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Faster Isn’t Always Better: Why Delaying Gratification Pays Off

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woman deciding whether to eat apple or chocolateYou’re craving something sweet – what do you reach for? You’ve got a choice: a slice of chocolate cake or an apple. The cake will quickly satisfy your sweet tooth, but the apple is the healthier choice. What you decide to eat determines whether you want immediate gratification or can hold out for a delayed benefit. Choosing dessert is an example of how gratification plays a part in your everyday life.

Because we want it NOW, the first choice is often the easier option, such as the cake. Unfortunately, these fast fixes don’t last for long and are not always best for you. Whether it’s credit cards, fast food, or alcohol and drugs, people are often making choices without thinking about the long-term effects.

When immediate gratification goes beyond having a slice of cake, repeating this choice can often lead to addictions. Instead of trying to fix the problems people have, they temporarily numb themselves with substances that make them feel better in the moment. This becomes cyclical, and the immediate need begins to rule the person’s life.

Delayed gratification reduces the likelihood of making these poor decisions because the end goal is the focus rather than the pleasure in the moment. Investing, eating healthy, and seeking support during the tough times in your life will benefit you in the future.

For parents who want to teach their children to make better decisions, it’s important to model the behavior first. Instead of always giving kids what they want right now, hold out and teach them to be patient. This can often be hard – as a parent, you want to make your children happy. But in the long run, self-control is a skill that your kids will use and appreciate as they get older and are faced with problems greater than getting the newest Xbox game.

So when deciding between the cake and the apple, it’s okay to choose the cake every once in awhile. Finding a balance between immediate and delayed gratification is the key to a satisfying, healthy life. If you or a loved one is struggling with too much immediate gratification and addiction, counselors at Stenzel Clinical are here to help break the cycle so you heal instead of being hindered.