Tag Archives: immediate gratification

More on Immediate Gratification: Does the Long-Term Goal Still Motivate You?

I guess I just didn't want it enough.

I guess I just didn’t want it enough.

I opened my coat closet today – yes, it is officially spring today, even though it is frigid and snowy here in Wisconsin, so I still need a winter coat – and there it was!  The knitting project I started when I first met my husband 8 years ago is still unfinished.

The burnt orange super soft yarn inspired me when I first saw it, and the textured pattern of the cardigan design looked like such fun to create.  I have not touched the project for about 6 years now, but there is a fine looking back and sleeve completed!  I now realize I will never finish the sweater.

Why?  Because I don’t really like it anymore.  The pattern looks frumpy – what was I thinking?! – and the color just simply doesn’t excite me as it once did.

As always, I have a message here that applies to your health and weight loss goals.  If you don’t really want the end result, you have about as much chance of getting it as I have of finishing the blasted sweater sitting in my closet.

Of course there are other reasons for weight loss to de-rail, but the question is still important to ask:

Do you still care about reaching your goal – REALLY REALLY CARE?

If not, easy forms of immediate gratification will be more difficult to resist.  That donut or cookie will override the weak desire to accomplish your goal, which admittedly may be down the road a bit.

If you still think the goal is important, immediate gratification can sometimes come in the form of pride at each day that small changes continue.  The packed lunch or extra trip to the gym become shining moments of short term pleasure.

My half-finished sweater holds none of this allure for me anymore.  And as I learned long ago, it won’t finish itself!  No one really likes a reminder of an unfinished project.  I finally put it in the trash.

More On Immediate Gratification

Here is a great excerpt from The Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte.  I think it gets to the heart of why we eat things we know are not helping us reach our goals and why we cannot entirely give up on immediate gratification.  The key is understanding, and then being smarter about meeting short term needs so we can still meet longer term goals (ie. better health and a nicer number on the scale!).

When you’re clear on how you want to feel, your decision making gets to the heart of the matter.

First, get clear on how you want to feel.  Then, do the stuff that makes you feel that way.

We do stuff to feel good.  Even when we do stuff that’s “bad” for us, (eating glazed doughnuts when we’re on a diet, overspending when we’re on a budget), we’re still feeding that part of our psyche that says, “Right now, doing X will make me feel Y.  And Y will make me feel good, better, relieved, safe, alive . . .”

So how do you really want to feel?  Go straight to what will get you there.  You may think that the number on the scale is what your goal is, but I think it is the feeling you think you will have when you get there.

Like a person who strives after ambitious financial goals, you may or may not feel the way you think you will when you achieve your goal.  If you aim for the feeling, you will be more clear about what you need to do to make it happen.

If you want to feel lighter, then begin eating lighter foods and stay active.  You will feel lighter almost immediately.  You probably would not like to feel weak and drained though, right?  So why follow a plan that doesn’t allow you to eat enough?  You may feel lighter, but you will also feel exhausted and crabby.  Not what you hoped for, right?

As for immediate gratification, which we all need in order to keep going, it helps to remember that the taste and pleasure of an overindulgence usually leads to a dip in emotional state when guilt kicks in.  A better form of immediate gratification will include something rewarding NOW – which is when you need it – but it won’t interfere with your overall goals.

An ideal short term solution to the “I need something now” dilemma can include food, but probably will not rely solely on food (unless you are one of the rare individuals who considers celery a treat).  If a hot bath or a satisfying project will not do the trick, how about a small chocolate WHILE you take a hot bath – in other words the behavioral “combo platter”.

One of my favorite immediate gratification tools is a hot bath with my $8 blow-up bath pillow supporting my head and a splash of lavender salts.  Light a candle and settle in . . . and it contains zero calories.  I can almost feel my blood pressure going down just thinking about it.

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!)