Why is delayed gratification so hard?

This is me most of the time: “I want something, I want it NOW!”. Delayed gratification, however, is our ability to resist temptations of instant pleasure. And for me, it’s not easy…

A 1960’s Stanford professor named Walter conducted the Marshmallow Experiment. A group of children were brought to a room. In the room, one white fluffy marshmallow stared at each of them. At this point, the researcher told each child that he was going to leave the room. If the child didn’t eat the marshmallow while he was away, they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow. However, if the child did eat the marshmallow, they wouldn’t get a second. These children were studied years later and were found to be more focussed, disciplined, and happier in a number of different areas of life if they had chosen not to eat the first marshmallow. These results shocked everyone. Delayed gratification is exactly this: resisting the temptation of an immediate reward in anticipation that there will be a greater reward later.

One of the most relevant examples in my own life has been around giving in to urges when it comes to food. I remember as a tween I couldn’t resist the sugary glazed iced cookies sitting on the top shelf of my pantry. It would never be long before I found myself binge eating. However, delayed gratification is when instead of feeling the satisfaction of consuming delicious foods by giving into intense cravings, we get to feel the gratification of being healthier in the long term. Since the past few months, I’ve significantly cut down on my sugar and carbs. I can genuinely attest that my body has never felt better.

Another example from my personal experiences is when it comes to physical pleasure. When I scroll through Shien or Amazon and spot a pink comfy cotton top with the perfect mix of cute and elegant, in my mind I’m telling myself: Saania, you NEED to buy this! But living the student life has made me realise that money doesn’t grow on trees and I’ll be way better off saving.

The final example I can think of is when someone speaks over me or is just too full of themselves, I have trouble controlling my urge to give them a piece of their mind. Often in a not-so-polite manner. However, this reaction leads to arguments where no one emerges victorious. (This doesn’t change the fact that sometimes you really do need to teach people a lesson 🙄).

Generally speaking, I think success comes down to choosing the pain of discipline over the ease of distraction. And knowing our values reminds us of what we’re working towards. For instance, I see beauty in kindness and in clean, healthy lifestyles. As a result, it has started to become easier to remind myself of my purpose when I experience someone messing with me or when a big fluffy marshmallow stares at me, too. Regardless, it isn’t easy. With my teenage hormones and urge to fulfil every momentary desire, good luck keeping all that in mind Saania! Baby steps, baby steps…

– SaaniaSparkle 🧚🏻‍♀️

61 thoughts on “Why is delayed gratification so hard?

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