Delayed gratification: resisting or sacrificing something in the present for a later, greater reward in the future. It sounds like an easy concept. How come that we struggle with it so hard?
One of the most famous studies on Delayed Gratification is the ‘Stanford Marshmallow Experiment’. This was a study led by psychologist Walter Mischel. In these studies, a child was put in a room. In the room would be a marshmallow. The researcher would leave the room, but give the child an option. The child could eat the marshmallow directly or if it waits for the researcher to come back in 15 minutes, the child would get another marshmallow and could eat both.
Most of the children ate the marshmallow straight ahead. But some waited. The study didn’t finish there however. Researchers continued to study the development of the children into adolescents. The researchers found that the children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index and other life measures.
What does this tell us? It means that the people who make the decision to wait for a reward tend to do better in life and achieve more. Or as you could also call it, delayed gratification: resisting or sacrificing something in the present for a later, greater reward in the future.
How do you put delayed gratification into practice? Gary Vaynerchuk has one of my favorite models around it.
Macro Patience. Micro Speed.
Gary Vaynerchuk, who probably does not need an introduction to most, has a really solid model around delayed gratification. He labels it as: Macro Patience, Micro Speed.
What does this mean? Let’s start with the Macro Patience. The Macro Patience is all about your vision and end-goals. It is knowing where you are heading and being patient in the process. With patience Gary does not mean to sit around and do nothing. No. He means that you put in the work every day but do not expect any significant returns in the short-term.
Which can be nicely followed up by Micro Speed. In the Macro you are patient. But in the day to day work, you have to be fast. You see a task that needs to be finished? Go do it. Someone contacts you? Reply back. There is a problem? Fix it. That is where the Micro Speed is all about.
Macro Patience, Micro Speed is daily execution without any short-term expectations. Most people have this the other way around. They want their long-term goals fast, while they are lazy in the short-term and do not execute. Have it the good way around. Macro Patience. Micro Speed.
Delayed Gratification Strategies
Delayed Gratification sounds like one of these easy things on paper, but in reality? It can be hard. Below are a few strategies which can help you out to develop the mindset to delay gratification.
Know Your Why
Most people fail at a new process because of one thing: they do not know their why. Or, their why is not strong enough. Knowing your why is one of the most important things to keep working at something for a long time with the same intensity you had at day one.
Knowing your why is a solid tool when you are about to quit or give in to a small reward in the present instead of a larger reward in the future. When you are on the verge of making the wrong decision, it is a great last resort to ask yourself the question: why am I doing this again?
Simon Sinek is well known for his books, keynotes and interviews about knowing your why. I highly recommend you check him out if you struggle with finding your why.
Keep Things In Perspective
Goals. You probably know what you want to achieve. The only thing that is left is to constantly keep things in perspective. If you feel the urge to quit or give in to something, you should use self-talk to get out of that mindset.
To keep things in perspective just ask yourself the next question when you are in doubt: what is more important, achieving the end goal or the immediate pleasure? You will probably always answer it the same. Achieving the end goal is the top priority. The immediate pleasure is something that will be meaningless within no-time.
It might sound like a contradictory after the past two points, but rewarding yourself is a strategy to delay the real gratification.
If you know your why and the goals you want to achieve, you could break those goals down and give yourself really small rewards. Those small rewards can help you to keep working towards the end-goal and the real reward (gratification).
When you reward yourself, do not go overboard with it. Keep it a small. A small reward could be cooking your favorite dish with all the expensive ingredients, watch a movie, play a game, go out of town for a day or just have a guilt-free lazy day. The most important thing is that the rewards or small but meaningful to you.
Track Your Progress
Tracking your progress is a nice follow-up to the previous strategy. By tracking your progress, the goals you have achieved, you can look back at how far you have come. This can be real gratifying and satisfying. Besides that, tracking your progress will help you build momentum.
If you want to find out more about momentum, you can check out the article I wrote: A Guide On How To Build Momentum.
The Key To Success
As the title mentioned, I honestly believe Delayed Gratification is the key to success to all things that are worthwhile. Find your own way in developing the habit of delaying gratification for the things that matter. Have the zero-options mentality to work hard every single day without expecting any big returns in the short-term.
Macro Patience. Micro Speed.