The Power of Delaying Gratification: Why You Should do It, and How

People who delay their gratification for a later day or time, end up having more success in all areas of life; financial, health, career and relationships. That’s a huge deal. So, what exactly is delay of gratification? It is the choice of not doing something now for something bigger later on. What you are doing is choosing self-discipline over the ease that distractions bring along with them.

Here is an example. You have homework tonight but you are tired and want to take a nap, you had a very long day. Instant gratification says, “a nap right now would feel great, go for it.” Delay of gratification says, “I will delay that nap so I can do my homework now in order to obtain something later on” (in this case, a degree).

In 1972 one of the biggest research studies on delay of gratification was launched. It is known as the “Marshmallow Study.” It was a longitudinal study of 40 years. Researchers had young children come in, sit down and then they placed a marshmallow in front of them. Researchers told the children they would be leaving the room and if they did not eat the marshmallow while they were gone, when the researcher got back, they would get two marshmallows. When the researchers left the room, many of the children ate the marshmallow instantly. Some children paced back and forth and then ate the marshmallow anyway. Other children, delayed the instant gratification of eating the marshmallow now for the bigger token in the end, two marshmallows. Over the course of 40 years the subjects were assessed. The researchers found that those who delayed gratification had higher SAT scores, less substance abuse and obesity, better social skills and better scores in several other life measures.

We live in a world where we want things now. We rush, we have limited patience, no time and can be very impulsive. These behaviors are becoming habit and are rolling into areas of our life which can predict success or failure. We want a promotion, now, we want a degree, now, we want the best marriage, now, we want to be CEO today, we want our bank account filled up this second, we want the newest cell phone, car, and piece of technology, now. We even want answers, now. But the truth is, for just about all these things, we have to work for them. And, we don’t only have to work hard for these things, we have to be patient for them. In order to obtain a degree, a great marriage and that CEO position, you have to often steer away from instant gratification and make a lot of sacrifices and compromises.

Here are 4 tips on how to delay gratification:

  1. Create a Supportive Environment


Be sure you surround yourself with people who are in support of your goals and rid or set boundaries with toxic people who bring you negativity. You want people around you who support your goals so that they will tell you not to take that nap or eat that donut. Instead, they will encourage you to get up and study or go for that run. They pick you up when they see you giving in because they know how important your bigger goal is to you. As you create a supportive environment, don’t just put supportive people in place. Make sure that you also have visualizations all around you so you see your direction all the time. Read blogs, watch YouTube videos, and put up motivating quotes that will inspire you to preserve and not give in to the immediate gratification around you.


  1. Retreat, Rethink and React

When some temptation or impulse creeps in to veer you off for some instant gratification, retreat from the situation before giving in. Hold off and rethink about the situation. Think about the bigger goal in mind, analyze the situation and focus on your end goal for a moment and then go ahead and react. Chances are, backing away and putting things in perspective will drive you away from the temptation of immediacy.


  1. Know your goal

If you don’t know what your goals are, you will be all over the place. Identify your goals and be realistic. Start simplistic. If you have a goal in place that is way over the top, chances are you are going to give in to temptation all around you because you are not ever going to get to that end goal. It is too hard, too big or not realistic for your life. Start small and start realistic- don’t compare your path to someone else’s. Go ahead and create a plan for these realistic goals and stick to it. When you have a plan and a direction you are more likely to stick to this plan even when distractions in the immediate come up.


  1. Reward yourself

Recognize that it is okay here and there to give in a little bit. You can still be spontaneous in life even when striving for goals. You can still have fun and give into instant gratification (that donut, that nap, that reality show) once and a while. The point is not to make these actions of giving in, a habit. But, no matter what you decide, be sure that once you achieve a goal, reflect on the sacrifices you did make and how far you have come and reward yourself. Don’t hurdle the next mountain until you have first celebrated with yourself and those who also sacrificed in order for you to achieve.