There is something very interesting about these times: we are used to immediate reactions. We do not like to delay pleasure; we are keen on instant gratification even if the long term effects are damaging and will cost us more. We all want to live a healthy, successful and happy life. Yet, when we are told that this requires longterm investment, we stick to immediacy even if we actually want both, now! We believe that we deserve things immediately and with the least amount of effort possible.
When it comes to changing a habit, we saw that establishing new routines can be challenging and it requires time. How can we keep running the distance and obtain our goals while satisfying our impulses for instant gratification?
The interesting combo is pursuing long-term satisfaction – aka a goal – using instant gratification to keep the motivation level at its highest. If you run a half-marathon, you will need water to compensate for the dehydration process you are experiencing while running. The water is the instant gratification and the half-marathon the desired long-term goal. To stay perseverant, you need to take actions that will replenish your energy tank.
1. Build a roadmap and a plan
If you know where you want to go, you can define the steps that are between you and your final destination. Chunking the big goal into small pieces makes it more reachable and less daunting. Long-distance walkers know that even if they aim to walk 300 km in 10 days, they focus on their daily walk of 30 km. If you have a roadmap with benchmarks, you have a clear direction and you can focus on it.
2. Identify the obstacles
Building a roadmap is very good. But, you know, sometimes the walker gets injured on the way and needs to stay longer at one place or needs to be cured in a hospital. There will be things that will come in your way during your journey. Identifying these obstacles in advance will help you prepare a counterattack plan in order to keep going even if the circumstances are against you. If your goal is to save money for a 3 months trip to Latin America and you are a compulsive money-spender, you already have an idea of what is slowing you down in reaching your goal. Effective counterattack ideas could be avoiding walking through shopping malls for instance, leaving payment cards at home, or blocking online shopping websites on your computer.
3. Reward yourself
Long-distance walkers can stop every X kilometres to rest and eat. When the walk becomes harder, the perspective of a hot meal and a bed to recover from the tiredness is encouraging. All efforts deserve a reward. If you wait until you reach your target goal or your first 10.000 € of revenues, you may exhaust yourself because you have no idea when all this will happen. Not knowing when you will reach your target goal is terrifying, especially if you have to cope with a non-pleasant present. Self-reward is different to indulging in instant gratification. With the first one, there is a conscious decision to give ourselves a gift, whereas in the latter case, we obey an impulse that seems to be beyond our control.
4. Review what you have done regularly and congratulate yourself daily
Every now and then, the long-distance walker will stop and check his maps to acknowledge the journey accomplished so far and to estimate his further steps. Regularly reviewing your roadmap is a good way to see that you are progressing in the right direction. If you feel you are moving forward, it is very likely that your motivation level will stay high. If you feel discouraged, take a look back, review what has been done since day one, breathe and congratulate yourself, you deserve it. You are your best ally on this journey.
Instant gratification and long-term satisfaction are the different faces of the same coin. We cannot be 100 % focused on our goals at all times, especially the ones that take years to realise.
- Build your own map
- Identify the traps and come up with a solution for them
- Set up a reward system
- Review your map and high-five yourself daily.
Tell us about one of your goals and about how you are balancing instant gratification and the satisfaction of reaching this goal one day. Do you notice some elements that have been preventing you from achieving your goal earlier?