Technology and medical advances have pushed the limits of humanity through amazing discoveries and breakthroughs. American citizens with no training at all now can fly into outer space, for a hefty price tag, of course. We have the ability to remain connected to the entire world without ever leaving our homes. And we have grown dependent on “one day shipping” as we conveniently shop online from our couches. We will continue to see radical advances in technology that improve our lives, however, these changes do have negative consequences as well. One of the negative impacts on a growing technological society is the normalization of instant gratification. In reality, life in nature rarely provides instant reward. Instead, most of the best things in life require time and effort on our part before we experience the benefit and reward for our work. What does that mean for a world increasingly vying for instant reward?
It all starts with our brains. Our brains are designed to be adaptable to our environment. It also has the role of providing “feel good” hormones when we fulfill a need or want. We eventually train our brains to associate things that instantly reward us as good, and over time, a habit is formed. This ends up being a habit that is usually more difficult to break than to make, as instant gratification does not necessarily = good or healthy. Take the industry of fast food for example. It feeds our desire for instant gratification because we want food that would normally take a few hours to prepare to be prepared and served within minutes of ordering it. With that level of service decreasing the amount of time it takes to get a product to the customer, also comes a decrease in quality that restaurant can provide. So while a drive-through McDonalds burger might be convenient in how little time it takes out of our day, this becomes an eventual inconvenience to our physical health. Seeking instant gratification with food now, might mean severe health issues later.
This also applies to social media and the effect that media in general has on our emotional and mental wellbeing. We are an entertainment society. Most everything we do, apart from the hours we spend at work, is geared towards entertaining ourselves in every and any way possible. Before technology, you had to wait until certain times of the day, or certain events to happen to be entertained. Or better yet, humans had the mental space to use their creativity to come up with all kinds of intellectual and physical games and sports that we still play today. However with the onslaught of mobile technology, we can (and do) entertain ourselves anywhere and everywhere there is wifi service. Many adults today did not grow up with that capacity, but what will happen to children who will grow up knowing nothing but instant self-entertainment via mobile media technology? Research shows that instant gratification produces laziness, a loss of motivation, and a lack of self-control. What kind of children will we be raising when all they know is instant gratification?
The response to this dilemma is not to take away the incredible changes and advances we’ve made in technology as a society. But rather, to acknowledge and manage the ill effects of this instant gratification culture on our emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical health. Practicing intentional delayed gratification can change and eventually replace those habits and even addictions to our “quick fix”. Delayed gratification is about enjoying the process, moment by moment, and patiently working towards an end goal that will reap rewards. As we unconsciously practice instant gratification going about our day, we are increasing the strength of our impulses and desires and training our brains to give into them at any moment – whereas when we practice delayed gratification, we are putting ourselves in control of those impulses and desires, and training our brains to “wait”. Children who display an ability to practice delayed gratification tend to fare much better in life as adults, and can control their impulses with more ease.
There are many ways to practice delayed gratification. One way that we tend to experience delayed gratification as adults is in our business life and/or career. An employee typically gets paid once a week or once every two weeks. We must work for two weeks before we ever see any monetary reward for our hard work! While it is not easy, there is a greater response in our brains to a reward when we have patiently waited for it, than if it were immediately and automatically given to us. Another example is an entrepreneur who has recently invested in a Starz Franchise for their area, and has to put in the work for weeks and even months at a time before seeing the true rewards of their efforts. A business owner, like owning a Starz Franchise, requires a lot more time and effort than just two weeks to be put in, however the reward is much larger than an average employee! Not only is the monetary reward bigger, but the community impact that a small business like The Starz Program has on a local area is immeasurable. That kind of impact, with that kind of reward, cannot and will not happen overnight!
Unfortunately, we must push back on our culture of instant gratification. Not only for our own sake, but for the sake of our children who will know nothing but. Practicing setting long term goals and working at them day by day, enjoying the process as it unfolds while patiently waiting for the end result, is what produces the greatest rewards. Not in the end result of simply fulfilling your goals, but also in developing character, habits, and traits of impulse control along the way that feed your health and wellbeing on all levels. We can enjoy the benefits of our technology and entertainment driven society, without compromising our integrity when it comes to growing into patient, self-controlled, and disciplined individuals. - This is what it means to be a productive member of society. When our life revolves around instantly gratifying every need, want, and desire, we have no time or the will to think about serving our community. Whereas when your life is designed around building towards goals that take time to fulfill and produce rewards, we can better serve our community because we’re not so consumed with ourselves and our impulses.
Here’s to a better life that is created in the waiting! Until next time, keep shining Starz!