How to Handle Instant Gratification: Instant Pleasure or Long-Term Fulfillment?

By Carrie Sullivan

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There’s a reason why 78% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck: Lack of self-discipline in forgoing instant gratification over long-term fulfillment.  Even though we know it’s wrong when we’re doing it (and we know we’re going to regret it afterward) we still do it

We succumb to instant gratification.  

We just can’t seem to stop ourselves!  But seriously, if it were easy we would all be living the dream.

Instant Gratification

Instant gratification is short-lived and the ramifications long-term are far more devastating than the small high of immediate satisfaction.  

We buy things because we think we need it to make us happy or to impress others and keep up with the Joneses.  I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to justifying instant gratification. 

Things like:

  • Taking out a loan to buy a new car
  • Spending money from my paycheck on entertainment before paying expenses that are due
  • Making impulse (unbudgeted) purchases on Amazon.  

I would tell myself I need a reliable vehicle, and of course, we *all* know the only reliable vehicles out there are brand new ones with all the bells and whistles (sarcasm intended). I would convince myself that I deserve a night out or that I was “saving myself money” by taking advantage of a sale on something I didn’t really need. In fact, I would have saved 100% by not buying it at all!

Although we think we’re going to be happy by allowing ourselves that instant gratification and immediate pleasure, we learn time and time again that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, that instant gratification we are so sure is the answer to our happiness always ends up being short-lived and quickly replaced with feelings of regret, anxiety, and buyer’s remorse!  We soon grow tired or bored with the shiny new object that we had to have, at any cost, and start looking for the next big thing we think will make us happy.  

Unless we start to take a hard, long look at our habits and behaviors this pattern of self-destruction will continue to repeat itself over and over again.

Delayed Gratification

Delayed gratification, when practiced, offers true fulfillment and happiness.  It helps improve our focus and self-control, which allows us to successfully achieve and realize our long-term vision and goals much quicker.  Delayed gratification isn’t easy.  In fact, it’s downright painful in the beginning because you have to learn how to change your behavior and habits and quit trying to use the easy button for instant gratification.  You must be willing to put in the hard work and make the tough sacrifices in the short-term to reap the benefits of long-term freedom and fulfillment.    

Here are some techniques to help you develop a “Delayed Gratification” mindset:

  • Set your short and long term goals, in writing,  You are more likely to commit to your goals when you are clear on what you want and you can visually look at them every day.
  • Know your “Why”!  Why do you want to achieve your goals?  Your “Why” has to be something big enough to keep you motivated and inspired enough to stay on target.  Maybe you want to have more free time to spend with your family so your goal might be to pay off debt so you can free up your cash flow and work fewer hours.

Delayed gratification may not be easy to do, but it’s not impossible.  

Just like anything new, you have to choose to think differently and re-train your brain to change the way you’ve done things in the past.  In the beginning, it takes a lot of mental and/or physical work, but you can train yourself to change your behaviors and habits to align with your values and beliefs.  When you define what’s important to you through your values and beliefs and develop a clear vision on “Why” you want it and how to get there, you are able to make better, informed choices to get you to your destination quicker!

What are your top 3 values?  Do your financial habits align with your values? Join the email list to receive regular tips on how to get financial freedom starting with your mindset!

About Carrie:

Family Money Mindset Coach with love and passion for family values and life-long learning.

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