Is instant gratification the root of all evil, or are we just using it wrong?
If there’s one thing that will always get in the way of your long-term goals, it’s the appeal of instant gratification. I attribute it to a cheesy after school special: You know, the one about peer pressure where the cool girl you want to impress is passing you the lit cigarette – but smoking is bad.
Dun dun dunnnn!
If you take a drag, you’ll become part of the popular crowd. So you do, and you feel awesome… until the mound of guilt ensues. It’s not long before you want to slap yourself in the face for what you’ve done, which is the same feeling we get from instant gratification. Compound these hasty, short-term, rush-rush-rush decisions over time and your life becomes… well, total chaos.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve fallen into this ridiculous rabbit hole. Regardless of your intentions, giving in to instant gratification means you’re giving up what you want to achieve down the road (something I will forever want to say to my 18-year-old self). That being said, there is one incredibly easy way to use instant gratification to your advantage:
Anytime you feel the urge, do the opposite.
For many of us, we feel like instant gratification is built into our DNA – we hardly remember what it feels like to wait for our dial-up Internet to connect, or wait for a letter in the mail, or save for something instead of using credit, or, remember that thing where you wait for your pictures to be developed? Pffft. But if you’re like me and you miss this mindful way of experiencing life, the only thing you can do is the exact opposite of what you’re doing now.
Let’s face it: You have these grand aspirations for your life, and you’re not getting anywhere with them. Sometimes you even feel like you’re going backwards. You’ve tried everything. Nothing’s worked, and why? Because you can’t stick to anything longer than five minutes before turning into Dug from “Up” (“Squirrel!”).
You know that anything worthwhile takes a ton of time, a ton of effort, and a ton of chutzpah. You also know that instant gratification is like a sugar high with an inevitable crash that feels worse than that hangover you had after that wedding you went to. To get off the hamster wheel, just stop running.
Instead of scanning an article, read it. Instead of lunging at your phone every time it beeps, get back to people when you’re done what you’re doing. Instead of looking for the fastest way to do something, look for the highest quality way. Take. Your. Time. That’s what it’s there for.
Draw a line in the sand between your past decisions and future decisions. Label your past decisions “old me” and future decisions “new me.” When faced with a decision, big or small, ask yourself, “What would the old me do?” Then do the opposite. Your body will gradually transition from chronically panicked to neutral, but (ironically) the process takes time.
Soon, you won’t have to be so analytical about your decisions; they’ll feel perfectly natural. Soon, you’ll look back on all of your hasty decisions and participate in the world’s most epic face palm. Soon, you’ll look forward to soon in a now that isn’t so blurry.
How do you handle your need for instant gratification?
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