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Why We Seek Instant Gratification and How to Stop

Why We Seek Instant Gratification and How to StopAddiction often stems from the desire to seek instant gratification, even if it is unwise. Instant gratification may seem like the perfect idea in the moment but over time, seeking instant gratification is a major mistake. The problem with seeking instant gratification is it becomes insatiable.

What is instant gratification?

Instant gratification is the desire to experience pleasure without delay or deferment. Basically, we want what we want and we want it now. Most people are taught to avoid instant gratification. We are usually told to work hard and practice to achieve success. However, waiting is hard and some people struggle with delaying gratification instead of seeking it. Why are some people more prone to seeking instant gratification than others?

Here are 5 reasons people seek instant gratification:

  1. A desire to avoid delay.
    Humans have a tendency to want things now rather than later.  Our instincts are to seize the reward at hand, and resisting that instinct can be difficult. From an evolutionary perspective, we needed to do this. In prehistoric human environments, the availability of food was uncertain. Therefore, humans relied on immediate reward such as food sources to maintain survival.
  2. Uncertainty.
    Uncertainty can play a role in one’s resistance to delaying gratification. Life experience may hinder someone from trusting others and relying on the future. This lack of certainty increases the desire for self-gratification. It is also where the “you only live once” ideology comes in. People feel that their future is uncertain so feel they should enjoy the instant pleasures in life, rather than delay gratification.
  3. Age.
    Young adults tend to be more impulsive than other age groups. Experiencing life events can shift someone’s view on life. For example, experiencing death can cause a person to reflect upon their long-term futures. At a younger age, it can be easier to be reactive to challenges. However, learning the benefits of delaying the urge of impulsive behavior can help overcome this barrier.
  4. Cognitive capacity.
    Intelligent people tend to be more future-focused. Children with higher intelligence have been shown to shift attention away from rewards. Individuals with lower intelligence may seek gratification more. This explains why lower intelligence individuals are more prone to financial hardships and tend to have higher levels of debt.
  5. Mood Regulation.
    Emotional distress increases the tendency for people to make poor decisions in order to have an immediate improvement in their mood. Therefore, those who struggle with mood regulation have trouble delaying gratification. In addition, our sense fo time is affected by our mood. The saying time flies when you’re having fun has been proven. Individuals who are in a bad mood experience a desire for instant gratification when time is passing slowly.

How to Delay Gratification and Succeed

The problem with seeking instant gratification is that usually does not lead us to the success we really want. Only through consistency and continued effort are bigger goals achieved. The good news is that they’re steps that can be taken to help overcome this barrier.

  • Seek Support: A proper support system is the most effective way of delaying gratification. A support group can keep you on track and prevent you from slipping into your old patterns. Have people around you that can keep you accountable in achieving your long-term goals.
  • Change Your Environment: Make sure your environment is set for success. Discard any chaos in your life that is making tasks more difficult. Re-organize your life and surround yourself with a positive It is a good idea to have books and motivational blogs that you can look at for that extra push forward.
  • Detach from the Outcome: A great way to overcome seeking instant gratification is to detach from the outcome. Instead, focus on smaller goals that will ultimately lead you to that greater outcome. Forget about the big goal and make a list of things you can accomplish on a daily, monthly and weekly basis. That way, you are not so prone to take the easy way out

Instant gratification may seem like a good idea at the moment; however it will not take you to the place you want to be in life. Learn to let go of those desires and focus on the big picture. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588.

Author: Shernide Delva

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