Are your New Year intentions still on track? Or has your inner toddler hijacked them already? You know the one who’s prone to tantrums when s/he can’t have or do what s/he wants right this MINUTE? The one who can’t resist the siren call of immediate gratification—no matter what the consequences.
After the initial dopamine high has been satiated, do you feel disappointed with your lack of self control?
Or are you comforted by the fact that you’re far from alone, because it’s the new norm; a prevalent symptom of the instant gratification culture we live in?
Google Glass takes instant gratification to a whole new level by enabling people to send messages, read news headlines, snap a picture or get directions — all hands free — as they’re moving about. Mobile applications, such as Blendr and OKCupid Locals, even bring instant gratification to relationships. Through location-based technology, these apps can tell you at the touch of a key who is nearby, and might be up for a drink, or a date.
But when people are glued to their digital devices while holidaying on an idyllic Caribbean island, or checking texts and answering mobiles while having sex, you’ve got to wonder where all this is leading, if we’re not careful!
The jury’s still out on multitasking of course but a growing body of scientific research indicates that the need for stimulation from multiple sources plays havoc with our brains and decreases our performance – not to mention the toll it takes on respect.
No, I’m not advocating going back to the dark ages.
Instant technology is here to stay, and enhances our lives in a multitude of magical ways. It enables us to be much more productive too.
But, like most things when the balance of power shifts, it does have a dark side. Have you ever wondered why some people find it is so difficult to stick to a long term success plan, and get so easily distracted by things that provide momentary pleasure—while others don’t?
There’s nothing new about the desire for immediate gratification.
Our “reptilian brains” are designed to seek immediate gratification and pleasure and maximize survival and reproduction, at any cost. But, historically, this pattern decreased with maturity. Most adolescents would outgrow their need to instantly satisfy their urges as their capacity to understand the consequences of their actions increased.
But now we live in an Impulse Society which is tailor made to satisfy our urges instantly, like a gigantic 24/7 playground. The trouble is that like overindulging a child, this is not always what’s good for us. Just one of the costly results is the credit binge that nearly sank the global economy.
Our socioeconomic system is adopting an almost toddler like speed-centric impulsiveness—obsessed with short-term gain and oblivious to long-term consequences.
• cheating in high school and college is now endemic in some cultures
• impulse buying orgies and the debt traps that go with it
• career expectations on steroids
• overnight celebrity obsession
• social disengagement
• a whole raft of new addictions
And this is only the tip of the iceberg.
In theory technology makes us masters of time. In reality it’s turned many of us into slaves.
The most basic building blocks of a healthy, productive, rewarding and stress free life are often among the casualties of this technological slavery.
In addition, eliminating all adversity, crisis, delayed gratification and discomfort, handicaps us as surely as standing on a landmine. A life of consistently maximizing pleasure right now, and deleting all discomfort, keeps us trapped in a childlike psychological state.
So, why can’t you have a balance of both?
Breathe deeply to disable the arousal center of your brain and enable your pre-frontal cortex (smart brain solution center). Now, instead of indulging mindlessly, follow this 3 step process to free yourself from your inner toddler’s urgent desires:
1. Write a list of stressful situations you’ve got yourself into as a result of impulsive actions.
2. Write how they could have played out differently if you had waited and evaluated.
3. Now act on the important—instead of reacting to the urgent.
Thoughts to ponder:
• Without an investment of time, objects and experiences lack value.
• Waiting and reflection are essential to sound decision-making, creativity and innovation.
• Because instant gratification has to be constantly repeated, it isn’t gratification at all.
• Delaying gratification provides time for inspiration and fresh ideas.
Are you an Urgency Addict?
Have you lost sight of what really matters in your life? Next time your inner toddler throws a tantrum do you want to know how to regain control?