delay gratification

Learn How to Delay Gratification

You can’t chase success and find it without the ability to delay gratification.

The most important thing in life which determines your level of inner happiness is being able to control your yearnings, desires, or passions.

You have heard about temptations and all. Even Jesus Christ taught by his own example that resisting temptation is worthwhile. Jesus knew that the appealing pleasures he could get from Satan did not compare with what God had in store for him. Therefore, he firmly resisted the pressure to get immediate gratification.

Sometimes we need more than willpower to resist something that is really enticing.

Learn how not to do what will satisfy you immediately.

Learn how to say no to things which are appealing to you at the moment.

A lot of advice which we hear about procrastinating is valid, but this article encourages you to think about what you can postpone.

Some things can be postponed because you are looking forward to a greater reward in the future.

The Marshmallow Test

Yes, there is psychological research on the same proving that delayed gratification improves the quality of life and happiness.

It was simple and you may call it the Marshmallow Test. Children were put in a room with marshmallows and told if they did not eat them they will get another one.

Some could not restrain themselves, so they ate. Some did not eat. The researchers followed up on the life of the children later.

They found out that those who delayed immediate gratification during the experiment had better lives than the others. It seemed that having the ability to delay gratification brings positive results in an individual’s life.

I will not go into details about the research that was done by psychologists on a group of people. You will read about some hypothetical examples to bring the point home.

What is Delayed Gratification?

Gratification means the pleasure that you get after satisfying a passion or desire. 

To delay means to postpone something or to wait for a certain period. 

Delayed gratification is postponing the pleasure of satisfying an immediate desire. 

It involves being mentally strong and having these traits:

  • self-control
  • restraint
  • impulse control
  • patience
  • discipline
  • perseverance
  • endurance

Imagine that you are given a fruit which is not ripe yet. The one who gives you tells you that you just have to wait for two days and the fruit will be ripe and sweet.

Will you be able to wait for it to ripen or will the temptation to eat it overwhelm you?

An Anecdote about Delayed Gratification

Consider this scenario of a married man who spends time in the office with his attractive secretary.

She is sensual, and beautiful, and makes moves at him. When the opportunity presents itself, she touches his arm, his shoulder, and his back.

Although she is doing this discreetly, the man, being as natural and healthy as he is, can’t help feeling attracted to her.

The decision to delay the pleasing prospect of having intercourse with her might just be the determinant of his happiness in life.

If his wife finds out, she will not like it. Afterwards, the secretary might cling to him and always expect favours. She might threaten to back him, or even take it further and accuse him of unethical behaviour.

Also, he will put himself in a situation where he might get distracted at work and exhibit lower job performance. He will in sense have to trust her not to destroy him.

Or he might try to justify his behaviour and be careful thinking of ways to make his wife not find out.

Whatever he decides, the first choice will depend on his control of his fleshly desires, that is, his ability to delay being gratified by his employee, because he wants the best for his family and his future reputation.

He has to choose, either to get cosy with the woman or lose his wife and his good conscience. Or wait and go get cosy with his wife after work and maintain his good standing.

He will need more than willpower. Willpower might not work when say, they are alone and he is sure that no one will know, then she sits on his lap scantily dressed and entices him.

He will need the discipline to think ahead, the strength to defeat the impulse, put his members under control, be assertive, be firm, and take measures to ensure that the same won’t happen again.

You can Learn to Delay Gratification

You can delay gratification. If you have been practising this skill in your life, there must be something that you have excelled in more than your peers who don’t.

Perhaps you joined the war on drugs and did not succumb to substance abuse.

Or maybe you had to deny yourself some lavish lifestyle for a while living below your means.

Or you spent more time studying than partying when on the campus.

How important is delaying gratification?

The reason why people choose to postpone momentary satisfaction is usually that they see a bigger reward at the end than the reward they will get if they pursue immediate satisfaction.

What do you gain from the ability to delay instant gratification of your desires?


1. Great social skills

People who have mastered the art of delaying gratification have a great deal of self-control and patience.

They have good social skills and interact with people well by controlling their emotions. They are not driven by greed because they are patient enough.

You don’t have to please everybody so that you can feel like you fit in. You don’t have to react to anger and call out on people in order to embarrass them for the sake of immediate gratification.

Read more: A Simple Guide to Anger Management

2.The ability to handle and deal with stress

When you get into the habit of delaying gratification, you will build your mental strength and your reasoning abilities.

You will choose not to fulfil all your immediate passions for the sake of pleasure because of a perceived better reward in the future.

And you deal with stress in the same way. You restrain yourself from poor decision-making during stressful times in your life. You know that stress is a necessary and temporary phase.

The reward you will get for not giving up is greater than seeking immediate relief through impulsive and life-threatening behaviours such as suicide.

Check out: The Big Dilemma-Do Life or Quit Life?

3. Improved quality of life

Delaying immediate gratification protects you from the detrimental effects of poor impulse control. It can improve the quality of your life. That’s why Impulse Control Disorder is listed as a psychiatric disorder.

You can heal from addiction to substances, sex addiction, gambling, binge eating, and others.

Knowing how to delay the desire for instant pleasure will save you from pursuing harmful behaviours.

Also, read: Start Improving the Quality of Your Life

4. Good health

People who delay gratification know how to avoid junk food because they know the consequences. The instant pleasure of poor eating habits does not lure them.

Delayed gratification can help people to learn how to look at the bigger picture instead of seeking to enjoy the now. 

I think it’s necessary for weight loss programs to teach people this skill of delaying gratification.

5. Financial success

Do you possess the above-mentioned qualities? You are likely to experience success and fulfilment in your career, business, or life in general.

Do you have a source of income but you are struggling with personal finance? It is likely that learning how to delay gratification might help.

Sometimes you need to forego momentary pleasures in view of the overall result.

Hence, you can spend less and save more for future investments, rather than living above your means.

This means that anything that is not helping you to pursue your financial dream should be cut off. This could mean controlling your entertainment and shopping behaviour to avoid accruing debt or living beyond your means.

3 Practical Tips for Delaying Gratification

1. Find another pleasure to focus on.

What is the greater joy that you will get from ignoring the current desire? Focus on the greater pleasure which is not close to you at that time and cannot be accessed immediately.

It could be the pleasure of being rewarded by God in the future. Seeking that immediate pleasure might deny you the chance of greater success in life.

Remember the marshmallow children mentioned above? Those who failed to restrain themselves did not get the other marshmallow. Those who waited and controlled themselves got two of them in the end.

2. Walk away from that tempting environment.

You have to force yourself to walk away. Get rid of the tempting thing or person. Quit associating with people who behave in a way that will threaten your future prospects.

3. Start practising delayed satisfaction.

Start with something that you really enjoy doing but you know is bad for you. One day at a time. Practice delaying gratification every day. Try with small things like putting your phone aside when in the company of your loved ones.

Final remarks

Imagine that you are given a fruit which is not ripe yet. The one who gives it to you tells you to wait for two days and the fruit will be ripe and sweet.

Will you be able to wait for it to ripen or will the temptation to eat it overwhelm you?

There is a Swahili proverb that says “Mvumilivu hula mbivu.”

It means if you wait long enough for the fruit to become ripe (or maybe the food to be ready), you will enjoy it better than someone who eats it when it is still raw. In short, endurance will pay off in the end.

Do you delay gratification? It can save your life. 

Resist temptation. Delay gratification. Life is for living. Keep living. Don’t give up.

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