I remember hearing about a test/game that people do with their children to see if they are able to resist instant gratification in return for greater rewards later. In the game the child will be given a few sweeties or candies from a packet of something like M&Ms. They will be told that they can have these now or if they wait until later in the day then they can have the whole packet.
Personally I think that there are many adults who would not pass the test! Its terrible to think of the people who are being put through devastating times due to their own inability to control their impulses. I know I can be one of them – I definitely give in to chocolate and sugar when I know I shouldn’t. Even when I know that if I give away the pleasure I will have now in return for the greater pleasure of having no love-handles and no cellulite for summer! How stupid is that?
Why do we do this to ourselves?
I believe that often it is because the delayed reward is not clear enough in the mind. There has to be a crystal clear picture of what you will get in the future if you give up the pleasure of today. This picture should not only be strong but also it should be emotional – you should be able to imagine the happy emotions you will feel when you are able to experience the delayed gratification.
For example if you are looking to lose weight for an upcoming event then you should be able to imagine how great you will feel looking at the photos of the event and seeing yourself at the size you want to be. You should look forward to the positive comments from others over your weight loss motivation and the feeling of buying things that look good in your size. These positive emotions have to outweigh the instant feeling of happiness from a piece of cake or a chocolate bar.
It may also be that you do not really believe that you can do it and therefore there is no point in waiting because its not going to happen. I know this can be my problem – I can have negative thoughts in my mind that I will just have to accept the extra fat on my tummy and I eat the cake because in that moment I believe that my image of the future isn’t possible.
And that’s sad. I’ve talked myself out of all the good and great rewards of the delayed gratification in return for a piece of cake when I KNOW that the cake isn’t as good as all the benefits of looking the best I can do.
For example the benefits are – I can go for another photoshoot, I can wear whatever I like without worrying, I can wear shorts, I will reach my own personal fitness goals for my appearance. I will feel stronger, more in control and happier in other areas of my life. I will know I have self control and I will know that if I can stop myself eating sugar and get that body fitness of my dreams then I know that anything is possible (Really if I can break the sugar habit then I am unstoppable!) And in doing this I know that I will be a better role model to others.
There is a lot at stake for me when it comes to saying no to sugar and that is what I think about when I feel my self control is a little weak. I also have to remind myself that I am the one with the control over this situation and I know that its better for me to take the rewards of saying no today, and reaping the benefits later.
So there are two things you have to keep clear in your mind whenever temptation strikes. The first is how good it feels to be fit, healthy and happy and then the other is to believe in yourself!
If I can master this then you can master this and say yes to an amazing future!
So what delayed gratification are you working towards? What aspects of a fit and healthy life can force you to say no to instant happiness?
What are your personal reasons? Why are they important to you?
You are the one who is able to control yourself or not control yourself. No one else can decide whether you would feel better if you push yourself to workout now or not or whether you should eat the unhealthy snack or not. Only you know how much you want what you have set out to achieve and only you will feel the amazing benefits of knowing that you are the key to your success. The children with the M&Ms haven’t so much at stake as you and they don’t have the benefit of life experience and the ability to imagine their future the way that we can as adults.
For the children its just a test and a chance to eat sweeties, for you its life, but in both cases its simply a case of saying no now for greater (delayed) gratification later.
I believe in you – I know you can do it!