On “Delayed Gratification”

We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded by all sorts of media, thanks to technology. It might be merely browsing through our phone, strolling through the mall, or watching television — the truth is that we are constantly exposed to new stimuli, all day, every day. Some firms suggest that the average individual is exposed to 5,000 ads per day, to give you an idea of how intense it can be. While we might not consciously absorb and digest every particular advertisement that we are exposed to — it certainly doesn’t mean that we didn’t view it on some level.

Of course, there’s a good reason for that. Advertising wouldn’t be such an incredibly large sector if it wasn’t sufficient. The truth is that many individuals “fall” for advertising, meaning that they often purchase items that they see advertisements for, whether they are the specific demographic that the ad was targeting or not.

We live in a world now where if we hear about a product that we might be interested in — we can search for it immediately, and within a couple of clicks — that product can arrive at your door in several days. Similarly, if you like a song, you can use an app to find out what the song is, and purchase the album immediately digitally. While we used to have to spend time and energy to go to locations and seek out what we desire, the process is now a lot simplified. In this manner, the advertising sector, in many respects, appeal to the concept of instant gratification.

Why shouldn’t it? These days, all it takes is one click to view a specific media, purchase a particular product, or have a particular experience. Advertising is simply appealing to the way that the modern world works, and is a response to the fact that technology has changed the way that the world works.

What Is Instant Gratification?

Instant gratification is the idea that if you have a desire, you should fulfill it immediately. Instead of waiting for a specific time or place to experience this gratification — you might seek it out ASAP. Of course, this served human beings well before, in the sense that we have biological urges to eat, drink, and sleep, to remain healthy.

For example, in the earlier evolutionary days of human beings, instant gratification worked, because thirst would lead us to seek out water instead of forgetting that need to drink, or lead us to hunt because of hunger, instead of ignoring that we required nutrients and nourishment. The urge for the “instant gratification” of sex would ultimately lead to the procreation, which would lead to human beings growing in population.

Of course, these days, those urges have shifted, and our urges might now include the urge to check our e-mail/texts, binge-watch a TV show, or read an entertainment blog. While our desires might have shifted dramatically, the base idea of the “pleasure principle,” where human beings immediately try to seek out pleasure as soon as possible, still exists.

What Is Delayed Gratification?

However, the idea of delaying gratification is the opposite — where a human being decides to postpone the “pleasure”, or gratification, for a specific reason. There are many reasons to do this, and some might choose it to do for one reason or various reasons. Regardless, there is little doubt that delayed gratification can improve your life. Let’s examine some of the ways that delayed gratification can be substantial, in more ways than one.

Delayed gratification might be more simple than you realize. It might involve NOT purchasing that item that you desire, NOT having sex with someone tempting you, or NOT giving in to that drink, even if you want it badly. Delayed gratification is a concept that more people should be aware of because it can be essential to success.

The concept isn’t just about one particular part of your life, either. Delayed gratification can help your friendships, relationships, your personal life, your professional life, and much more.

Importance Of Delayed Gratification

The chances are that you’ve already experienced how fulfilling delayed gratification than be — you just may not have worded it the same way, or thought much about it. Delayed gratification might be that one dessert that you waited weeks for because you’ve been watching your calories. It also might be that one drink you grab with an old friend, that tastes even better because you stayed longer after work to make sure that you finished your professional obligations first. Delayed gratification might be the sex that you have with your partner, but only after you two took the time out to heal the emotional issues in your relationship first.


For example, instant gratification can be thought of in terms of fast food. When you go straight to a fast food place, instant gratification comes in the form of a quick burger that might satisfy your taste buds. However, is it good for your health? The truth is that fast food is notoriously unhealthy. While there is nothing wrong with having a sweet tooth, overeating candy/sweets can lead to diabetes.

Everyone is familiar with being a child and having parents say “eat your veggies.” While vegetables might not be “gratifying” to many — in the long run, it is, because you can live a longer and healthier life. There is more evidence than ever that even suggest that fast food can be as addictive as drugs.

It isn’t even just about physical health, either, believe it or not. For example, fruits and other superfoods can genuinely help our mental health, while there are studies that suggest that fast food can cause mental health to deteriorate.

The point is this: if you are used to eating fast food once a day, and you decide to stop this habit — it could lead to a healthier life. Even if you stop eating fast food once a week, it can still help. The idea here is that the simple concept of delayed gratification could affect your life expectancy.


Let’s say that you are working at a job, but eventually, want to start your own business. Every day, you wake up and work diligently at your workplace, whatever sector or industry that it is in, and deliver results for a paycheck. After one or two weeks, you receive a paycheck for your hard work.

Now, to start a business, you need money. The idea here is that you would put aside money from this paycheck, and every other paycheck, to eventually start your own business, and control your financial future.

Your financial goals then require delayed gratification. It means that when your friends are going on vacation for the weekend, you might have to say no, even though you want to go. If you’re going on expensive dates to improve your social life and network — you might have to sacrifice this to start your own business. Whether your vice is expensive meals, expensive alcohol, a hobby that you love, or otherwise — these things, although they are gratifying, must be delayed.

Let’s imagine that you do decide to delay all of these things. Every time you are tempted to gratify yourself, you don’t, and you end up saving enough money to start your own business. Eventually, even though it takes a lot of work and time — you save up enough to start your own business, and now control your financial future. You might reward yourself NOW, after delaying all the gratification, because you finally reached your goals. In this manner, you have implemented delayed gratification to motivate yourself to reach certain milestones.

The Concept Of Work

The truth is that often times when you are building a company, for example, there are many hurdles. For example, you might see a famous musician, and it may “seem” as though they became successful overnight. However, you might not realize that this particular musician has been working behind the scenes for years in order to be in the spotlight now, and receive the accolades that he or she does.

It’s effortless to think about the founder of a startup that is worth millions or billions of dollars, and think about how amazing their life must be. However, many times, these individuals have created many other companies that have failed before. Of course, if they fell victim to the concept of instant gratification — they would not have persevered.

Here’s a great example: there is a company called Instacart. For those who are unaware, it is a grocery delivery service that delivers groceries on the same day. Think of the word “Instacart” — doesn’t it make you think of instant gratification? You might imagine that the company took the same route, right? Some guy thought of a same-day grocery service, and became rich overnight…right?

Well, the truth is that you couldn’t be more wrong. The founder of Instacart is a young man by the name of Apoorva Mehta, and he had 20 failed startups before he finally succeeded! There is little doubt that Mr. Mehta is a brilliant and accomplished young man, who worked for some of the most well-known technology companies in the world. However, he wanted more.

He could have felt after the first failure, that it was over. He could have thought, “Oh well, I tried to start one company, but it didn’t work out.” Instead, he tried to start five more companies. After all of these failures, he could have decided that it wasn’t in the cards. He didn’t. He kept going and kept trying. Now, Instacart is valued in the billions.

Potential Predictor

The truth is that most logical human beings understand delayed gratification on some level, because it is a concept that reveals itself in almost every aspect of life. We are taught at a very young age about risk and reward, and the idea that if we complete all our homework, that we get to stay up late or play video games, for example.

The concept extends further in life, as well. While we might receive a credit card that allows us to spend money on something that will immediately satisfy us — it won’t be a smart idea in the long run because it affects our credit score, and has the potential to drive us into debt, which can then even cause more issues.

If we want to be a doctor or lawyer, we understand delayed gratification in the form of time. We sacrifice years in school because we know that there is a respectable occupation that will be in demand that pays a “guaranteed” salary in the future. In this manner, while others might be working at less stable jobs but having more fun during the weekdays and weekends — law students and medical students are busy studying hard for a better financial future. In this manner, they are using the concept of delayed gratification because they believe that their life will be better off for it.

There are now studies that suggest that if an individual is able to delay gratification, it could be a true potential predictor of success. This particular study was a comprehensive one, that involved over 2500 participants and utilized machine learning, as well.

It’s easy to see that the world can be a place full of temptations. If you are in a committed relationship, you might think about the instant gratification of sex with an ex, or a new potential partner. If you are on a dedicated diet, you might be tempted with the idea of having that fatty/unhealthy food, whether it’s a burger, dessert, milkshake, or something else. If you are trying to start your own business, it might be tempting to spend your money a certain way instead of saving up money to eventually open your own business. The point is simple: delayed gratification has its benefits, and could even be considered a potential predictor of future success. No matter who you are, you should consider incorporating delayed gratification into your own life.

I write about business, finance, technology, art, and culture. Featured in The Startup, Level, Data-Driven Investor, Med Daily, and more. neilmathew85@gmail.com