What Science Says About Giving Into Temptations?
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In this blog I’ll explore our strong urge to give into our temptations which can stand in the way of us reaching our long-term goals. We’ll explore why smaller rewards that we receive immediately are often more enticing than rewards further down the road. Finally, we’ll discuss what you can do to stay strong in the moments of temptations so that you can live the life you want – by YOUR design.
Instant Gratification versus Long Term Goals
I suspect you know what I’m talking about but just in case, do any of these examples sound familiar?
● You want to lose weight and feel more energetic. You know that sugar isn’t good for you, that it makes you sluggish and traps extra fat in your cells but you end up opting for the cookie (or two).
● Or you want to feel less stressed and more at peace in your life. You are tired of just reacting to everyone and everything. You’ve heard over and over that meditation can ease your mind and support all of these goals, but yet you opt for another episode of your favorite Netflix series.
● Need one more? Less alcohol. Many mornings you wake up feeling foggy promising yourself that you will not drink tonight, but yet by the time you finally shut down your laptop and start your evening you find that just one glass of wine/beer/cocktail is your well-earned reward. That glass turns into two or three or maybe the whole bottle - and so the cycle continues….
You may have heard of the 1960 Stanford study titled “The Marshmallow Experiment”.
In this experiment kids where given the choice to have either one marshmallow now or wait. If they waited, they would get a second marshmallow. As you can imagine, many ate the one marshmallow rather than opting to wait to get two. Here is the kicker – researchers followed these kids for 40 years and discovered that…
Those who have the ability to delay gratification are more
successful in every part of life.
More specifically, the kids who held off to get the second treat had better SAT scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better responses to stress and so much more.
Reasons Why You Opt for Instant Gratification
There are several reasons most of us opt for instant gratification.
1. Lack of trust. If you’ve been “burned” before by not receiving a promised reward, this leads to a lack of trust. This distrust causes us to question whether we will in fact receive the reward at a later date and so we opt for the immediate gain.
For example, with the goal of weight loss. That delicious treat in front of you now is a sure thing, but your goal of losing weight seems much further off and not so certain. So you question if you should or shouldn’t partake not knowing if you will reach your ultimate goal.
2. Missing imagination/vision. If we lack a vision for our future then we don’t see the benefit of waiting and delaying gratification. Resisting a short-term gain requires us to be fully invested in our eventual outcome. 100 percent committed.
3. How good it feels. Often we know what the immediate reward feels like (i.e. eating the cookie now) vs. what the promised future state may feel like (i.e. you don’t know
what it feels like to be 30 pounds lighter and have lots of energy). Without having experienced it, giving in to what you know seems easier, it will make you happy now.
4. Reward ourselves. Our current bad habits are often rewards for other things that are hard. For example, in my life I sometimes justify my decision to eat chocolate as a reward for a day of hard work. That’s not necessarily bad. It just depends on what my priorities in life are. Which brings me to the most important part – how to stick to the decisions we make.
How to Make Better Choices and Stick with Them
⮚ Be crystal clear about your long-term vision. Simply stating that you want to be fitter, have less weight, stress less, be more spiritual, spend more time with the family, or whatever your vague goals may be isn’t enough. Like in business you want to be very specific in creating your goals.
You want to create the ideal vision of YOU. These aren’t just goals on a piece of paper but very clear images of how you want your life to look like. Creating a visual like a vision board can be very helpful to keep you focused daily on your goals.
For example, what does ‘being fitter’ mean to you? For one person that’s a 6-pack and the ability to lift lots of pounds in the gym. For others, it could be all about walking up the stairs without being out of breath.
If you want to be able to say ‘no’ to the instant gratification right in front of you, you must have a powerful ‘yes’ to a future you can’t wait to experience. Our JOYVIAL health coaches are amazing at helping you create your ideal vision. In fact, we’ve had clients who only had two sessions with their coach and created the vision to succeed on their own.
⮚ Know your priorities. Now that you have a long-term vision, you still need to prioritize these goals. For example, one of your goals may be to have more fun in life, to fully live life and celebrate. A glass or two of wine might be part of your vision. How does that vision compare to your other goals? Become clear what’s most important. You can’t do it all at once but taking small strides in one direction works best instead of standing still and going nowhere (or sometimes even backwards).
⮚ Create alternatives for those moments of weakness. Let’s say you want to celebrate an evening with the family after a long day of work but equally want to stay away from the bottle of wine that made it feel like a celebration.
Ask yourself, what other things could make those moments special? Is it a chat with your girlfriend while your husband cooks dinner? Is it playing a board game with your family? Could it be listening to music and dancing? All in all, there are always other ways to celebrate and think of alternatives to the things you really don’t want to do.
In my mind, being disciplined enough to reach the vision we truly want to achieve is the only way to live the life we want to live. We have the potential to be so much more powerful than we believe. Working with a health coach will help you unlock this vision for your life and start working towards the life you want to create.
So often, we are just going through the motions, expecting things to just turn out – but we need an active daily vision and goals to accomplish this. We will naturally delay our immediate gratification when we have a long-term vision that excites us every day and gets us out of bed with excitement to start the day.
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