What’s Wrong With Wanting Immediate Gratification?!

In my last post I asked the question, “What are the healthiest actions you can take in the moment . . . . . . to have the healthiest overall health in the long run?”  As I wrote those words, I realized how challenging it is to put forth effort in the moment that may not yield tremendous benefits right now.

We are pleasure seeking and pain avoiding creatures.  So, what’s wrong with wanting immediate gratification?  I would argue that there is nothing wrong with WANTING anything, but that doesn’t mean that I think we should expect to always be get it, immediately or ever (depending on what it is).  That would be a set-up for constant disappointment, don’t you think?

In my world, what I hear most often is “I want to lose weight.”  What people may not verbalize, but sometimes they do (forcefully), is that they want it NOW.  What they may have tried before has felt really hard, and it is understandable that they feel a need for a reward.  If weight falls off quickly at first, this can act as a great reward, and lots of effort can feel OK.  I seldom see that sort of experience continue for long.  When the immediate pat on the back from the scale stalls, it is natural to say, “Hey, wait a minute, where’s my reward?!”

Not only is there nothing wrong with wanting immediate gratification, there truly is a need for it if changes are to be continued and turned into habits.  But, if you can’t see if on the scale every minute, what is the reward?

I believe that other rewards have to be noticed.  They are usually screaming, “Look at me!!  Hey, over here, no not at the scale . . . look at your energy level.  Have you noticed the way your leg feels – the one that used to ache all the time?  Don’t we count?”

There are usually noticeable improvements when health habits improve, even without weight loss.  Please notice them!  These can provide the immediate gratification needed to keep going, to make it all feel worth it.

This is not easy, but we are equipped to meet the challenge.  Unlike dogs, who usually learn tricks by getting IMMEDIATE (edible) treats, we can reason enough to find other rewards in the moment.  If you are living a healthier life, whether or not you are losing as quickly as you would like, your body is changing for the better.  Tune in and notice!  With enough practice, the feeling of accomplishment in overcoming the challenge will be a reward in itself.

Just for Fun:  If you have never seen this video of dogs dining out, it is a must-see.  (Great example of delayed gratification for a dog!)

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3 responses to “What’s Wrong With Wanting Immediate Gratification?!

  1. Sigh, I wish we could have everything we want (to eat, in particular). I have lost a good chunk of weight (6 lbs or so) but now that I see how much it takes to maintain this (not fluctuating my eating habits like crazy, but staying steady), I realize that’s why it’s not an easy process to sustain weight loss long-term. I’ll just have to really ingrain certain habits, like never reaching for that office cupcake, not even on days when I feel “I deserve it” because one things leads to another, and pretty soon I’m eating junk all the time.

    • You are so right. Making new habits can feel like a lot of work. You just have to believe that it will get easier with practice – when the improvements are truly unconscious.

      Some of those junk foods make the work seem harder, because of their ability to make you feel a little better – for a while – until the loss of control takes the mood downward. If it is easier to stay away from those foods, then that is a good strategy for now. Who knows how you will feel in the future, but that doesn’t matter right now. Good luck with those cupcakes!

  2. Pingback: Finding your inner artist, day 17: About rewards, reasons and a culture of instant gratification | artist sense

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