What is Delayed Gratification and why is it Important?

Instant gratification is the new norm in today’s world of one-click purchases and instantly accessible information. It is easier than ever to get what you want with smartphones and Wi-Fi. However, instant gratification doesn’t always work. Impulse control can be a vital life skill. Delaying gratification will help you achieve your goals faster.


It’s impossible to have everything you want and even less to get it all right away. In reality, instant gratification can lead to frustration and false expectations. Learning to use delayed gratification allows you to take time to plan and to learn from your mistakes. What is delayed gratification, and how can you learn this skill?

What is Delayed Gratification?

Delayed gratification is the ability to delay getting what you want.


Delayed gratification is resisting the temptation to get a reward immediately in anticipation of a better reward later. It is a powerful tool to live your life with purpose; It is linked to impulse control. People with high impulse control are more likely to delay gratification, but delayed gratification can also be a skill you can learn.

Freud’s “pleasure principle” states that humans are wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Children seek immediate gratification, but as we grow older, our desire to get instant gratification is lessened by the “reality principle,” which allows us to weigh the risks and rewards; this means that we can delay fulfillment rather than make poor decisions. This is called delayed gratification.

What is the importance of Delayed Gratification?

It is a vital life skill to be able to wait for a better reward later. You can delay gratification to make large purchases, forgo dessert to lose weight, or even take on a job that you don’t like but will benefit your career.

The Marshmallow Experiment

Each child was taken into a separate room and sat down on a chair; the marshmallow was then placed in front of them, and the researcher made a deal with the child.


The researcher informed the child that he would leave the room and that if the child didn’t eat the marshmallow while he was gone, they would get a second marshmallow. The researcher would not reward the child with a second marshmallow if the child ate the first one after he left.

The choice was easy: either one treat now or two treats later.

The footage of children waiting in the room alone was quite entertaining; Some children jumped up to eat the first marshmallow right away after the researcher shut the door. Others bounced, wiggled, and scooted in chairs while trying to control their urges. However, some gave up a few minutes later.

The Power of Delayed Gratification

The researchers did follow-up studies as the children grew older and tracked each child’s progress in many areas. They were surprised at what they discovered.

Children who waited for the second marshmallow had higher SAT scores, less substance abuse, lower risk of obesity, better stress responses, better social skills, and overall better scores on a variety of life measures.

Over 40 years, each child was followed by researchers. This experiment proved that delayed gratification is crucial for success in life:

  • You’ll learn more and get better grades if you put off the pleasure of watching TV and do your homework now.
  • You’ll be able to eat healthier if you wait until you get home from the grocery store instead of buying junk.
  • You’ll feel stronger if you put off the rush of getting to your final workout and do a few more reps.
  • Refrain from reacting angrily or starting a fight with your partner. Instead, use your communication skills to find a constructive solution.
  • You can put your phone down and be fully present with your partner.
  • Refrain from scrolling through social media or watching Netflix marathons. Instead, use your Netflix Time to learn skills and knowledge that will help you advance in your career.
  • Delay the pleasure of a night out or a late happy time. Instead, be well-rested and ready for a big presentation.
  • Avoid the temptation to buy something you don’t need and enjoy the long-term rewards of more savings and financial freedom.
  • While you may not see immediate returns on your investments, the delayed gratification of your investment is still very satisfying.

Success usually comes down to choosing the pain of discipline over the ease of distraction; this is exactly what delayed satisfaction is all about.

We are now left with an interesting question. Did some children have greater self-control, and were they destined to be successful? Is it possible to learn this valuable trait?

Therefore, delayed gratification can be described as a call to sacrifice some satisfaction today to significantly improve the quality of your life tomorrow.

How to Improve Delayed Gratification

We can learn simple rules to delay gratification and keep humanity from certain marshmallow doom.

Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind.

It’s true that “out of sight, is out of mind” is an old saying.

Research on Marshmallows shows that children can resist eating the treats if they are covered. With some creativity, you could apply this lesson to other vices in your life.

Let’s take, for example, the fact that you are more inclined to spend money on things you don’t use; it’s possible to make it more difficult for yourself not to spend the money.

You can set up automatic transfers to a savings bank that is difficult to access; this account can be opened at a different bank to prevent you from transferring the money back.

On a diet? Do not buy junk. Period! Ask your roommate to place junk where you can’t see it. It is easier not to allow yourself to be tempted than to resist temptation.

Start small.

Start small to help your brain become more open to delayed gratification. You can make it so simple that you won’t be able to refuse. For example, wait three minutes before you eat dessert. Next time, increase your progress by one percent. You could improve by 33% in this instance and then wait for four minutes. Each small achievement builds confidence.

First, understand your values.

How can you make sacrifices if you don’t know what you are working towards?

It is important to know your personal and work values before delaying gratification.

It’s much easier to remember what you are working towards when you feel distracted.

Use the Seinfeld Strategy.

Using the Seinfeld Strategy, one of many helpful self-gratification strategies, you can defer gratification for longer times.

You cross it off your list for each day you defer gratification and avoid temptation; this creates a chain after a few days.

Gamification enthusiasts will find this strategy appealing. You’re more likely to resist temptation if you find it fulfilling to keep the chain running.

Make rules.

Delayed gratification can be used as a rule for areas of your life that you lack self-control. If you are a shopaholic, you can make it a rule to wait at least three days before buying the jacket you saw on the internet. You can also make it a rule that you won’t buy a jacket if you spend more than five minutes debating the purchase.

Read More: Building Self Discipline

Read More: How to Increase Your Productivity at Work and at Home

Read More: Control Your Mind ~ Control Your Life

Remember What You’re Giving up.

We tend to focus on immediate gratification benefits when we are looking for instant gratification. It can change how we feel in that moment if we take a step back and consider the costs. It can be helpful to highlight the potential losses of choosing immediate over delayed satisfaction.

Realistic Deadlines

A person who tries to lose weight may set unrealistic goals or deadlines.

If he doesn’t lose the first 10 pounds, he may give up and succumb to temptation. He could see the tangible results of his efforts if he set a realistic goal of losing one pound each week.

Practice gratitude.

It is very effective to remind yourself of everything you already have. You don’t have to buy the new clothes or car you want. Instead of feeling disappointed that you are eating a salad for lunch, you can be thankful that you have food to nourish your body. When you practice gratitude, delayed gratification is a natural result.


It is difficult to delay gratification, especially when we don’t know if the desired rewards will ever come. Researchers have discovered that the ability to delay our immediate needs in order to achieve long-term goals is a vital part of success.

You might not be able to resist instant gratification all the time, but it is worth trying some new strategies and strengthening your willpower.

You can make small improvements to your ability to delay gratification, even if it’s not something you feel good at.

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