Delayed Gratification

Delayed gratification is crucial to reaching long-term goals, such focusing on saving and investing, instead of expensive cars and lavish vacations.

Delayed Gratification Meaning

Delayed gratification refers to the ability to resist immediate rewards or pleasures in favor of a greater reward that will come in the future. It involves exercising self-control, patience, and the understanding that good things often require time and effort.

Delayed gratification is a valuable life skill that can help us make smarter choices and meet long-term goals more easily. This mindset can help us save for vacation expenses, limit impulse purchases, or work hard at our jobs, things which will give us maximum long-term contentment. Being able to resist immediate impulses is also powerful in keeping relationships healthy and strong.

Delayed gratification has long been studied and is considered a central aspect of self-regulation, the ability to manage our emotions and behaviors. Studies have demonstrated that individuals with higher levels of delayed gratification tend to possess stronger emotional regulation skills, manage feelings more effectively, and are more likely to find success in life compared to their counterparts. 

As with all things related to impulse control, developing delayed gratification requires exercising it regularly and strengthening the ‘muscle’ of impulse control. There are various methods you can employ for doing so. One such practice is mindfulness meditation, which teaches us to accept discomfort, while delaying gratification by staying present in the moment. Also helpful are setting specific, concrete goals such as a weekly exercise plan.  With clear and well-formed goals, it will become much simpler to delay gratification and stick with them! The more specific and clear goals become, the easier it will become for us to delay gratification and remain committed!

Be thankful. One way to practice delayed gratification is to recognize all that is wonderful about life and reflect upon everything for which you’re thankful. Doing this can remind yourself how fortunate you are and help you realize that postponing that splurge today could mean having more money saved up for an adventure later down the line. Practicing gratitude also encourages mindfulness of what may provide immediate satisfaction today.

If you’re new to delaying gratification, getting started may seem challenging. One approach is setting small but incremental goals, like waiting three minutes before eating dessert as a starting point, and gradually increasing it over time. Doing this will build your confidence while gradually retraining your brain to recognize its benefits.  This may lead to positive habits that you easily implement when needed.


Delaying gratification is an indispensable skill that will help you build self-control and meet long-term goals. Delay requires resisting immediate rewards in exchange for more valuable gains later. Although practicing delayed gratification takes strong willpower and determination, its rewards make the effort worth your while in the end.

The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment is one of the best-known studies that illuminates the benefits of delayed gratification. A researcher gave preschoolers a choice, either immediately eat a marshmallow, or wait until she returned with another treat later. Children who could control their impulses and wait patiently were more successful academically as well as leading healthier lifestyles later.

Saving for retirement or an expensive purchase requires delayed gratification in the form of forgoing immediate comfort in favor of working towards long-term career goals. Committing to not spending when you can’t afford it requires dedication to delayed gratification. Delay also forms the cornerstone of an effective work ethic.  High achievers often choose this route over immediate comfort in favor of their goals.

Practicing delayed gratification can also help build healthy relationships. People who seek instantaneous gratification tend to put themselves first in relationships, creating potential conflict and strain between partners. When you practice delayed gratification by giving up personal desires for the benefit of others in your relationship, both parties benefit from experiencing a give-and-take dynamic, that mutually benefits all involved.

As part of a romantic partnership, it’s essential that both partners can exercise patience when needed and support. Trust is the cornerstone of lasting relationships, without it, making sacrifices may become harder and the romance could dissolve altogether.

Delayed gratification is also essential in business. Entrepreneurs take risks to create their dream companies, so it’s vital for them to resist any temptation of short-term financial gain by keeping an eye on long-term goals, rather than expecting instantaneous success.


Delaying gratification allows individuals to attain future goals and dreams more easily, thus reaping greater happiness, life satisfaction, and physical health benefits in the process. Individuals who practice delayed gratification often find it easier to work hard, study longer, make wise financial decisions that lead to greater wealth accumulation as a result. Furthermore, prioritizing delayed gratification could increase volunteering efforts that promote social progress while creating positive changes within communities.

Delay of gratification is an integral component of success in education, careers and relationships, including school success, greater academic achievement and healthier relationships as adults. Children who exhibit the ability to defer gratification in tests like the marshmallow study tend to fare better at school.  This leads to greater academic accomplishment, better relationships and increased self-control as adults.

Career-wise, individuals who can put off instant gratification in favor of investing in building their skills and knowledge are more likely to move up the corporate ladder quickly, receive promotions, and enjoy higher incomes over time. The same principles also apply in other aspects of life like cutting unnecessary spending, eating well and exercising regularly.

There may be times when delaying gratification is neither appropriate or possible.  For instance, if someone is experiencing severe discomfort or danger they should reconsider their decision to postpone taking the necessary measures to protect themselves from such pain or danger. Disorders like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), aggression and substance abuse have direct correlations to issues with impulse control.

At the core of successful delayed gratification, you will find a  supportive system. Your support system could include spouse, parents, friends, coaches, or therapists who can keep you focused on long-term goals when temptation presents itself. Furthermore, avoid making promises to yourself that you cannot keep.  One example would be daily exercise, when three times per week would be more realistic.

Vision boards, pictures, and productivity apps may aid in giving you a tangible view of what you can have in the future.

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