What does it mean to be satisfied? Plainly, having your needs met. Experiencing pleasant sensations instead of facing difficulties. Walking in a well-paved path instead of taking an unknown rocky road that leads to who knows where. And in our era, all of this is possible. Thanks to modern tech. We now rarely have to face difficulties. There are pleasures always within reach.
Welcome the instant gratification guide!
A handy little manual that will show you how to properly distract yourself from the demands of the adult life so you can experience more joyful activities.
The well-trodden road dotted with prizes in every step of the way. And you won’t even have to bend to collect your rewards. They will be handed to you by a cute little monkey named Carl dressed in a tuxedo.
What Is Instant Gratification and Why It’s Important?
Instant gratification – also frequently called immediate gratification – is the doorway to unlimited pleasures. It’s a term that describes our tendency to prefer experiences that unlock pleasures without even the slightest delay.
Plainly, when you want something – a thing or involve yourself in a task that will make you feel good, or at least better than how you’re feeling right now. Instead of patiently waiting for a potentially bigger reward down the road. You grab what’s in front of you because it’s easier.
And why wouldn’t you?
After all. Who has the time to wait for things to become better?
“In the long run we are all dead,” as John Maynard Keynes once said.
Besides, in an age where a website loads for a millisecond. In the era where people avoid thinking, they are simply looking for ways to laugh more – as Neil Postman points out in his masterpiece Amusing Ourselves To Death. It’s insulting when something doesn’t happen right now.
Or, the other popular case. When you have to put aside a small amount of cash for months – months! – in order to buy a new phone or say, a new car.
In this bold new world of instant gratification. Where banks give away money for free – or at least that is what it seems when you don’t read the terms of service. We never have to wait for anything.
Want a new stereo system because your current one is not loud enough to muffle the inner voice that makes you think about the consequences of not covering your yacht loan? Go get another one. There are quite a few websites where you will find big-enough speakers that can suffocate even the loudest unpleasant thought.
The book that you just bought requires actually reading it? Well, thankfully, a smart person once invented this thing called the audiobook. Now you don’t even have to read words on a piece of paper. You just listen.
You just got – another – notification on your phone? Don’t worry, stop everything that you’re doing – again – and check who is messaging you. Who knows, it could be the president inviting you for a cup of tea to discuss your potential future in the White House.
And while convenient, you’ll often read that the endless pursuit of instant gratification is damaging your health and financial condition in the long run.
Don’t listen to such claims. Usually, the people talking such nonsense are angry because they are not famous on social media.
Science can confirm the need for instant gratification.
Psychology and neuroscience prove that seeking pleasure is deeply embedded in our brains.
And from a technical point of view. Since this feature exists by design in our heads. It should be bad, right?
Instant Gratification Psychology
Our brains are hardwired to seek immediate pleasures.
The first person who discovered this was Sigmund Freud. He conveniently labeled this the Pleasure Principle – sounds tasty.1
What the pleasure principle aims to explain, and I quote: “The pleasure principle is the instinctive seeking of pleasure and avoiding of pain to satisfy biological and psychological needs.”2
This might sound complicated, but the gist is that we are automatically looking for ways to fulfill our most basic and primitive urges – as fast as possible.
This is so because of how our brain is structured. How it evolved.
John Medina, describes it simply in his book Brain Rules – I’ve happened to summarize his book here: Brain Rules summary.
But I know that there are other more exciting things, so I’ll quickly sum up the most important idea.
Deep down in our grey matter. There is a part of the brain that is called the Lizard Brain. The main responsibility of this reptilian part of the brain is to keep our psychical bodies in a good shape. Generally, secure and well-fed.
These are also labeled the Four Fs: fighting, fleeing, feeding and family.3
The Lizard Brain kind of acts automatically. When you’re hungry, the brain sends signals to the parts of the body that can move and orders them to begin seeking food. You don’t even question these signals because they are doing all of this to keep you alive.
After all, for most of our existence. It was necessary to act immediately on your impulses.
Years ago, nothing was certain. Our ancestors didn’t have refrigerators where they can store food. Nor, a house in a quiet neighborhood where you can call for help with a push of a button. Back then, your neighbors were wild animals who happened to want the same as you – to hunt for food.
Or as you can see, it’s not entirely our fault that we approach situations with such a rush towards things that give us instant pleasures.
Simply, from an evolutionary, psychological, and neurological perspective. We are designed to want things immediately. Why go against how we were programmed?
Instant Gratification Examples and Practices:
Instant gratification is like a cold water bottle on a hot day.
It’s all about certainty and seeking experiences that provide laughter and joy with as little effort as possible.
If you happen to be in a gloomy mood. Here are some examples that can quickly alter your feelings:
- Take a snack: Stocking your drawers with high-calorie treats and often stopping by even if you’re not hungry is way better than waiting for dinner and preparing a salad.
- Connecting with others on social media: What better way to survive a day in the dull cubicle while doing extremely boring work than to engage in long sessions of social media scrolling. On this virtual island – where everything looks perfect. There is always something new to watch. Social media is like a virtual fun fair. On top of it all, it’s free.
- Not working out: Why purposefully give money to someone who owns a room full of bicycles that lead to nowhere? Why sweat while you can enjoy a nice evening on the couch watching shows?
- Putting off things for tomorrow: If something can be done tomorrow, why do it today? There are surely more fun activities that can be done now than preparing reports or writing papers.
- Not learning new things: Since you went to school, you should know everything that there is to know. After all, smart folks created the whole curriculum. Why take time to read books or acquire new skills?
If these examples are not enough to help you feel good. Don’t worry. You will quickly find new ways to postpone important activities that require hard work.
How? What’s the secret?
There is this little monkey inside our heads that will always find a way to diverge our thinking from activities that are hard to activities that are easy.
It’s called the Instant Gratification Monkey- I call him Carl.
What Is The Instant Gratification Monkey?
If there is a part in our head that is rational and wants the best for us – a better job, a better body, more finished books. It’s quickly displaced by an easy-going animal.
Remember Carl, the monkey I mentioned at the beginning? Well, he is in your head.
In theory, Carl is a kind animal. A friendly companion who always comes up with an interesting idea about how to
waste spend your time.
First discovered by the blogger Tim Urban. You need to find and invite your Carl to the roundtable of decision-making to ensure that fun will never cease to exist in your daily life.
In his infamous TED Talk, Tim Urban characterizes the animal as follows:
“The Instant Gratification Monkey does not seem like a guy you want behind the wheel. He lives entirely in the present moment. He has no memory of the past, no knowledge of the future, and he only cares about two things: easy and fun.”
Even if you don’t want it or you can’t find it right away. The Instant Gratification Monkey is right there. Looking for ways to make your experience on the planet earth more bearable. Easier. Amusing.
Instead of delaying gratification. The monkey is constantly looking for ways to rest and/or to have a good time.
When Carl is commanding, and you’re wondering how to proceed – say, whether to save money or get something to feel good. The decision is always the same: Get what feels good now!
Yes, you are probably heading downhill. But at least you are having fun.
As long as you keep the Instant Gratification Monkey in front of the starting wheel, your life will be fun and wild. Yes, your bank account will probably look like a deserted island. Plus, getting out of bed will become harder and harder with each passing day. But at least you’ll have thousands of online friends who will always cheer you when you upload a photo of your new pair of sneakers.
At this point, you’re probably thinking.
Is this good for me?
Surely, keeping a well-structured online presence is important these days. Eating chocolate bars while binge-watching another season of The Friends is way cooler than reading books or finishing your reports on time. And, what’s the point of saving money when there are so many interesting things produced that will help me gain even more prestige from strangers online?
Yes, all of these things are true.
But we also need to explore the following:
Can I exist while constantly pursuing small wins instead of trying to conquer bigger and more meaningful rewards?
Well, let’s explore these two below:
Instant Gratification Effects
What are the effects of following the path of least resistance? Of seeking instant gratification?
Are you at risk of bankruptcy and obesity? And do you become incapable of regulating your emotions when pleasure is all you seek? Or, these are all false alarms?
Can Instant Gratification Be Good?
You don’t have to be a doctor to know that pleasant sensations make your life better. Happiness is determined by the moments of joy we experience. The more fun we have, the better we feel. It’s simple as that.
And since there are so many things that can make us feel good right now, there is no point in trying to postpone pleasure for the latter.
Or is it?
Is Instant Gratification a Bad Thing?
Depending on which side of the spectrum you are looking at things, some might say that avoiding small pleasures in order to achieve bigger rewards is better.
Our tendency to want things to happen now is usually the thing that prevents us from achieving something worthwhile.
After all, to finish an article that requires physically typing – and even the more dreaded activity of thinking about what to type about. You have to say no to so many good things. For example, not watching the most recent trendy show on Netflix or not knowing what a famous pop star is doing on social media.
And even more importantly, delaying gratifications comes with an extra package of bad nuggets. Precisely, being perceived as someone boring because who will ever follow you online when you only post pictures of reading and writing?
It’s way better to use all of your savings so you can go places. Purchase the latest gadgets and upload your whole journey online with a ludicrous smile.
Some Closing Thoughts
The final verdict for instant gratification?
Well, isn’t it obvious?
Instant gratification enables spontaneity and childlike carelessness that leads to a room full of toys that diverge you from any meaningful obligations.
Indulging in activities that bring immediate pleasures – even if they can hurt us in the long run – is the perfect way to never have to confront reality. A perfect form of escapism from dreadful tasks like thinking and planning – like, mastering a field, raising a child, or becoming more mindful and less focused on consuming goods.
Who needs self-control? Who needs to wait? Why needs to create a list of good habits that require a lot of daily work? Who will ever want to put things for the latter?
Yes, maybe, just maybe, instant gratification is eroding a core human virtue of building something lasting. But in our materialistic society. Who has the nerves to wait for something better when there are so many good-enoughs lying around?
Note: Hopefully, you found this satirical approach more amusing that the usual articles about instant gratification. Now, if you want to fight and slay this inner force that is solely focusing you on not that important but amazingly pleasant sensations, you might want to check my guide on How To Overcome Instant Gratification.
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