Today seems all about living in the moment. Who knows what tomorrow will bring . . . right? We respond by seeking instant gratification. For example, it’s easier to watch TV than exercise; it’s more fun to go out with friends than study for the exam; and it’s more exciting to buy a new “toy” than to save for a rainy day.
The problem is, we’ve become so accustomed to instant gratification that we’re blind to the impact it has on our future. In other words, we believe we can live “high on the hog” today and hope that tomorrow will take care of itself. Well, it doesn’t always work that way. Instant gratification does not guarantee lifelong happiness, or even happiness beyond the moment.
Our short-term wants and desires often work contrary to our long-term interests. As Neal A. Maxwell, the author and educator said, “Never give up what you want most for what you want today.”
What Is the Impact of Instant Gratification?
Winning at any cost rather than the right way. Some folks act like bulldozers, demolishing everything in their path to get ahead. They don’t care if they win by trampling people or selling their soul to the devil. To them, it’s not how you play the game, but winning that counts, regardless of the future consequences.
Integrity: Tomorrow matters. People with a long-term outlook value honesty and integrity. They know the difference between right and wrong, and they live according to those beliefs. They let their conscience be their guide as they pursue their dreams. Their reputation speaks for itself.
Placing personal needs ahead of the needs of others. Takers are like sharks, trolling the waters, with appetites that are never satisfied. Takers put their personal needs first above all else. Their selfishness knows no bounds, often with disastrous consequences for others and themselves.
Relationships: Tomorrow matters. People with a long-term outlook value relationships. They recognize the importance of generosity and doing right by others, even if it means sacrificing their own best interests. Givers use every opportunity to create lasting, win-win relationships.
Living “high on the hog” rather than within one’s means. Some folks always spend more than they earn. College bills? Weddings? Retirement? Unforeseen expenses? They’ll figure that out when tomorrow comes –– and the problem is, tomorrow eventually does come, and often when they can least afford it.
Finances: Tomorrow matters. People with a long-term perspective live within their means. They know that some expenses are inevitable and they begin saving early –– their savings compound over time. This is in contrast to people who pay their debt down each month and never have anything to show for it.
Desiring quick-fix remedies over personal sacrifice. Some people desire good health as long as it doesn’t require them to abandon bad habits. Instead, they resort to quick-fix remedies that require minimal personal sacrifice.
Health: Tomorrow matters. People who care about their long-term well-being embrace a healthy lifestyle. They make healthy food choices, maintain a steady exercise routine, and take steps to enhance their mental and emotional health. They make the commitment for themselves and for those who care about them. These habits are supported by a dose of personal discipline that reveals true character and common sense.
Opting to keep the peace rather than disciplining their children. Some folks are absentee parents even when they’re actually present. They allow their kids to run wild, and they surrender authority at the first sign of a tantrum, reasoning that “kids will be kids” or choosing not to make a scene. Of course, they expect others to discipline their kids and teach them proper values and respect.
Parenting: Tomorrow matters. Behind every good kid is a concerned parent or caregiver who understands that raising children is a serious responsibility, not a spectator sport. These adults are passionate about providing discipline, offering a quality education, instilling good values, and serving as exemplary role models.
Instant gratification also applies to business:
Chasing get-rich-quick schemes, rather than paying their dues. Some folks want all the good things in life without working for them. If they put half the effort into education and hard work that they put into beating the system or chasing get-rich-quick schemes, they’d be a raging success.
Success: Tomorrow matters. People with a long-term outlook believe in investing in their personal growth, building trusting relationships, earning a solid reputation, and developing a track record of success.
Valuing individual sales transactions over customer relationships. Some businesses view customers merely as a sales transaction, rather than seeing the promise they offer over the life of a relationship. To these folks, it’s all about the short-term win. Their customer base looks like a revolving door –– here today, gone tomorrow.
Loyalty: Tomorrow matters. Businesses with a long-term outlook know the value of each customer relationship. They’re passionate about building trust, providing exceptional value, and exceeding expectations. They view the longevity of relationships as a key benchmark of effectiveness and the path to success.
Striving for short-term wins at the expense of long-term success. Some leaders are obsessed with quarterly results. If activities don’t contribute directly to their short-term performance, they can’t be bothered.
Business Performance: Tomorrow matters. Leaders with a long-term outlook maintain a healthy balance between short-term performance and long-term results. They invest time and resources into building trust, developing people, winning loyalty, and investing in the organization’s future. Quarterly results do matter, but not at any cost.
Blinded by Instant Gratification
We’ve become so addicted to instant gratification that we’re blind to the impact it has on our lives. The truth is, instant gratification makes our lives more complicated and less fulfilling. In many cases, we’re simply trading away our future potential for happiness today. Plus, instant gratification adds to the uncertainty and volatility that we experience every day. There are enough events outside our control. Why add to life’s unpredictability by making choices that ultimately increase our stress and anxiety?
The truth is, if we don’t have integrity, our toxic reputation will be as hard to shed as our shadow; if we don’t save for a rainy day, we’re certain to sink in the stormy days ahead; and if we don’t pass our values on to our kids, someone else will pass theirs.
There’s no need to starve today’s pleasures by focusing entirely on tomorrow. By combining a little discipline, patience, and sacrifice, our future can be bright. The alternative is to continue to be tempted by the “forbidden fruit” of instant gratification, and then be forced to accept the rotten consequences.