Instant Gratification or Long Term Success?
We live in a world where pretty much anything is available now – and so, we want it now. This goes from greasy fast food through to Instagram likes, from same-day delivery packages through to on-demand movies and music. We allow speed and convenience to become a major factor in our buying decisions and slow service instantly equates to a bad Facebook or TripAdvisor review. We’re obsessed.
Recently, I’ve been consuming a lot of business content from people who I view as being some of the best in the world at what they do; people who are successful in the business world in a number of different fields. Taking in all of this new knowledge and then examining our present world, I can’t help but wonder how this now-culture of instant gratification is damaging us in the long run and if there any steps we can take to combat it?
The Marshmallow Experiment
Instant gratification is all part of being human in some way or another and it has most probably always been a part of human nature. However, although in some instances it can be positive (such as in the workplace to increase levels of productivity), I believe in this day and age in particular, instant gratification can be a hindrance to long-term success. I’m sure you’ve heard of the saying “good things take time”?
In the 1970’s, psychologist Walter Mischel conducted a series of studies on delayed gratification, in which a group of young children were offered the choice between one small reward now or two small rewards approximately 15 minutes later (the reward was usually a marshmallow or a cookie). In follow up studies years after the initial experiment, it was found that those who waited for the 2 small rewards rather than the 1 immediate reward tended to have better life outcomes or were ‘more successful’.
The results of this experiment correlated perfectly with the stories I’ve been discovering recently from the lives of successful business people (including Tim Ferriss, Marie Forleo and Tim Urban among many others – Google them!) who all pretty much relay the same message: that if you focus on the long-term goal rather than immediate gratification, the rewards will be much more fruitful.
How to Remain Focussed
I put my hands up immediately to the fact that up until the latter stages of last year, I was putting more energy into seeking instant gratification rather than focussing on my long-term goals. Up until just a few years ago in fact, I would announce amazing ideas of what I was going to do online to my friends and followers, before actually putting anything into action – somehow resulting in me never actually doing them but filling me with an instant buzz from the number of likes and “woah, that’s amazing!”s I’d receive. It’s laughable now that I look back but this is the culture that we live in today; where we seek an increase in follower numbers, likes and comments online to validate us as people immediately, rather than focussing on what really matters and what will really benefit us in the long run.
So, in terms of our goals, how can we remain focussed on achieving long-term results and success in a culture that focuses on wanting, having and getting everything right now? Here are 5 tips that I find really useful…
Make it a daily practice to visualise yourself having already achieved your goal making it as real as possible in your mind, from what you can see and hear, to how you feel. Doing this will help you to align your focus, your body and your mind on whatever it is you’re working towards. This will make it real and possible to you.
Write your goal down somewhere where you can see it every single day. Maybe you pin it up near your workspace, or put it in your purse or wallet. Every so often, make sure you look at this piece of paper in order to remind you of what it is you’re working towards and how it is important to you.
I watched an interview with best-selling author Seth Godin, who uses this practice religiously. Filtering out or streamlining any day-to-day obstacles that don’t align with your goals will really focus your attention on where it matters. For this very reason, Seth doesn’t have a Twitter account!
- Do It Daily
Robert Collier once said, “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out” – and that basically sums it all up. Spend at least 30 minutes every day working towards your goal. Want to get fitter? Work out for 30 minutes everyday. Want to be a published writer? Write for 30 minutes everyday. You get the gist, right?
- Ask Yourself This Question
Twice a day, if not more, ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing right now taking me closer to or further away from my goal?” Trust me, this question helps to filter out the excuses and all the noise going on in our heads. Use this question and use it often!
It’s Your Choice
I know how difficult the battles are that result from comparing yourself to others online or even in the real world, who appear to have achieved much more than you or come across as being ‘more successful’ than you. This leads to wanting instant gratification or instant validation from others (no wonder there are now over 500 million active daily users on Instagram!) and we will do anything to get it. But, I believe if you stay focussed on just yourself and what you want to achieve and especially use the practices outlined above, life will be that much easier… and most importantly? Success will be yours. So, let me ask you now, what would you prefer: instant gratification or long-term success that keeps on giving? The choice is yours.