The Instant Gratification Trap
Updated: Jul 20, 2020
Release the addiction to the outcome. Focus on the process. You will become who you are meant to be within the process.
I repeat this to myself on a daily basis. There was a point in time when I had become so obsessed with my goals and attaining them, that I started to burn out. My goals were falling short time and time again, and then I would give up. I had a pile of barely-used goal notebooks, tracking sheets, and planners. I shared big ideas with others, and didn’t follow through on what I said I wanted to do, which was a bit embarrassing.
When it came down to being accountable to myself, I would give up. I was getting frustrated with myself – repeating the same process over and over (maybe using the “latest and greatest” tool), expecting different results. The belief I had in myself started to dwindle, and I could feel my dreams slipping through the cracks.
Something needed to change. I slowly began to realize that it was my attitude toward my goals that had to change. Were my goals too big? No. Were my goals unattainable? No! Was my timeline and expectations unrealistic? YES! I wanted to reach my goals now. We live in a society where we can get almost anything in an instant, and I was under the false assumption that “goals” fell into that category.
I falsely believed that my goals had to happen as soon as possible in order for me to be a “success.” There is a psychological discomfort associated with self-denial. We have an instinct to seize the reward at hand, and resisting that instinct is hard (Heshmat, nd). We can post pictures and immediately get like, followers, and comments. We try the latest craze and post pictures our grandchildren will be embarrassed by just to get our “15 minutes of fame.” We can order the latest technology and have it arrive the next day – we can even find a date without leaving the house! When we have goals that will take months, or even years, to realistically finish, it is hard to see the end in sight, so we give up. Or, at least I did.
I made a decision to stop repeating the process; to get out of the “instant gratification” trap.
Here is what I will do: Every day, I will repeat, “I am releasing the addiction to the outcome. I am focusing on the process of my goals. I will become who I am meant to be within this process.”
A recent session with my therapist/life coach/amazing person showed me just how far I have come in the past year. We reviewed my goals that I set last year, and to be honest, I didn’t think twice about these goals after I had set them. We would review them monthly, and talk about action steps and how I felt the goals were progressing. I didn’t think of these goals as “goals,” but rather life changes that needed to happen if I am to become the woman I want to be.
Now, finally, I am looking at my life as a whole and figuring out how I can link “goals” to “life changes.” How will these goals I have for myself better my life? How can I set these goals to make a permanent life change, instead of a temporary event that will only stress me out when one attempt doesn’t work? I will still write my goals, but focus on the process of attaining them rather than the end result.
I wish I would have figured this out in my 20’s. But, since I can’t seem to figure out how to go back in time, I am re-focusing the rest of my 30’s to focus on the process of the outcomes. I have my goals, and I have worked backward to be able to figure out the baby steps needed to attain them in a timely manner. I have to recognize that I was able to make major changes in a year. I was comfortable with these goals and I was motivated to change.
I have analyzed my current goals to ensure they are what I want in life. Seeing that small outcomes are happening will help me to stay focused. Also, keeping the accomplished goals in the back of my mind will help me realize that it is okay to wait for the goal and that I have grown and become an amazing woman in the process.
Instant gratification is best used when you need your Amazon order right away, or a date for your family reunion this weekend.
You have accomplished more than you think you have. Try keeping a journal and read it once a year – see where you were and where you are now!
Make baby steps toward your goals. When you accomplish these baby steps, celebrate a little and get right back on track!
Keep your past accomplishments in the back of your mind, to remind you of how capable you are in achieving your goals.
If tracking sheets and notebooks work for you, then use them! But don’t get down on yourself if what works for one person doesn’t work for you. It took me a long time to realize that I don’t need a ton of “stuff” to attain my goals. Experiment with different systems – but don’t spend too much money buying self-help courses and training’s – you can find any information you need online for free!