One Marshmallow or Two?
The American psychologist, Walter Mischel, conducted a test using four-year-old children in the 1960’s. In this test, he placed a marshmallow directly in front of the child and told them that if they could wait 15 minutes before eating it, he would give them two marshmallows. He was able to track these children for many years to study their success in life. What the Marshmallow Test revealed is that the children who could delay gratification had better lives overall. They could more easily resist temptation, have better social relationships, cope with frustration better and had higher levels of performance in all areas of their lives including higher SAT scores. (1) Is it any wonder that being unable to motivate yourself to keep going past the drive-thru and cook a wholesome meal at home does not create the life that you want?
I Don’t Feel Like It
Instant gratification is the habit of doing what feels the best right now. Don’t feel like working out? If you are prone to instant gratification, you will skip it. You will be more likely to sit in your recliner and order an extra large pizza with everything, open a six pack and turn on whatever you are binge watching at the moment. This behavior won’t get you closer to your goals. In the long run, it will cause you to abandon your health incentive because you will feel like it’s hopeless. I can’t think of a single time that I just couldn’t wait to get under that heavy barbell. There is always a sense of apprehension about it. There is a part of me that would love to do something, anything, else but I know that nothing else will ever get me the body and state of health and strength that I want so I drag myself down those stairs to the dungeon and give it everything I’ve got. I have lived the other way. There is never a feeling of satisfaction in instant gratification. As soon as one thrill is satisfied, you will always want something else that you don’t have. Unfortunately, quite often it’s a better body. That pizza and gallon of ice cream did not satisfy that deep longing to be healthy.
The core of instant gratification is the desire to avoid pain. When we deny ourselves something that we want in the moment for a long-term goal, we experience pain. In order to avoid that, we may give in to the temptation at hand. However, there is nothing like seeing long term goals come to pass. The hard work and blood, sweat and tears poured into the creation of a dream cries to be rewarded and when those goals begin to materialize they are so much better than those short-term goodies. I spent years on the treadmill of do-over, you know, I started a “diet” in the morning and by evening I needed a do-over because I simply would not walk away from some sugar- laden treat that called my name. Once I gave into that, the sugar made me crave all kinds of foods and plenty of them. It was not until I made the commitment to myself of quitting sugar that the habit of instant gratification was defeated in my life.
Steps To Freedom
There are proven ways to escape the trap of having to be constantly gratified like a crying infant. (2)
1-Know exactly what you want.
Once you decide this, figure out what is necessary to achieve your goal.
2-Determine your obstacles.
Don’t go around people who will deter you from your goals. If they want you to join them in unhealthy behaviors, they do not have your best interest at heart. Most likely, they want to control you, your time or your money. They are not your friends. Don’t carry food and drinks into your home that you don’t think that you can resist. Don’t say, “It’s for the kids.” “The kids” don’t need it either.
3-Develop a network of support that will truly support your health initiative.
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4-Make some rules and guidelines for yourself.
If you know that you won’t work out after work then get your butt up and do it before work, with your doctor’s permission, of course. If you think that you can’t pass Krispy Kreme without stopping then reroute your trip. Set yourself up for success, not failure. You will set yourself up one way or the other. It’s up to you.
5-Give yourself positive reinforcement, or rewards.
When you have been successful at pressing past these temporary indulgences towards your ultimate goals, go ahead and get that gym membership or that equipment for your home gym. Get what you want. You have earned it. Buy those great workout shorts or those microweights that you have been wanting for so long. When you positively reinforce a behavior, it becomes a habit. Make it good habits.
Which is more important to you, a temporary soothing of your senses or a successful life?
Which is more important to you, dissolving into the ethereal swirl of confectioner’s sugar and hydrogenated oil atop the cupcake built for four, or being able to walk from your car into the store?
Which is more important to you, life or death?
It’s up to you.