In my previous article, I shared with you what it means to delay gratification and expounded more on instant gratification and also shared some positives or benefits you’ll get from delaying gratification. Today, let us take a critical look at how you can break free from the habit of instant gratification.
To break free from the habit of instant gratification, it’s imperative that you consciously work through the following five-step process. This process of actionable steps will set you on the right track and help you to develop the habits needed to pursue long-term goals and objectives.
Action step 1: Know What You Want
Your first step is to get a sense of where you’re going. If you don’t understand where you’re going or what you are going to be working towards, then it’s easy to get distracted by the temptations that life throws your way.
Drawing up a plan to attain your
goals and vision will help you to stay focused and disciplined along your journey.
With that in mind, begin by clarifying your vision for the future.
•What do I want to achieve?
•How will I achieve this?
•Why do I want this? What are the benefits?
•Why is it important to work towards this vision?
It’s crucial that you also specify your short-term objectives and priorities. This is critical because often instant gratification will squeeze its way into your life when you are indecisive or uncertain about your direction.
During these times, indulging in temptations will seem more enticing and pleasurable.
On the other hand, working through the pain of trying to figure things out will be the last thing you will want to do. This is especially true when you are confronted with unexpected problems.
Action step 2: Identify Potential Obstacles
Along your journey towards fulfilling your long-term vision of the future, you will confront many problems. Some of these problems will, of course, surprise you in unexpected ways. And if you’re not ready to deal with them, then you are likely to succumb to short-term pleasures that bring you momentary periods of comfort. These pleasures will essentially distract you from your problems.
Problems can be quite unpredictable by nature, and you won’t always know what problems might arise. And yet
problems are things you can effectively work through as long as you don’t get caught up indulging in temptations that are likely to distract you. For this very reason, it’s critical that you identify the temptations you might confront along your journey. These are temptations that could sidetrack you when facing adversity.
•What temptations could sidetrack me?
•How will I handle these temptations?
At this stage, don’t make the mistake of trying to find solutions to your problems. Your problems are irrelevant. You will most certainly overcome them, as long as you don’t get caught off-guard by the temptations that life throws your way.
I’m, of course, talking about the temptations that will make you forget about your problems. They are the temptations that will bring you instant pleasure and will temporarily eliminate the pain of the problem you face. In the end, it’s not the problem you must worry about, but rather concern yourself with the things that could distract you from solving your problem.
Action step 3: Build a Strong Support Network
To avoid falling into the instant gratification trap, it’s paramount that you build a strong support network. These people will help support you during difficult moments along your journey.
•Who could support me along this journey?
•How could they support me?
•What exactly would their role be?
You will unlikely achieve the success you envision without a strong support network.
These are the kinds of people that can help you work through your problems more efficiently. They will be there to help you stay focused. And, more importantly, they will be there to make sure you don’t get sidetracked or distracted by temporary pleasures that life will undoubtedly throw your way.
It’s also important that you clarify what kind of resources you might need on your journey.
•What resources might I need?
•How will I acquire these resources?
Your resources might include tools, skills, knowledge, and a plethora of other things that you will need to achieve your desired long-term objectives. It’s very possible that you’ll even need resources that will help you to ward off short-term pleasures and temptations that might suddenly creep up on you during difficult times.
Have a good long hard think about what you might need along your journey to ensure you remain focused on what’s most important at all times.
Action step 4: Set Clear Boundaries
It’s crucial at this stage to set clear boundaries or rules about what you will do and what you will avoid doing at all costs.
Without clear boundaries, it’s easy to fall prey to temptations. However, with clear rules in place — about what you’re allowed and not allowed to do — you will feel more in control of the events and circumstances of your life.
•What am I allowed to do?
•What’s absolutely off limits?
Outline what kinds of behaviors you will no longer indulge in. Also, think about the long-term rewards and benefits you will derive from avoiding these potential temptations.
Action step 5: Create a Reward System
Finally, take time to create a reward system that will help keep you motivated long-term. Reward yourself not so much for what you’re doing, but instead, reward yourself for staying away from possible temptations that could distract you.
If for instance, you stay focused on your highest priority activities and don’t get caught up in the habit of instant gratification for an entire week, then reward yourself with some temporary pleasure that will satisfy your senses.
However, once the reward is done, move on and get back on track. Doing things this way will help you stay in control. Yes, you are giving yourself permission to indulge in temporary pleasures and temptations from time-to-time. However, these are not distractions but instead rewards for your efforts.
You are in control of this behavior and, therefore, you are in control of your life. It’s when your behavior controls you, and you end up falling prey to instant gratification, that is when your short-term pleasures begin getting in the way of your long-term objectives.
Peter Kwadwo Asare Nyarko
Financial Literacy Advocate | Financial Educator | Author
Contact Peter for speaking, coaching, mentoring and consulting engagements.