Friday, February 20, 2009

Immediate Gratification or Long Term Goals - Which Do You Choose?

We are a society built on immediate gratification. We want everything right now - and we want it the way we want it. Instant gratification is good, but it often gets in the way of what we want in the long term. So if you are one of those out there that is making decisions only with immediate (or short term gratification) in mind, and you are not happy with either your life or the way you business is working for you, then there is a simple solution - start focusing on what you want to create, not only what you want right now.

Up until 3 months ago, I had a goal to lose weight. I had gotten a bit of a belly and wanted to make it go away. I had the goal of losing the weight, but for some reason, I wasn't changing my actions. It was then that I realized, I was making decisions for short term gratification, instead of thinking about what I wanted in the long term.

I would wake up in the morning, tell (ok, lie to) myself, "Today is going to be the day that I start to change my life." Unfortunately, as the day would go on, life would get in the way. Meetings would run late. I would be in a hurry. And my stomach would growl. So before I knew it, I would go back to my old habits - my old eating patterns of fast food and pop.

Somehow, I had to break this pattern - I had to build accountability into my life to make the changes that I did really want. And since that day in mid November, there have been a couple of things that I've done to change my life. They first included hiring a personal trainer (who holds me accountable week to week for my eating). But the biggest change I made was to realize that I was letting my short term gratification over ride my long term goals.

So now, as I go throughout my day, making decisions - even the smallest decisions - I stop and think, "What is the best decision for both my immediate gratification and long term goals?" And I do my best to stay focused on my long term goals of losing weight and my belly.

I won't lie to you, there are still times when the immediate gratification wins. But now I know that it was my choice to let it win, not anything I can blame on anything or anyone else.

So, the important thing to recognize is that this is NOT just a weight loss thing - its applicable in every aspect of your life - especially in business. Every decision you make in your daily business activities, from when to open and close, how much to charge, to how you are going to spend your time today has both short term and long term repercussions. When you don't stop and think about those repercussions, you tend to make decisions that are only about immediate gratification.

Why does this have such applicability in business? Simple. Most businesses are good at Operations and Sales, but struggle with Marketing. And when you think about it, Operations and Sales are immediate gratification actions, while time spent on Marketing is a long term investment.

Needless to say, I suggest that as you go about your day, stop and think about what you are doing. Evaluate whether you are satisfying your immediate gratification needs or longer term goals. As you shift your thought in this way, you will begin (slowly at first) to shift your actions to account for both your immediate needs as well as what you want to create - your goals. And believe it or not, you will be amazed at how quickly you will start to see a change in what you are doing, and how you look at your day.

**In case you are curious, I have lost over 20 lbs since I started - and have gotten rid of nearly all of my little belly that had cropped up on me. It works!


  1. Excellent Post! We have truly become a society that not only wants but expects instant gratification. The Younger generation is truly in tune with the push button and it will be achieved mentality.

    Great Analogy about Operations and Sales being immediate gratification actions and Marketing being a longer term investment.

    Congrats on losing the Weight and the Belly. Keeping it off is a long term investment in your healthy future. Nice Choice :)

  2. Dave, Great Feedback. Unfortunately, I think the "Instant Gratification" culture actually starts with my generation - Generation X.

    Unfortunately, I think our parents (The Baby Boomers) worked so hard to make sure we had everything we needed / wanted, we failed to learn how important it is to set long term goals and live our lives to achieve them.