Sunday, February 3, 2019

The Discipline to Delay Indulgence


Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

Have you ever wondered why you make some of the decisions that you do? I believe one significant factor that influences one choice over another is a human desire to move toward pleasure and avoid pain. By pleasure I mean things that create feelings of happiness, strength, optimism, energy, or inspiration. With pain, I am referring to feelings of anger, confusion, helplessness, frustration, or even boredom. If you are regularly able to demonstrate self-discipline by delaying pleasure or gratification, your chances for achieving success in life increase substantially. 

According to a landmark Stanford University study, children were provided one marshmallow and given the choice of eating it or waiting fifteen minutes and being rewarded for holding out with a second marshmallow. Some kids ate theirs right away. Others waited. But the study’s real significance came years later, when researchers discovered that the children who held out for the reward had become far more successful adults than the children who ate the first marshmallow immediately. This “marshmallow theory” was found to explain that the key difference between success and failure is not merely hard work or intelligence, but the ability to delay gratification.

If you are looking to delay gratification, like to save money now to be able to purchase a more desirable item in the future, here are five strategies to help you stand strong: 
  1. Be clear on your values and what matters most. Have a clear understanding of what is important to you and what you want to accomplish. When you realize these aspects, you are more likely to make choices that can help you achieve the goals and success you desire.
  2. Break down big projects/goals. Just like running, athletes train very differently for a sprint than a marathon. The long project will help you to learn about the process, setting mini-goals along the way, and ongoing persistence.
  3. Offer visual progress. Use a jar of marbles or some sort of visual tool to demonstrate working toward a goal and making progress versus giving yourself a huge reward after accomplishing a task. Once the jar is full, then you get to reward yourself.
  4. Get an accountability partner. Just like it is often times easier to workout with a buddy so that you both are less inclined to stop because you know the other person is counting on you, sharing your plan and progress with an accountability partner can help maintain your focus and discipline.
  5. Frequent reflection. When you find yourself struggling with wanting something now and you’re about to cave in, stop to consciously reflect as to why you are feeling more vulnerable than usual. Try to pinpoint the motivation and reasons behind this strong craving. This time spent in reflection just may be enough to break the cycle of “now” and allow you to postpone the pleasure. 
Delaying gratification can be hard-work. Depending on what you want to achieve, it may take weeks, months, years, and sometimes even decades. And even if you don’t always make the best choices, hopefully you learn from the poor ones and appreciate the good ones. As I contemplate my life, I know that when I exercise self-discipline to delay an indulgence or an instant pleasure, I reap the sweet rewards. I tend to appreciate it more, feel a greater sense of accomplishment, and achieve a more successful outcome. Hold it, smell it, or even lick it, but don’t gobble the marshmallow yet.


Personal Challenge: What areas in your life do you feel you need instant gratification and find it difficult to delay? What other strategies do you have for delaying gratification?


Strengthen Your Courage Muscle


Blog by Tracy Butz, CSP

Perhaps you are confronted with taking a chance when others will not, or your idea is very unpopular. Maybe you desperately want to follow your vision, no matter where it takes you, but you are meeting intense resistance. Perchance you are simply trying to do the right thing, even though far easier options exist. Most of us are called to be courageous more than we think, and we likely already possess many of the qualities that other remarkably courageous people have demonstrated. But if building definition in your courage muscle is a strength-enhancing exercise you want or need to target, highlighted below are six ways to grow that muscle: 
  1. Stop procrastinating and give courage a try. Do your best. Learn from the results of that first attempt and avoid becoming discouraged.
  2. Face what you fear. Look it in the eye and determine exactly what you are afraid of. Rejection? Being laughed at? Not being accepted? Then once you know what you fear, face it and tell yourself, “This fear will pass.” Take one small step, then another. Action builds courage.
  3. Step outside your comfort zone. By being open to meeting new people, visiting a city you have never been to but are curious about, or tasting an appealing entrĂ©e, one that you hadn’t considered before, you gradually strengthen your ability to be courageous.
  4. Stand up for others who need it. Find your inner strength to take a stand when necessary. Start by demonstrating courage when someone else is in need, rather than standing up for yourself first, since that is often times less intimidating.
  5. Demonstrate self-discipline. Be very clear about what you want and don’t want, and remain steadfast even when you are enticed to veer off course.
  6. Be willing to fail. True learning happens when things don’t go your way; when you fail or lose. Be willing to fail, but never willing to quit. Failure doesn’t feel good, but the result, if you learn from it, is powerful. 
Rather than succumbing to the learned behavior of fearfulness, know your limits, but commit to exercising courage more. If you want to transform your life and not reach the end of your line with regrets, make courage a conscious virtue you need to live with, versus without.