Week 12. Instant Gratification


3/21/20244 min read

blue denim button up shirt
blue denim button up shirt

This word combination gets a bad rap these days but there are other ways to look at it. To be honest, I would love to get some instant gratification (apart from chocolate, which is great in moderation but there must be more ways in life to get gratification, right?). I understand that’s not the case for everybody but I was raised to always look out for the long term gain, neglecting the here and now. That way the caregivers got me to do the things I would not normally want to do but the proverbial carrot of the long run gain was dangling in front of my nose so I kept going. As lots of fellow millennials now know, that was a set up. After planning all the steps I need to take to reach “THAT goal” or to get “THAT job” I’ve worked myself to the bone for more than two decades, since I was seven years old, and gained, hm, not that much. Definitely not what I’ve aimed for, not a bit less, not a lot less - barely anything and two burnouts in the process. So now, if anything can go easier, I’m up for it. If there’s a clear, certain, guaranteed gain in sight, preferably already this week, I’m up for it. It does get tiring and excruciatingly disappointing to work for decades, holding onto hope and extreme levels of caffeine, believing that you are working towards something bigger, only to find out one day that all that you’ve been working for gives you nothing more than the satisfaction of completing a task and crossing it out of you to-do list. There’s no bigger gain at the end of it, nothing is accumulating as a “social capital” as it was introduced to me back in the day, or some people know it as “exposure”, which in theory had to accumulate over time to turn into tangible capital but in practice, once I was at a point in my life where I tried to lean on it, everything collapsed faster than a house of cards. It felt like retiring and finding out that the funds I was putting my savings in all these years are all empty. Looking from this perspective, instant gratification does not seem that bad of a thing.
But in all earnesty, I’m not advocating for stuffing your face with chocolate cream and sprinkles because whatever you try out might not work out. I would consider approaching instant gratification in two ways: 1) when doing something (and I’m talking about free time, real life (meaning, not video games, scrolling or spending hours in youtube) activities that you can choose to do or not, that would be beneficial for you in some way, like dancing, skiing, drawing, hiking, etc.) noticing if it brings you joy and a sense that you want to do more of that thing. If yes, that is your clue that you are getting something good out of the thing while you’re doing it, which is yes, you guessed it, instant gratification. Doing the thing and feeling accomplished, valued, improving in some way, gaining something out of it would come hand in hand in this type of activity. If you are doing an activity and you don’t feel joy or wish you could keep doing that thing for five more minutes (if it’s a job, a chore or something unavoidable and you don’t particularly enjoy it, see No. 2), than you know what you don’t really like or want more of in life and it’s equally important because that way you gain the whole scale of your likes, neutrals and dislikes and can choose accordingly; 2) when the activity, chore or a job is something you can’t escape, a way to motivate yourself is to add some moments of instant gratification in the activity. For instance, you could challenge yourself to finish the task in under 20 minutes and reward yourself for that with something small but significant to you. You can create a whole game around it with badges, boards of achievement, all kinds of other stuff and make it fun for yourself. In this case, instant gratification can be used as a tool in our toolbox to make our lives easier and more enjoyable.
With instant gratification, as with pretty much anything, too much of something can be harmful but in moderation or used strategically it can be a useful tool in our toolbox for tackling life.

This week I was also thinking a lot about the subject of turning the things you enjoy into work. I now think that even if there’s an activity we deeply enjoy, our passions can but don’t have to become our jobs. Hear me out on this one. I think that most people, if they can, should try out their passions as their jobs and if that rolls, by all means, but sometimes it doesn’t and it is also ok. Sometimes, for some people it’s better to have the stability and socialization of a job and the unwinding joy of the passion project, that way keeping balance in life and experiencing a wider range of things. That’s my opinion, after trying many variations but still searching for the right one for me. Sometimes the search is longer than expected but don’t be discouraged, you do you, and let me know what are your thought on this one.

Have a rewarding week.