Do you know someone that when they see something they want, they have to have it now? One click and we can have information at our fingertips in seconds or buy whatever we want. Instant gratification seems to be the norm of our society.
When it comes to money, people whip out a debit or credit card. Without even thinking of how much their purchase is going to cost them. Whether it’s an electronic or coffee from a coffee shop, it seems that people buy without thinking of the cost. Some may even think to themselves they’ll worry about it later. But do they?
This is how I used to think, or lack thereof. This left me in a perpetual cycle of gaining nothing with my money. We would earn money and we would spend money, that was the cycle we were in.
Just like the majority of Americans, there’s nothing wrong with that. I know that I wasn’t taught in school how to adult. I mean it’s not like we use money on a daily basis. (Insert: Big ass eye roll.) Why would public schools waste their time with that?
As of September 2020 American consumers had a total of $915 billion dollars in credit card debt. Obviously, the majority of Americans do not know about or practice delayed gratification.
It is not normal for people to not have consumer debt, but we don’t. We paid off all of our consumer debt in 2018. It has been very freeing ever since. When you decide that consumer debt is not an option you look for other ways to pay for the same expenses. The number one way is to delay gratification and plan ahead.
The Two Paths To Making Financial Choices.
When making a choice to purchase something, there are two paths you can take. The first path is instant gratification. Choosing this path you try to avoid pain in the moment. It is instinctual that we seek a quick fix, pleasure and comfort in our decision making.
Think of those who want to lose weight now on a fad diet or with a quick fix diet pill. Or those who want the latest gadget but don’t prioritize saving up for this gadget. It is instinctual for us to avoid pain, but in doing so we fail to delay gratification, which can be the better path.
Being able to delay gratification is a skill that needs to be built up. It involves not being satisfied in the moment, which is hard. It takes discipline and management of your impulses to achieve bigger and better rewards.
Delayed gratification is a skill in impulse control, which is hard to learn when you are young since your frontal cortex is not fully developed. But, flexing that skill as early as possible will help you build this essential life skill.
By delaying gratification you are more likely to achieve your long-term goals. You forgo some purchases in order to have a vacation or skip dessert to lose weight.
Get Better At Delaying Gratification.
The ability to delay gratification is a learned behavior, it can be difficult, but not impossible. The younger you are the easier your brain is to learn a behavior, but that’s not to say an old dog can still learn new tricks. The treats just have to be better.
If you are trying to develop impulse control you may think I need to implement this into every aspect of my life, NOW! And you may be tempted to start denying yourself rewards. But, doing it this way you will overwhelm your brain that is used to a different way. Follow these tips to help get you started flexing your delayed gratification muscles.
1. Start small.
To begin to rewire your brain towards delayed gratification, start small. Create a goal so easy you can’t refuse it, like waiting 5 minutes before you make a purchase on Amazon. Once you conquer the small goal you can incrementally move your time period up. Make the next one 10 minutes, that is a 100% improvement on your previous goal, and only 5 more minutes. Do this to build confidence in yourself with each small goal you achieve.
2. Set rules.
You can also use delayed gratification as a rule for certain parts of your life where you lack self-control. If you have then depending on your credit cards to make your purchases, make a rule that you will remove your credit cards from your online shopping accounts and only use your debit card.
3. Practice contentment and gratitude.
Reminding yourself of all the positive things you have in life is a very effective way to train your brain to use delayed gratification. When you are content with what you have you are less likely to search for pleasurable things elsewhere. Go through your closet and realize what you already have and tell yourself you are happy to have that, you realize you don’t need new things. Delayed gratification comes naturally when you are content and practice gratitude.
4. Check in with your goals.
You delay gratification in order to reach your biggest goals and dreams. Putting off a purchase in order to save for a home or retirement. Having a salad instead of a burger so that you can achieve the physical health of your dreams. Keep your goals close to you, somewhere you can see them on a daily basis and be reminded of why you are doing what you working towards. It makes delayed gratification much easier.
Work on these tips to start your journey down the path of delayed gratification.