towards. Even something as small as waiting until you are finished work before watching a movie will make you enjoy both your work and the movie more. You can watch without worrying about missing deadlines and you can work knowing that at the end of your day there is something pleasant waiting.
One study conducted by researchers from Cornell University, University of California-Berkeley and University of California-San Francisco found that waiting for a purchase actually makes people happier. The authors found that we find value in anticipation; that waiting to make the purchase or go on the vacation make us happier. Visualizing any goal will always make you work harder to reach it. Having pride in our work, and knowing that our hard work will pay off, will almost always result in an improved mood. This kind of drive makes people focused and task-orientated but also helps them feel like they are accomplishing something important.
While delaying gratification may seem like a notion from the past, it is actually more important now than ever before. In our instant-access culture, it is important to learn the value of slowing down, and of waiting. There are benefits to every area of our lives from learning how to wait. From saving us money to saving our health to inspiring motivation, delaying gratification is a transformative skill to learn. It can seem incredibly challenging, especially if you have not been in a position where waiting was required before. Researchers and psychologists agree that it is a skill that can be learned, but it does take a lot of hard work.
If you are finding it hard to learn how to wait, do not worry. You are not alone. There are many people who find it challenging to wait for something they have not needed to wait for in the past. Psychologists suggest trying distraction techniques, or to focus on the end goal without thinking of the intervening temptations. You may find it helpful to examine your own inner temptations in an effort to find a way to overcome them. For example, if you are tempted to spend your savings impulsively, you might want to find a savings account that is harder to access instantly. If you feel tempted by fast food on a nightly basis, consider altering your way home from work to avoid the drive through. There are small steps you can take to make learning this very valuable life skill much easier. Delaying gratification will have positive ripple effects throughout your life.