Say no to instant gratification | Sunday Observer

Say no to instant gratification

23 August, 2020

Gratification simply means satisfying a desire or need. It has two segments: Instant gratification and delayed or long-term gratification.

In a remarkable study, four-year-olds were told: “If you wait until after I run an errand, you can have two marshmallows for a treat. If you cannot wait until then, you can have only one marshmallow right now. Psychologist Walter Mischel’s marshmallow test proved that some four-year-olds were prepared to wait so that they could enjoy two marshmallows. But others who were more impulsive grabbed the single marshmallow.

The diagnostic power of how this moment of impulse was handled became clear 14 years later when the same children were tracked down as adolescents. Those who had resisted temptation at four were now, as adolescents, more socially competent. They were personally effective, self-assertive, and better able to cope with the frustrations of life. Those who grabbed the single marshmallow, however, tended to have fewer of such qualities.

We all find ourselves distracted from meeting more long-term goals by more enjoyable short-term activities. Each of us likely struggles with these urges to procrastinate every day with varying degrees of success. Why is it so hard to stay the course on our long-term projects, even when we are certain that advantages of sticking to it will far outweigh the more immediate benefits of putting them off? The answer is instant gratification.


Many examples can be given for instant gratification. For instance, we have an urge to indulge in a high-calorie treat instead of a snack that will contribute to good health. Sometimes we are tempted to go out with friends instead of finishing our homework. Anyway, a little instant gratification is harmless. However, if you always choose instant gratification, you have a serious problem.

As humans we are unable to say no to instant gratification, but there are more benefits to be derived from long-term gratification. When there is a choice, think of your future. If you make some important decisions, you will be able to avoid instant gratification to a great extent. When you have a long-term goal, break it into smaller segments and pay attention to them.

Those who go for instant gratification neglecting their long-term goals are procastinators. Tim Urban explores why procastinators procrastinate. According to him, the Instant Gratification Monkey is a troublesome creature who lives in the brain of procastinators. He thinks only about the present and ignores lessons from the past. He has no sense of the future. He enjoys the pleasure of the present moment. He thinks humans are crazy animals. However, you do not find this monkey in steady people who plan their future events with meticulous care.

Robert Wright in “Why Buddhism is True” says, “If you have an addiction to anything, ranging from heroin to pornography or chocolate, there has probably been at least one occasion when you deliberated at length over whether to indulge in this form of gratification. Maybe it was back when, having tried it a few times, you recognised the allure and, at some level, realised that it might eventually become your master.

In any event, the deliberations must have at some point gone in favour of short-term gratification. And as time wore on and opportunities for gratification kept arising, you spent less and less time deliberating. The drive for immediate gratification became so strong that resistance was futile. That’s the way these things work.”


Self-discipline is like a muscle. If you use it, it gets stronger, and if you don’t use it, it gets weaker. This truism seems to capture the broad pattern. Spending time at porn sites leads to immediate gratification. There is a technique to get rid of this gratification. This technique has an acronym: RAIN. First you Recognise the feeling. Then you Accept the feeling. Then you Investigate the feeling and its relationship to your body. Finally the N stands for Nonidentification, or equivalently, Nonattachment. Judson Brewer who did a study at Yale Medical School, described this therapy as being about not ‘feeding’ the urge to smoke or instant sexual gratification. He said, “If you don’t feed a stray cat, it quits coming to your door.” According to this metaphor, there is an animal somewhere within you that needs taming. Fighting the urge is like chasing the stray cat away every time it comes to your door. If you do not feed it, it will not come again.

Wherever men and women work together, sexual attraction comes with the territory. The workplace is where men and women get to know one another intimately. Helen Fisher of Rutgers University, author of “Anatomy of Love” says deep barriers and taboos make the atmosphere even more exciting and stimulating. What is a man supposed to think when a female worker leans over his shoulder to touch a keyboard and her hair brushes his cheek? Similarly, how should a woman react when she enters a meeting and a male colleague’s eyes flit down to her legs? Is flirting forbidden in workplaces?

Although answers to such questions are clear, many companies are scrambling to spell out guidelines for proper behaviour. Although sexual feelings exist everywhere, acting on them is another matter. Most co-workers may not wish to have a lasting relationship except gratifying their sexual needs. As workers come from different backgrounds, management will find it difficult to discipline them. However, experts have given many tips to prevent sensitive situations from turning into full-blown problems.

Sexual gratification

Men’s craze for sexual gratification can be curtailed by women by being feminine and not flaunting sexuality. They should avoid wearing short skirts and see-through blouses. Workplace clothing should not be provocative. When a man says, “You look great in red” he means that females in the workplace are potential sex partners first, women second and co-workers third. According to experts in nonverbal communication, men consider certain female gestures provocative. Some of them are tossing hair, staring straight into a man’s eyes, glancing sideways and then demurely dropping her eyes, rubbing her arm, smiling, touching and repeatedly crossing and uncrossing her legs.

Wendy Reid Crisp, director of the U.S. National Association for Female Executives says, “When you’re operating on all cylinders, adrenalin hits every part of your body. It is not necessarily love, though.” Many affairs that do ignite in the red-hot intensity of the workplace can quickly cool. They can wreck not just a marriage but a career as well. The healthiest workplace is one in which men and women respect one another and learn to work together as members of the same team.

In order to pay less attention to immediate gratification and concentrate on long-term gratification you need patience which is considered a very high virtue.