Today’s world is one in which we yearn for instant gratification. We have computers and phones that help us connect instantly with all our friends and family. We steadfastly keep up with everything going on with everyone everywhere. We have instant meals, instant cash, instant messaging, and instant movies on television. When we have a pain, we take a pill that will almost instantly relieve it. Over time, with all our modern conveniences, we have grown so accustomed to getting everything we want right away and find that waiting for anything is uncomfortable.
For instance, I forgot my cell phone at home one day. I felt like I was missing a body part. How would I know who was calling me if I couldn’t instantly checking my missed calls? How would I know if anyone had texted me throughout the day? Waiting until I got home to check on the status of things caused me to feel uneasy, disconnected. I noticed how unsafe I felt driving the short distance from work to home without the possibility of instantly calling someone if something should go wrong with my car. How did I survive so many years of life without this device? In the past, I would have to wait until I got home to find out if anyone had called me during the day. It wasn’t a problem back then for me to wait. Why is it now?
I am not complaining about today’s technology, in fact, I love it. I’m using it to make a point about how we have become a culture of people who hate to wait for anything. The problem with giving in to instant gratification is that it has the potential to keep us from achieving our dreams. Let me explain. When we choose to act in the moment and make decisions based on where we are right now, we forgo thinking about how that decision will impact our future life. Debbie Ford writes in her book, The Right Questions, “Choices made in the heat of the moment, without a thought for their consequences, are choices based on instant gratification. They come unannounced, usually in the form of a compulsion, an impulse, or a craving. They can sneak up on us unexpectedly and are otherwise known by their alias, the ‘dream robbers.’” Giving into these impulses create a barrier between us and our long term goals for happiness.
These types of choices frequently come in the form of overeating, overspending, and the over-use of technology. Indulging in too much food keeps us from attaining a healthy body, racking up too much debt causes financial insecurity and stress, and spending too much time with our technology robs us of time we could be spending to get to know ourselves better or in giving back to the world.
Over the past twenty or so years, I’ve had an unhealthy habit of overeating to deal with my emotions. When faced with an uncomfortable emotion, I would look for a quick fix without giving any regard to the future ramifications of my choice. After gaining a large amount of weight for the second time in my life, I decided to learn how to approach my emotions differently. Now, when I feel the urge to overeat or eat unhealthy, I ask myself if that choice will allow me to keep my weight at a healthy level in the future. I then sit quietly for a moment, take a deep breath, and examine what it is I really need. The answer always tells me that I am not hungry, but tired, angry, stressed, or responding to some other emotion. Once I determine the underlying emotion, I take care of the real need, and then go on to have something healthy to eat. By not instantly gratifying my emotional need with the wrong solution, I have been able to lose 28 pounds in the past 3 months.
Think about ways in which you act in the moment to instantly gratify a need. Do you eat to calm an emotion? Do you go shopping to feel a moment of happiness when you’re really feeling lonely? Do you play on the computer for hours so you don’t have to be present in your life? Next time you feel the need for an instant gratification fix, sit for a moment and ask yourself if making that choice will lead you to the life of your dreams. It’s time to think about your future and you can start today.
Yours in transformation,