How to overcome the desire for instant gratification

heather thatcher stress management expert

by Heather Thatcher

This article takes 7 minutes to read

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So…. I want to talk about something that I as just barely a millennial at 36 find really interesting but also frustrating about where society is taking us.

There’s this drive to be hyper-productive, to always be connected with our phones never being too far from reach.

I’m guilty of this, too. 

Sometimes I find myself using the excuse “well, I’m an online business owner, I have to keep my phone close.”

But what happened to waiting for someone to call you back when they got home because cell phones weren’t a thing?

Why do we get anxious when we see that someone has seen our message but hasn’t responded yet?

Why do we push back when someone tells us they’re only going to check their email once a day – does our question really need to be answered right away?

Absolutely, there are cases where things are very time sensitive – like in the ICU when me as a bedside nurse needed some help, STAT from a doctor. 

The problem is that we’re starting to train ourselves that every question needs a STAT answer, every desire needs to be satisfied as fast as possible.

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We are living on fast-forward with no pause button

To make things even more complicated, we are not only wanting near instant fixes for our problems or desires, but we’re now also expecting others to anticipate what we want before we even know we want it!

I’m going to date myself here with this reference (but I already admitted my age earlier, so there you go) but if you’ve ever seen M*A*S*H we’re basically expecting Radar to be there with whatever we need ahead of our own thoughts.

A consumer research study found that 45% of people said they would switch retailers if the company didn’t anticipate their desires.

We are literally asking for companies to please read our minds

But then in the same breath we’re a little freaked out that Google and Facebook know so much about us they send us specific ads based on our browsing history, and have a little sign that says “Grandma’s House” when we pull up Google Maps on our phones.

Decreasing attention spans have also become a hot topic lately, showing that social media is influencing our inability to focus.

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In 2000 our attention spans were about 12 seconds long before we needed something to keep us engaged.

That’s why TV shows aren’t just one big pan shot of the set. We need quick shifts in angles and showing different characters on the screen. 

When they repeated the study, they discovered by 2013 that our attention span had dropped to just 8 seconds – less than that of a goldfish who has an attention span of 9 seconds.

Now this study isn’t super scientifically sound, but it did get the conversation started.

I have to ask you:

How long can you do nothing before you instinctively reach for your phone?

Have you noticed that people don’t just wait in line anymore?

They’re on their phone, checking in on social media, going through work emails, responding to texts, playing a game, or doing something to occupy themselves on their phone.

We’ve been training ourselves over time to always have something happening for our brain to focus on.

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This is one of the factors that is influencing our increased levels of chronic stress.

Stress and the feelings associated with stress are a reactive process that is responding to one of two things:

Our hectic, modern day lifestyle, or our scared Inner Critic that is just trying to keep us safe by trying to keep everything the same.

This constant connection to our phones is part of the external stress factors that are causing us to stay in this constant stressed out state that our body wasn’t designed for.

It’s time to do something about this.

It’s time to start fighting our desire for instant gratification and this trained behavior of being constantly connected.

It’s time to start retraining ourselves to turn off our stress response.

It’s time that we learn how to feel comfortable again being alone with our thoughts!

It’s time that people learn to be okay with delays without feeling enraged or slighted.

The only way to combat this culture of instant gratification is to learn how to cultivate more patience.

Patience means that we won’t feel anxious or concerned when there’s a line up and we accidentally forgot our phone in the car.

More importantly, practicing and cultivating more patience means that we’re giving our stressed out nervous system a bit of a break. We’re giving ourselves permission to rest.

There are a few ways we can learn how to do this.

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#1 – Create a delay between when you reach for your phone and when you actually unlock it and start using it

What if you were to start to commit to counting to 10 after reaching for your phone before you turned it on?

This is 10 seconds that would maybe help you realize that you didn’t actually need your phone, it was just an instinctual reaction that you’ve trained yourself to do overtime.

There are also apps you can install that will put this delay in for you – something that we talk about in the Digital Detox masterclass in the Ultimate Life Survival Guide membership community. 

And then slowly, over time, expand that wait time by one or two seconds. This will train you to start to break that subconscious habit of reaching for your phone, and then you’ll be able to fill that time with something else that will contribute to your mental wellbeing rather than take away from it.

#2 – Pay attention to what you’re doing in the moment

Instead of watching a show on your phone or ipad or listening to a podcast while doing the dishes or getting ready in the morning, can you slow down and notice what you’re doing?

I talk about my daily, 60-second Self-Talk Pep Talk podcast as being something you can listen to while you brush your teeth to start off your day on the right foot. 

But the podcast is only 60-seconds and we’re supposed to brush our teeth for 2 minutes. So that means you still have another 60 seconds to let it all sink in and notice your thoughts while you finish brushing your teeth.

Start choosing one or two activities that you do on a regular basis and start paying attention to what you’re doing!

Don’t be thinking hours ahead of yourself, going through scenarios for your morning meeting – all while you’re in the shower at home.

Pay attention, notice what’s happening, and keep yourself present.

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#3 – Start a meditation practice

Now I know that you might have immediately shut down when I said this last option, but hear me out.

There are two reasons why meditation works so well to cultivate patience and lower our stress related to this instant gratification society we’re living in.

First, it gives us space to consciously slow down our breathing which signals our brain to turn off our stress switch. 

Second, it gives us time to process everything we’ve walked through so far that day.

Part of the problem with this fast-paced world is that we don’t give ourselves enough time to process what’s happened to us. We push through, keep going onto the next thing, and distract ourselves from the discomfort.

This constant focus on “what’s next” is one of the main things that drives this constantly wired stress response. 

But meditation, when we learn how to make it work for us, can be profoundly healing for our body, as well as for our emotions that have been taking a beating lately. 

But how do you comfort and calm a busy mind that starts racing the second you sit down and close your mind to meditate?

How do you breathe properly to get the full benefit of this rest-and-digest triggering mechanism?

How do you know if you’re doing it “right”?

The free 5-day Meditation Foundation Challenge is exactly what you’ve been looking for

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been meditating for a while, or if you’re brand new – this challenge will help you set up your foundation to become more patient and disconnect from this instant gratification society.

Over these five days you’re going to learn how you can easily integrate the right kind of meditation practice for you into your life so you can actively reduce the negative health effects of stress on your body.

Plus, it’s been proven to help you sleep as well as improve your overall physical and mental health.

I only run this challenge once a year, so you don’t want to miss out!

Go to heatherthatcher.com/meditation to learn more and save your seat.

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