Want more from life? Delayed gratification might help

The modern world is blazing fast. You can literally see and talk to a friend in another part of the world by moving your fingers across your phone. You can get food delivered at your doorstep in less than half an hour.

Gone are the times when we had to go to the market and buy movie DVDs and mp3 CDs. Everything is on the internet and just a click away.

The fast speed of the modern world has made things so easy to get that we often fall prey to our desires and make decisions in a hurry.

We have become so intolerant that we complain even if a webpage takes 2 seconds longer to load.

We want everything fast and everything now! Instant gratification is what we desire. Delaying gratification is what we have forgotten.

"If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning."

What is Delayed Gratification

Delayed gratification is the antonym of instant gratification. It is the ability to control and put off your desires, in favor of better but less sensational experiences.

For example, Eating out with friends each weekend can be super fun but skipping the outing, staying at home and reading a book or giving time to a hobby can make you more productive. It can also save you lots of money over the long term.

Another example could be postponing your plan to buy a new mobile phone when your present mobile is working just fine.

You might be impressed by the features or the looks of the device but you must ask yourself whether you can spend the same money on something better such as on health, books, charity, or travel.

Research has found that happiness from materialistic things such as mobile phones, jewelry, clothes or food is often short-lived and fades out quickly.

If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape 100 days of sorrow

Chinese Proverb

The Marshmallow Experiment

Stanford Professor Walter Mischel conducted an interesting experiment in the 1960’s with children aged between 4 and 5.

The Professor presented each child with a marshmallow and a pretzel(a sweet bread) and asked them to choose their favorite of the two sweets.

He then told them that he has to go out for some time and if they could wait while he comes back, they will get their chosen sweet.

If they did not want to wait, they could ring a bell and call the researcher immediately but then they will not get the chosen sweet but the other one.

For instance, if the child chose the Marshmallow but did not wait before the researcher was back, they would get the Pretzel and vice-versa.

The results were recorded and the children were followed up for over 40 years.

The results proved that children who waited longer became more successful than others. They achieved better test scores, were more socially acceptable, had better health, etc.

They fared better than the other participants in almost every aspect that was investigated.

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How to learn to delay Gratification

It might seem that Delaying gratification is a skill that some people are just born with. However, it is not true. Delayed gratification develops gradually depending on the experiences and environment one lives in. An environment of trustworthiness where delayed gratification is rewarded makes us believe that it is a useful trait. You can make it work for you by sticking to your promise you make to yourself.

A strong reason is what you require for suppressing your impulsive desires. If you think about obesity, diabetes and the pain that they bring, before buying ice-cream and cold drinks, you may be able to put away that desire.

Delaying instant gratification can help you in more ways than you can imagine. It can help you achieve personal targets, manage your spending, quit smoking, etc.

Steps to practice Delayed gratification

The first step to delay gratification would be to identify your desires you want control over. Then you must think about the reasons why you would like to have control over them.

Ask yourself if you stopped or overpowered those desires, would it make you proud in your own eyes? Would it be beneficial in the long term? Will it make life better in any way?

Challenge Yourself: Set Goals

Begin by setting some easy goals for starting. If you smoke 6 cigarettes daily, ask yourself if you can cut that number down to 3 or maybe 2 a day for a month.

Track your goals

Tear a page out of a copy and make 30 blocks on it. Number them 1 to 30. Stick the paper in a place you can see easily like your desk or your bedroom wall.


See the page twice a day: Once after getting up in the morning and once before sleeping at night. If you were successful that day, put an X in the block.

Repeat this each day and you will find it harder to break the flow and it will make you feel proud with each increasing day. The longer the streak, the more confidence you will have. This is a method I personally use and it works, I can guarantee you.

Reward Yourself

You have the right to pat yourself on the back if you achieve your goals. Celebrate the victory with friends and family. Visit a new place or do something which makes you happy. Remember, harder the battle, sweeter the victory. After a successful 15 or 30 or 60 days, you will feel something you never felt before. Completing small goals over time will give you the confidence of setting bigger goals.

Continue North

Celebrate when you complete certain goals but do not forget the bigger dream of completely changing or quitting a bad habit or developing a good new skill. Gradually make your goals harder and try to stick to them.


The Marshmallow experiment is proof that delaying gratification works wonders over time. Taking charge of your short term desires and saying NO to them can reap huge benefits for you in the long term. It is not an easy feat but never forget that you are an unpolished diamond and only you can reveal your true sparkle by grinding and polishing yourself. Follow the simple goal tracking method discussed above to complete goals. I seriously wish you all the damn best. Until next time, Cheers!

Amol Agarwal

My name is Amol Agarwal and I am a personal finance and financial literacy advocate. I have been interested in the field of investing, personal finance, and consumer awareness. Our financial institutions can help us in growing our money if we know how to make use of them correctly. I started moneyhandle. in 2018 to help Indians with their personal finance doubts. My mission is to make our fellow Indians better understand their finances and to prevent them from making mistakes in the financial markets.
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aseem agarwal
4 years ago

Nice article.