Delay the gratification


Delay the gratification

In this age of instant coffee, Instagram, Snapchat, same-day delivery service, on-demand movies and cabs, nobody likes to wait. We demand instant gratification. Everything has to happen now. Waiting is such a waste of time. Patience and tolerance have become quaint virtues of the past – as unusual as those handwritten letters of yore.

Although as a society we are said to save on time and become more productive in an accelerated environment, the incessant need for instant gratification has raised concerns about the development of character, ethics, relationships and even, mental health.

Getting what you want may temporarily calm you down, but the very next minute you are craving for something else, explains Dr Yesheswini Kamaraj, child and adolescent psychiatrist, Bengaluru. “We are caught up in this cycle of instantly getting things done and when it doesn’t happen, it leads to frustration, anger and intolerance,” she adds. Several professions and businesses prey on our weakness for instant gratification.

Is there a way out of this whirlpool? Yes, if we learn to control our impulses. Delayed gratification is a simple concept that can be applied in various aspects of life – health, relationships, wealth, happiness. It revolves around an age-old philosophy: A pleasure delayed is a pleasure enhanced.

“You delay gratification when you focus more on the long-term rather than being obsessed with the need of ‘now’ and ‘here.’ You prevent yourself from looking at it from a perspective of failure. You don’t feel it’s the end of the world if you don’t get something in life immediately,” says Dr Yesheswini.
The Delay Rationale Patience, tolerance, sacrifice and discipline are some of the unpopular or ‘not-so-cool’ words these days. Self-control or will-power helps you to forsake temporary rewards that are available immediately to get better, sensible and valuable rewards later on. “Delayed gratification is better because you forego things that you will get immediately for something that’s better over a long period of time. It has positive implications on how you perform, achieve and feel about yourself. It teaches us that we need to work hard to get what we want, and as a result, helps us appreciate the value of hard work,” says Dr Roshan Jain, senior consultant psychiatrist, Apollo Hospitals.

Value of things

How often have you spent on something that you didn’t really need, but bought it anyway just because you liked it? It’s easy to indulge on things that are readily available – clothes, cosmetics and other stuff that look good. Why bother to save and buy a fine piece of furniture that will last a decade when you can buy that visibly attractive piece that will last a season or two? Delayed gratification makes you value things better. You won’t take care of those things that you didn’t work hard on or value in the first place. 

Less is more

The incredible benefit of delaying delight is that you can still feel content and be a happier person with what you already possess. “I like to collect figurines and when I spotted a beauty the other day, I made up my mind to buy it, although it was a bit expensive. I knew I was splurging,” says Dhwani M Rai, a homemaker. Finally though, after much thought, she gave up the idea and returned home.

“After a month, when I looked back, I realised that my collection looks just fine without that addition,” she confides.Matter of inner strength Delayed gratification develops your inner strength to find motivation, get out of your comfort zone and persevere towards the end goal that you want to achieve. “When you push yourself to get up half an hour earlier and exercise every morning, you will give yourself profound health benefits for years to come,” says Dr Roshan. That’s not something you can say for all those fad diets and fitness regimes. “Exercising in the morning may not a comfortable thing for you. But the reward is the feel-good factor, wellness and good health over the years. You got to endure the discomfort to achieve a long-term goal,” he maintains.

Guilt-free pleasure

When you wait for something that you yearn, the pleasure is all yours to enjoy because you’ve worked for it. You’ve earned it; there’s no question of guilt. “We wanted to make our fifth anniversary memorable with an expensive getaway. Though we earn well, we decided to save from our monthly allowance. For several months, we loved the excitement of saving for something that’s a bit out of our reach, and when we went for the vacation finally, it was totally guilt-free,” says Shyam K.

High on happiness

When we increase the waiting period and stop seeking the stimuli for being instantly gratified every minute, the mind calms down and it’s within your control. “You will feel happy to know that your self-identity is not based on external things or people,” says Dr Yesheswini. Studies show that our brains experience pleasure when we’re in the pursuit of a goal. Many studies indicate that experiences bring more happiness than possessions. Therefore, anticipating an experience such as feeling fit after a fitness programme, or owning a house after years of hard work triggers a sense of excitement and pleasure.

Balancing actSince deferred gratification demands discipline and willingness to wait for the good things in life, there is a common misconception that it must be without any element of fun. Is it possible to spice up the journey towards the goal with some instant indulgence? Sure, you can make room for both, provided you do about it in a balanced manner. How about celebrating your efforts to work harder for a future goal with a small reward? For instance, if you’re watching your diet, you can reward yourself with little treats so that you don’t feel deprived.

Appreciation and approval are other forms of gratification. We seek comfort from other external sources when we suppress the need for approval. So, remember to give yourself a pat on your back every day for whatever it is that you are delaying the gratification for. It works!For a non-instant gratification plan to work, you need to be armed with some strategies. For instance, you need to be clear about what you value the most and what’s important to you.
It’s easier to delay gratification when you have a clear picture of what you want. If you don’t know where you want to head, it’s easy to get diverted by temptations that life throws your way. A goal is like the lighthouse that steers you in the right direction and helps you remain focused on the journey. A definite plan helps you confront unforeseen problems, when you’d want to divert from your problems by indulging in instant gratification that provides temporary comfort.

When the temptation is too hard to resist, your willpower comes into play. So, you need to work on that. For instance, if you know that you could be tempted with emails and feeds on your smartphone when you want to work on that important task, turn off email notifications or close your email client.

You can master the art of practising delayed gratification by turning it into a daily ritual, until it becomes a matter of habit – something that comes naturally to you. As author Mandy Hale puts it, “What you want and what you need aren’t always the same. Be willing to delay short-term gratification for long-term greatness.”

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