Why Instant Gratification Can’t Bring You True Happiness
This is a guest post by Sarah Williams.
We live in a world of instant gratification, where practically everything we could ever want is at the touch of a finger. There are fast food restaurants at every corner and 24-hour convenient stores in nearly every city. The concept of working for our food, or anything for that matter, is an ancient idea. Our connectivity is stronger than ever. We can reach people across the world within seconds, and not just by phone. We have a whole plethora of social media outlets.
We act upon impulse. Technology moves fast and we have to keep up. Instant gratification has become a way of life. Think about it. Don’t want to wait in line for tickets? You can order them online. Don’t like your nose? Get plastic surgery. Don’t want to go to college? Enroll in online classes. Don’t want to drive to the store? Order take-out.
We don’t have to wait or work for anything anymore. And you would think this would make us happier, but it doesn’t. In fact, instant gratification seems to be doing the opposite. Here are a few reasons why.
1. Temporary relief does not solve the problem
Instant gratification is the short-term result of impulsive decision-making. It satisfies the needs and desires of the current moment, and does not consider the lasting benefits or consequences of that choice.
2. True happiness takes time and effort to achieve
It requires mindful planning and self-reflection to accomplish bliss within your life. This doesn’t mean you should overanalyze every decision you’re faced with. I can tell you from personal experience that indecisiveness is an inherent burden you don’t want to carry. Deciding between mac and cheese or buffalo mac and cheese isn’t going to affect you in the long run (unless you’re on a strict diet in which case you’re breaking the rules either way.)
However, buying coffee and a pack of cigarettes every day adds up, in your bank account and your lungs. Spending a massive amount of money on clothes whenever your boss is rude to you is another red flag. You might feel good about having a new outfit for the weekend but it won’t change the fact that your boss is a jerk. Shopping won’t resolve the psychological discrepancies in your life, and instant gratification can’t fix the issue.
3. Materialistic satisfaction is not real
Instant gratification feeds into the false belief that materialism makes us happy. Materialistic people are often associated with greed; nothing is ever enough for them. They desire the newest models, the most expensive brands, and they keep wanting and buying and wanting and buying, without realizing that none of these purchases have made them feel content.
For rich people, excessive spending may never be an issue; they have the money to spend. However, there are plenty of people who live paycheck to paycheck, with barely enough change for rent, who still spend unnecessarily. They don’t understand the importance of saving money, or the benefits it can have on their future.
“Reversal of Fortune” is a Showtime documentary, which follows a homeless man, Ted, who is given $100,000 and the freedom to do whatever he wants with it. He is also provided an advocate for the homeless and a financial planner. Despite this, Ted immediately begins blowing his allowance. He buys a new motorcycle, hotel rooms, a $35,000 Dodge Ram, another truck for his new girlfriend, an apartment, furniture, and a lot of expensive nights at the bar. He believes that he is set for life and refuses to get an actual job.
In short, Ted loses everything he has and is homeless again by the time the documentary airs. We can only assume that he is also unhappy.
4. Instant gratification is an addiction
Some addictions are much worse than others, but they can all become a detriment to our health and happiness. People feed their addictions because it brings them pleasure in the moment. When the instant gratification fades, we are left to face ourselves and our inability to determine what is truly good for us.
5. Our patience is hindered
Our technological capability has sped up so many different processes. We no longer have to go to the library to obtain research. We have Google for that. Waiting is essentially a verb of the past. So what happens when there is a tiny malfunction in our typically speedy inventions? We lose our shit!
I recently took a flight that covered over 1,500 miles. We arrived to our destination 10 minutes earlier than expected, but when we pulled up to the terminal, the connecting ramp wasn’t working. It took about 10-15 minutes to fix it but, by the reaction of some very irritated passengers, you would think it took years.
The accessibility of instant gratification has advanced us tremendously as a human race; but it has given us unrealistic expectations. We expect nothing less, or longer, than usual and when we don’t get what we want, we become arrogant. Instead of being appreciative of safely navigating from one country to another within hours, we were pissed about waiting 15 minutes on the ground.
So how can we beat the temptation of instant gratification?
We need to be more conscious of our lifestyle choices and realize that, for every action there is a reaction. Not all instant gratification is bad. Sometimes you have to give in to a little temptation to enjoy the small wonders of life. We just have to distinguish between what is harmless and what is more serious to our overall well-being.
We’re all searching for one thing, and that’s true happiness. Remember that it isn’t just handed to you. Happiness is something you have to work for. Instant gratification is a shortcut that will take you in the wrong direction. While you might have to take the long way around, it will be worth it once you get there.
Sarah Williams is a lifestyle writer who specializes in self-development advice. Her biggest passion is observing people, because she believes that we can learn a lesson from every encounter. She believes that happiness is a combination of a peaceful mind, self-discipline, and appreciating every day – just the way it is. You can read her articles at Wingman Magazine
photos courtesy: Freedigitalphotos.net