Written by Sports Performance Coach, Meg McClurg

How often do you sacrifice instant gratification for longer-term gain?

Instant gratification refers to the desire to attain something or behave in a way that, without much delay or adjournment, gives you an immediate feeling of happiness, fulfilment or pleasure. Sometimes when we engage in activities that provide instant gratification we do so at the expense of longer-term gain or we extend the time frame that it may take us to achieve something in the long term.

Here are a couple of examples…

  • How often do you sacrifice a sleep in to get up early for a training session so that in 6 months you’ll be able to do things you can’t now, or look different to how you do now?
  • How often do you skip a social event with friends to train early in the morning for a competition weeks/months away?
  • How many times have you skipped the cookie at morning tea because you know it’ll crash your energy levels towards the end of the day?
  • What about the times that you don’t buy yourself the watch, the outfit, the surfboard or the lounge because you’re saving for something bigger, maybe a car, house or holiday?

Living a life filled with instant gratification could be likened to living each day like it’s your last. It sounds amazing right? Living EVERY day like it’s your last. And it’s true, you never know when your time will be up.

But, should that mean that you spend your days doing everything that instantly makes you feel good?

Maybe think about what that day would look like for you, if you indulged in everything you do that gives you immediate pleasure.

And then think about that day, over and over again.

On the flip side of that; postponing every single thing that gives you instant gratification, makes you feel alive, that gives you enjoyment and that lights your soul on fire until the longer-term goal is achieved. This can become a trap for people, always sacrificing the immediate pleasure for the estimated gain of the future.

In my experience, the majority of people that I have had the pleasure of meeting, working with or knowing feel that they need to be working towards some sort of goals; whether that be work goals, sporting goals, appearance goals, ownership goals or relationship goals. People want to feel like they are contributing to the greater good and that they’ve left their mark on this world in some way.

If we’re constantly giving in to the desire of instant gratification then we may find it difficult to ever achieve long term goals that are most likely going to give us a greater sense of gratification anyway. But if we’re constantly sacrificing day-to-day happiness then what is the long-term gain really worth?

My opinion?

You need to build some resistance to ALWAYS giving in to the instant gratification temptations if you’re ever going to achieve a goal. That means, keep going when it hurts, when it’s hard and when it would be easier to give up. BUT to make it easier to not give up there needs to be shorter term goals on the way to long-term gain. Without check points it’s easy to feel like you’re going nowhere.

While it is important to resist temptations that give you instant gratification, it’s also important to live your life! To live every day like it could be your last (without all the crazy behaviour that could be involved in this), make sure your loved one’s know that you love them, have fun, don’t take things too seriously, be kind to other people, be yourself, don’t sweat the small things, care less about other peoples’ judgment, be nice to yourself and be proud of the things you have done so far!