Throughout your life, you’re likely to spend a lot of your time waiting, so you might as well become good at it. Being able to delay gratification is one of the most important qualities you need to reach your goals. Fortunately, this is a skill that improves with practice!
Learning to delay gratification can make you happier and more successful in both your personal and professional life. Psychological studies confirm what many traditions have long taught about the power of mental training: a little self-discipline can yield great results!
Here are some of the benefits of waiting for what you want, as well as techniques for becoming more patient.
Benefits of Delaying Gratification
1. Improve your academic and job performance. Studies show that kids who learn to delay gratification get better grades and higher SAT scores. These gains usually continue throughout life, making them more satisfied and successful in their careers as well.
2. Enhance your relationships. As our patience increases, we become less vulnerable to anger and its tendency to drive others away from us. We learn to look at the big picture and take other’s feelings into account.
3. Become more physically fit. Studies also show that those less practiced at delayed gratification, or “low delayers,” tend to have higher body fat. If you appreciate the long term benefits of nutritious food and regular exercise, you’re less likely to overindulge in junk food.
4. Lower your risk of substance abuse. Drug addiction can be one of the most painful consequences of seeking immediate pleasure. Even legal activities like shopping or watching TV can be destructive if we take them to extremes and allow them to crowd out more meaningful endeavors.
5. Enjoy more contentment. Self control enables us to set goals and focus our energies on reaching them. We can make better choices, accomplish more and handle setbacks better.
Techniques for Delaying Gratification
1. Recognize the complexity of your mind. Many mental health experts now speak in terms of interactions rather than fixed personality traits. Try to identify the circumstances where you have trouble resisting temptation rather than labeling yourself as being weak. This can be helpful in making constructive changes in your life.
2. Divert your attention. Just turning your attention away from the cheesecake or the remark you find annoying will instantly make you a little happier and better behaved. The more you learn to control your thinking, the wiser you will become.
3. Take a pause. Pausing for a second can help you avoid reflexive responses that run against your best interests. Decide if it’s more important to see your kids or spend another hour at the office. Take that morning run rather than sleeping for another half hour if the exercise gives you more energy and keeps you healthier.
4. Think ahead. You can live in the moment and still be responsible about planning for the future. Find the balance that works for you.
5. Experiment with visualization. When you’ve fallen in love with a pair of shoes that are too much for your budget, picture them as just a picture lacking any real substance. They’ll be easier to forget.
6. Contemplate impermanence. If such visualizations sound artificial, think about impermanence. Those $400 shoes could get scuffed the first time you wear them, but setting that money aside for retirement could give you a much better future.
7. Seek out good role models. Child psychologists find peer modeling to be a highly effective tool for character education. Whatever your age, pick up some valuable lessons by observing someone whose patience you admire.
8. Reinforce your new habits. Self control grows stronger the more we practice. Have fun finding the strategies that work best for you. Look for daily opportunities to delay gratification, whether it’s a monthly savings plan or transforming those late night snacks into a more nutritious breakfast.