Instant gratification vs. ultimate fulfillment – is about being mindful?


It’s the age of instant gratification. We want things, and we want them now.

We can grab food on-the-go and create an entire story in 160 characters or less.

Delayed gratification seems long forgotten.

We want everything right now and red-hot.

I’ll admit that instant gratification can give you a relief at times, especially when you’ve been grinding towards those long-term goals. It gets you out of a rut.

But, like most things, instant gratification can be habit-forming, and by falling prey to its appeal, you may find yourself increasing not trying.

That extra glass of wine could turn into too many. That extra piece of cake one too many times could lead to a bit of extra weight more and more. Buying things just because you want them right now could lead to increased debt.

I confess. Just like anyone else, I’ve been lured into the easy route. I’ve spent too much, eaten too much, and neglected exercise.

Often, a problem I’ve had has happened because I was too quick to act on my impulses.

Before you think this is a load of nonsense and that “get it now” attitude is the way to go, I want to discuss the virtues of delayed gratification.

Delayed Gratification Is the Key to Success

Have you heard of the marshmallow test? It’s a legendary study in the art of childhood self-control.

In the 1960s, Walter Mischel, a Stanford psychologist, offered four-year-old children a choice. They could either eat one marshmallow right then or wait and get two marshmallows.

A follow-up study later found that the kids who waited for two marshmallows became adults with exceptional self-control. In fact, 10 years after the study, the kid’s parents described them as more socially and academically competent than their peers, and better able to resist temptation and cope with frustration.

From the core of this study, it was discovered that the ability to wait for things is immensely important. When we lack self-control, we run into trouble, be it in the form of mental and physical health, savings, financial security or criminal convictions and a host of other aspects.

There Are Pros and Cons

Like anything, instant gratification has its pros and cons. Yes, you can make quicker decisions, you can rationalize speed with fast results and, especially in the era of all things digital, you can rapidly digest masses of information.

But, quick decisions are often rash. You tend to lose the importance of human communication skills, and too much information can trivialize it all.

So, what can you do try and pull back on the urge for instant gratification and really work on ultimate fulfillment?

It’s about living mindfully.

4 Steps to Help You Control the Urges and Seek Ultimate Fulfillment
  1. Be conscious of the urges
We’ve all got urges. We want to eat something we maybe shouldn’t, we want to check our social media and email a hundred times a day, we find distractions to put off doing what’s important. That doesn’t mean we have to act on any of those urges. To live more mindfully, you need to watch your urges. I like to carry a pen and paper on me, and every time I have an urge, I write it down instead of acting on it. That way, I give myself the chance to pause instead of act. I put space between the urge and my action.
  1. Make conscious decisions
If you do decide to give in to your urge once you’ve written it down, you can make it a conscious choice rather than doing it on a whim. You can decide it is a healthy, positive thing for you to do, that it’s right for your body or bank balance. A conscious decision is better than just trying to instantly gratify those urges.
  1. Use that learning curve
Of course, there are going to be times when you give in to your urges, we’re all human. The trick is to be mindful of how you feel afterward and decide whether or not it was a good decision. The more you make conscious, mindful decisions, the more you’ll find yourself on the path to ultimate fulfillment.
  1. Enjoy the moment anyway
Life is meant to be enjoyed. Yet, there are different ways to enjoy it without giving in to impulse. You can eat a donut even though you feel you’re not supposed to, or you can write down the urge, consider it, take a breath and move on. You can mindfully enjoy a piece of fruit instead.

Either way, our decisions can lead to happiness if done consciously and mindfully.

Living mindfully and seeking ultimate fulfillment rather than instant gratification may not be easy at first, but it can be done. You may just be surprised with the benefits.

Think of a time when you last did something on impulse. How did it make you feel?

Go on, write it down, think about it, and start your path towards mindful, long-term fulfillment right now.


“As we get past our superficial material wants and instant gratification we connect to a deeper part of ourselves, as well as to others, and the universe.”

-Judith Wright


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