How to Take Control of Your Desire for Instant Gratification

Are you spoiling your own success plans by indulging in instant gratification? Know the tips to control such behaviour and achieve long-term happiness.
People in metro with mobile in hand indulging in instant gratification

Achieving our long-term goals bring us real happiness. But we often fall for the short-term happiness by indulging in instant gratification. This may set us off the course, lose focus, delay our success, or even deny us the real success and happiness that we had initially planned. Thus, to stay on course and be successful, we need to have self-control. Here are some tips to help you control your desires of instant gratification and live a life filled with real success and long-term happiness. ~ Ed.

How to Take Control of Your Desire for Instant Gratification

“We’ve become so addicted to instant gratification that we’re blind to the impact it has on our lives.”

Frank Sonnenberg

The search for a happier, more fulfilling life is one we are all in pursuit of. Reaching such a lifestyle takes work — whether that be studying hard for an upcoming exam, hitting a sales target at work, or committing yourself to an exercise program.

The problem many of us face is our limited focus. There are countless distractions all around us that work to pull our attention away from these goals. While leading us astray, they satisfy our short-term needs in a way that keeps us coming back for more.

With the advances made in technology, our society is moving towards a much more automatic world. In other words, we can achieve more gratifying rewards with less effort. Over time, we lose the desire to work harder and wait longer for convenience-sake.

Shopping for clothing, food, and even relationships can all be done with a click of a button. This technology lies at our fingertips, allowing us to get what we want, when we want it, with little-to-no investment of time or energy. After a while, this behavior takes a huge toll on our patience, work ethic, coping skills, and even stress response.

Fortunately for us, we can learn how to shift our focus away from the distractions and towards a more productive lifestyle. Using five essential tips you can control your desire by delaying gratification altogether.

But before we can take the steps towards managing this behaviour, let’s dive deeper into the underlying reasons that we resort to instant gratification.


What is Instant Gratification?

This concept describes the desire to experience the pleasure or fulfillment of a reward in an immediate fashion.

A well-known study in the 1960’s known as ‘The Marshmallow Experiment’ shed some light on the influence of instant gratification on long-term human behaviour. This experiment conducted on kids between the ages of 3 to 5 was used to test their ability to delay the gratification of eating a marshmallow. They were faced with two choices when the researcher left the room:

1. they could eat the single marshmallow immediately, or

2. they could wait for the researcher to return to the room and be given a second marshmallow

This test earned recognition in the psychology community as a powerful predictor of future performance in adulthood. After following these kids for over 40 years, psychologists determined that those who successfully delayed gratification had improved grades throughout school, lower rates of childhood obesity, and better stress responses.

Our Brains Play an Important Role in Instant Gratification

Short-term and long-term rewards are separated into two distinct regions of our brain. If we fall into temptation, the emotional side of the brain takes control over the logic and comprehensive side, making us desire instant gratification.

The addictive feelings of pleasure and joy experienced by giving into our emotional desires are caused by the release of neurotransmitters. Dopamine is the chemical messenger in the brain associated with reward and pleasure.

For example, when our phone lights up from a text message, the temptation we have to immediately check it is reinforced by dopamine. We experience a ‘feel-good’ sensation when we check our phone, and although only short-term, the pleasure strengthens our behaviour to make a habit out of it. Without even being aware of it, we become addicted to our instantly gratifying habits.

Assuming the basic biology of our brains has remained the same over the past hundred years, what has caused us to become so impatient and addicted to instant gratification?

Today’s Generation Is Different than Any Other

Although the concept of instant gratification isn’t new, the technology we use every day is! Since our behaviour is influenced by the world around us, the use of modern devices has created new habits we never had only a decade ago. They’ve evolved our need to consume — whether that means consuming by eating, purchasing, or simply using. Our smartphones, home devices, and other digital accessories allow us to experience life in a way our ancestors never could.

The creators of our smart devices are well-versed in our addictive behaviour. The longer we scroll, the more we consume, and the better they can understand our desires. The information about our needs and interests is then used to continuously show us more and more of the things we desire to see.

We mindlessly attend to our devices without even being fully conscious of our actions. If we want to break this addictive cycle of instant gratification we need to first become more mindful of this behaviour. This type of awareness can stop us from giving in to our habits and start learning to delay gratification altogether.

What’s so Important About Delayed Gratification?

Anything worth your while in life takes time and effort to create. Real success comes from choosing pain and discipline over the temptation of distraction. Perhaps giving into the instantly gratifying habits can provide us with short-term relief and happiness, but it never lasts.


The ability to hold out now for a much better reward in the future is a crucial life skill to have. Delaying gratification helps you to improve your self-regulation and self-control. It helps you to persevere through difficult activities, stay on task for longer, and enjoy things in moderation. With this, you’re more likely to stay on your intended path and reach your goals much sooner.

The good news is, habits can be broken, behaviour can be readjusted, and with enough patience and discipline, you can learn delayed gratification today! Here are the five essential tips to get you onto the path of self-control.

5 Tips to Control Your Desire for Instant Gratification

Keeping the distractions at bay and becoming passionate about your goals are a couple of practical tips to control your desire for instant gratification. Here are some more:

Define Your Distractions

First and foremost, before you’re able to change your behaviour, you need to identify what it is that’s distracting you. It could be the expectation of receiving a text message that keeps you checking your phone every couple of minutes or a cluttered desk space that keeps you from starting your homework. Find out what exactly it is that’s distracting you. Once you do this, you can begin to change your habits.

Manage Your Environment

Our behaviour is influenced significantly by the environment we’re in. A simple trick to improve your likeliness of success is to manage your environment before you begin a task. If you obsess over checking your phone, it will benefit you to move it to another room while you get your work done. Preventing access to your distractions can keep your impulses under control and drive up your focus.

Tend to Your Basic Needs

Impulse control tends to be at its very lowest when we are hungry, thirsty, tired, or any combination of the three. No matter who you are or what you do, we all need to eat food to stay nourished, drink water to remain hydrated, and get enough rest to protect our sanity. Tending to our basic needs is an essential step to improve our patience and keep our attention for longer.

Connect Your Emotions to Your Goals

Our minds are a powerful tool in overcoming habits. We all have the ability to dominate our emotional brain with simple logic. The way we can do this is by connecting our emotions to our goals by asking ourselves “why?”. This question guides you to figure out what emotionally connects you to your goal. In doing so, we become more passionate, dedicated, and motivated to achieve these goals. It’s absolutely possible to rewire our brains to overcome any obstacle, or in this case, any distractions to keep us on track.

Set 3 Achievable Goals Everyday

Creating an endless list of tasks to accomplish in an unreasonable amount of time can create stress and cause you to lose focus altogether. Instead, create a list of three achievable goals to accomplish by the end of the day. This helps you to work with greater intention and keep your motivation at an all-time high.

Checking off items on the list improves work-ethic, alleviates stress, and gives you positive momentum to continue moving forward. This helps to encourage more delayed gratification as you become dedicated to completing the task list.

Bringing It All Together

The world around us is filled with temptations. Although the ‘feel-good’ sensation that comes with instant gratification is rewarding, it’s never long-term.

Working towards delayed gratification is a skill anyone can learn to develop, so long as we are dedicated and persistent. Becoming more mindful of your distractions helps you change your behaviour and allows you to live your life with more intention.

Take control of your impulses by incorporating these 5 simple tips into your daily routine.

Over to you

What kind of strategies do you have to gain more control over your distractions? Share them in the comments section.


Disclaimer: Though the views expressed are of the author’s own, this article has been checked for its authenticity of information and resource links provided for a better and deeper understanding of the subject matter. However, you're suggested to make your diligent research and consult subject experts to decide what is best for you. If you spot any factual errors, spelling, or grammatical mistakes in the article, please report at [email protected]. Thanks.

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  1. There is need to control instant gratification, certainly a valuable article. You shared this crucial topic in a simple language, I loved it!!
    Keep writing more of such articles.

    Romil Rambhad

  2. Well, that’s one heck of an honest article! The urge to get instant results has ruined most of our lives.

    I mean we’ve literally lost our patience and want to achieve quick results. We try to get through the shortest ways possible even when we know that there are no shortcuts!

    This article is an eye-opener for all of us who’ve been ignoring the importance of delayed gratification. Your tips are actually helpful and would help those who give up too quickly.

    Thanks again for such a concise, yet deep & meaningful, article.

    1. Hi Varun, thanks so much for the feedback. I’m glad this article resignated with you. I agree, so many of us can benefit from ignoring the urge for immediate results!

  3. This was a great read and reminder of how dangerous instant gratification can be. Choosing the easy, or emotional route is not always the best for our long-term health and success. I love how you broke down each day into daily goals and tasks. I may not become a CEO today, but here’s three things I can accomplish today, working towards that end goal. –Ryan

  4. Hi, Taylor! You have explained very well everything related to instant gratification. This is very helpful for me and thanks for this article.

  5. I would love to destroy all the triggers and cues which distract me, for instance, if I feel like I am overeating, then I try to remove all my snacks out of my reach so that my cravings reduce.

    1. That’s a great decision to make, especially if you know you have a tendancy to reach for the snacks often. Out of sight and out of mind!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed this post, Kaudinya. It definitely takes a bit of work to become more cognizant about our environment — some days more than others!

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