Instant gratification is the only type of gratification there is. I think. There. I said it. If nothing else, it’s the only type I care to work with. The question, then, is not whether (or not) you’re getting instant gratification, but what you’re going to use as your instant gratification.
If the term “instant gratification” still rubs you the wrong way, then call it “substituted gratification” 1.
Either way, it needs to be instant. We never truly delay gratification — I don’t think we even can — we just substitute it with something else.
Don’t be a hero. Don’t try to delay your gratification. It’s too hard 2. It won’t work. Replace it. Substitute it.
That’s how all those apparently “disciplined” people 3 do it. They, we (if I might be so bold) are not motivated by some nebulous future gain 4. No, we have some other game that we’re playing, some other thing we’re getting off on, some other drug that’s giving us a hit.
Find that other drug.
- or “engineered gratification” or “selective gratification”, or “sequenced/scheduled/planned gratification” ↩
- Wait, didn’t we just say not two days ago that nothing was too hard? Yes, we did. There is no too hard, there is only too big. So, yeah, it’s not too hard, it’s just too big of a time scale for us to handle. ↩
- Like those four-year-olds who don’t eat the marshmallow right away. These kids are usually cited as an example of delayed gratification, but that’s like defining flooded toilets as a form of swimming pool or burglary as a form of home renovation or rape as a form of dating. Oh wait…it is that to some people. No, but…The key fact here is not what the toddlers did but why and how and they did it.
The 4-year-olds were able to resist the marshmallows. The reason why (according to, IIRC, Seth Godin…or Geoff Colvin…can’t remember which) is because they got themselves to think of something else right now. They rewarded themselves with fun in the now. They were not suffering now for a reward later as delayed gratification zealots would have you believe: they were flooding their minds, hands and time with enough fun that they could ignore the marshmallow at hand. We call this “delay”, but that implies waiting and emptiness and gritting your teeth. No, what these kids were doing is substitution. Replacement. Sequencing. Not delay. Theirs was an active patience. A fun patience. ↩
- Don’t get me wrong, future gains exist. But, by themselves, they’re never enough to motivate in the now. ↩