Life Lessons On Impatience And Instant Gratification

"Things like Amazon make life more convenient, but if we’re not careful they can make us impatient. And impatience is the enemy of success."

If you want instant gratification, don't plant a Chinese bamboo seed.

The process begins like any other seed, it needs good soil, sun and water. But after a year of nurturing this little seed you won't get anything in return.

In year two, it requires the same care and attention. Water, sun and fertilizer. Then you wait.

Repeat this in year three and four only to wait some more. It's like the bamboo is putting you to the test. Get impatient in the first four years and you get nothing. 

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Finally, you make it to year five. The wait is over and the bamboo sprouts. But it does more than that. Your reward is eighty feet of growth in six weeks.

For four long years, the bamboo was getting stronger, developing roots, preparing to take off.

I've found success is like bamboo. I invest in myself, I practice, I put the time in and rarely, if ever, do I see results immediately. The success of that effort pays off years down the road.

Knowing this helps me stay motivated to do things that give no instant gratification, but rather have big long-term payoffs.

Delayed gratification

The Stanford marshmallow experiment is a famous study on delayed gratification. In the test. a child could eat a marshmallow now or wait 15 minutes and get two marshmallows. Some kids could wait and others needed instant gratification.

The researchers tracked these kids through their lives and found an interesting result. Those that could wait were more successful in life. They did better in school, went further with education and lived healthier lives.

The concept seems so simple. But putting off enjoyment is hard. Who wants to study for an exam when there is a new show on Netflix? Who wants to get exercise, when it's easier to sit on the couch and relax?

I, for one, want two marshmallows. As a result, I try to ignore the instant gratification path, and focus on long-term results. I don't choose this path every time, but I do more often than not.

Zaitsava Olga / Shutterstock

There are some simple tricks to help deal with impatience and instant gratification.

1. Hide the marshmallow.

The old adage, "out of sight, out of mind" is a useful one. In the Stanford test, some of the kids turned their backs on the marshmallow. By doing that it was easier to keep their mind off of that tasty treat.

I do the same thing. A few months back, I decided to stop watching TV. To help me, I cancelled my Hulu subscription. With that gone it was much easier to focus on things that have a long term result.

2. Enjoy the process, not the destination.

Years ago the game room was my "man cave." There was a pool table, dart board, TV and a bar.

The bar was unique. I built it from scratch. It had a mini-fridge, ice drawer, fancy inlay on the top and more. I could have gone out and bought one and saved loads of time. Instead, I invested 80 hours of my time building it.

I could have rushed the process to get it finished sooner. Had I done that, the end result would be pretty poor. I'm glad I didn't rush. The time I spent working on that project gave me a lot of joy and the final product was one-of-a-kind.

3. Give logic a chance.

When it comes to decisions, we are emotional machines. If we use logic in a decision, it's to support our emotions. For example, I know it's logical to invest in my future, but sometimes emotions take over and I want gratification today.

This is a hard one. One thing I do is try to delay buying decisions. The more time I give myself, the more likely I am to let logic do its thing. This usually helps me make better choices.

4. Talk to yourself.

I can get advice from all sorts of people. Sometimes I don't have to go very far. If I need a little motivation to wait, I'll tell myself, "Come on Chad, do you really need this today?"

Kids in the Stanford study did the same thing. A little self talk can give a big boost in delaying gratification and making better choices.

5. Remember what’s important.

Today, texting and driving causes one out of four car accidents in the United States. That little "ding" is yelling at you to look at the phone and respond right away.

That is a temptation to avoid at all costs. There is nothing more important than getting to a destination alive. This takes self control and the knowledge to know that everything can change in an instant.

guteksk7 / Shutterstock

We live in the instant gratification society. Amazon Prime sends my packages in two-days, but Prime Now gets me the same thing in two hours.

Things like Amazon make life more convenient, but if we're not careful they can make us impatient. And impatience is the enemy of success.

100 years ago Henry Longfellow said it very well in this poem:

"The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Toiled ever upward through the night."

This story originally appeared on Chad Bockius' blog and is part of a series of letters to his kids. His goal is to reflect on and capture as many life lessons as possible. Chad is a father of two, non-profit founder and a serial tech entrepreneur. He loves sharing his experiences to help others live a more fulfilling and successful life. You can follow him on Medium and on his blog ChadBockius.com

Cover image via Unsplash

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