Things take time.
It’s something we might have forgotten. We live in a fast paced world and we have many platforms from which we can get instant gratification. And that’s very satisfying and very addictive. So much so, that when we are faced with real life, where things usually don’t happen immediately, we are tempted to give up or assume it won’t work out, or that we are on the wrong path, or that maybe we weren’t good enough anyway. And then we feel rejected and then, we give up.
It’s about pleasure and self-control. I always say, don’t deny yourself pleasures but don’t overindulge in them. If you want to eat a chocolate, eat a chocolate, but eat it slowly, enjoy the taste, and don’t eat the entire store. When we overindulge, we eventually lose interest and “taste”. This is because the more pleasure we give ourselves, we more immune to it we become. And the more immune to it we become, we actually lose the pleasure and gratification of the experience. We also subconsciously train our brains, that unless we get what we want right away, we will walk away. And then … we can’t really build anything long-lasting and sustain through the fluctuations of life, navigating maturely through its challenges, can we?
The ability to delay gratification and to practice a healthy level of self-control will impact our future success and opportunity for growth. It may feel greatly discomforting of course, not to get the “reward” right away – but it is a muscle that we can train.
And why is delayed gratification so important?
Learning how to delay impulse for immediate pleasure in favour for long-term satisfaction is what is needed for long-term growth and for healthy relationships. It also teaches us to be more attuned to the cycles of the land and accepting ourselves more fully; we realize that things take time and we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. We also learn to turn our focus inwards and align more truly to our intentions, versus just doing things to get validation or gratification from the outside. Ultimately, we settle into ourselves and become more fulfilled emotionally and spiritually. And we learn to trust ourselves.
The lack of delayed gratification is actually very apparent in modern relationships. Impulsivity of communication, misuse and overuse of sexual impulses and behaviours, and inability to build intimacy and long-term fulfilling connections, are all results of this.
Trust is the key for both delayed gratification and successful relationships.
Relationships rely on trust, and effective communication is the major component in relationships, and we need trust to have effective communication. Withholding the impulse to throw tantrums, react in anger, and to have the ability and emotional maturity to give each other space during conflicts are vital. The temptation to be instantly gratified robs us of the ability to build something of value, and long-lasting potential. All relationships follow cycles of harmony, disharmony, and repair. And we will always be faced with challenges, misunderstandings and disagreements. The temptation to be instantly satisfied will push us towards wanting a solution, right now! Pay attention to me, right now! I want this, right now! And then things escalate.
The key ingredient is trust.
Trust that your needs are important, and your desires will be realized, and don’t suffice for less than what your heart deserves. Forgo short-term pleasures for long-term satisfaction and growth. And invest your effort into what truly matters to you, not because it’s instantly gratified but because it is what is important for you.
Texting is the worst thing for effective communication. And yet it is so widespread today to the point of people feeling more comfortable with texting, than actual real life talking. I personally know people who get anxiety when the phone rings. And that’s understandable because we get shaped by our environment. The problem is: people break up on texts, fight on texts and there is so much miscommunication that we often burn bridges for illogical reasons. Then why do people text? Because it’s easier than seeing into the eyes of another and realizing how we affect them. And because it’s a monologue and most people just prefer talking about themselves and what they want without considering another. Texting is a way of the instant gratification because it requires less effort than meeting up and making time. But texting ruins effective communication because it is not active listening. And there is a wide-spread trend called lack of relationship accountability and personal responsibility.
Delayed gratification teaches us self-reliance, self-sufficiency and self-confidence – because we learn to take care of our own needs rather than rely on external sources for ego soothing, validation and pleasure.
Pleasure is central to our survival, but as we mature, we need to learn to tolerate the discomfort of delayed gratification, especially if we have a higher purpose or vision.
In a way, we often prefer instant rewards because we want to avoid pain and disappointment. But that’s impossible to do in life. At one point or another, we all face pain and disappointment. And we need to accept these faces of life, otherwise we’ll never be truly fulfilled.
Delayed gratification is also an important spiritual skill and is the foundation of self-development. While there are some people who look towards spirituality as a “quick fix” or some validation of their biases, every person who is mature and serious about their spiritual path knows the importance of delayed gratification. It’s a walk we walk by ourselves and there are no maps, no directions, no how-to-steps. Just like in relationsips. It takes time and effort to learn the unique languages of the word called “us”.
A while back I discussed The Necessity of Limits. Living in a consumerist society where we are drowned in options, we continue to want more and more and more, leaving us feeling emptier than before. Limitless wants, limitless desires, limitless potential partners, limitless wealth, limitless growth, limitless energy, limitless natural resources and limitless expectations. This eventually leads to overconsumptions and an entitlement to pursue anything that we desire without limits. When we have no limits and when we can have anything instantly – we become greedy and start to abuse our resources. We begin to lose gratitude and appreciation for what we already have and the present enrichments of the process itself. We have forgotten how to appreciate people – and be grateful for what we already have. We’ve become a society of consuming and replacing. In the old days, when something broke we fixed it (or at least we tried to). And the more we consume of something, or the more instantly rewarded “it” becomes, we less content we’ll feel and eventually, we’ll be numb to it. Overindulgence and over-anything will never be satiable. Delayed gratification teaches us discipline, humility and enriches the aliveness of the present moment; something we’ll appreciate later on in life. We learn the deeper meaning of gratitude, which is found in its stillness of moment.
Aristotle famously said that the reason why so many people were unhappy was because they confused pleasure for happiness. True happiness, according to him, entailed delaying pleasure so that we have the ability to grow and reach our true potential. This means: putting in the time, the effort, and the patience, to persevere. If we want to live a life of purpose, we must learn this; for purpose is not a “goal” but a life’s long road.
We live in a very fast paced world where it’s all about instant validation and people are so stressed when they don’t know what their calling or purpose is. It’s the human race, racing. We rarely have time to reflect, learn, research and make mistake, try again, and then mistake again … and then try again. Because there is wisdom in mistakes and each one takes us one step closer, as long as we actually learn from it. Life isn’t some “aha” moment from a Hollywood movie scene, where suddenly there are a whole bunch of sound effects and there we are, all in sparkles, finally found our calling. Okay, so what’s next?
To me living a purposeful life or living our “calling” is a life’s work; it’s found in the steps of every day. And there is so much forgotten value of apprenticeship. Developing a vision for our life takes time, a long time. It is an ongoing process where no little daily thing is without its meaning and purpose for the overall design. It is also about accepting failures and knowing that things take time; that even behind the scenes there is always something shaping even if we can’t yet see it or make sense of it. There is value in the learning, in the waiting, in the thinking we are not progressing, and even in the stepping off our path.
How much trust do we have that life will channel through the right people to give us what we need, when we need it, along the way? How much trust in ourselves do we have to let go?
I know it’s hard. We pour all our heart, time, and effort, into something that maybe is not that “popular” or instantly rewarded. For example, most blogs take five years to gain momentum. And it is really demoralizing to give so much of yourself without much in return; because you start to feel like your work doesn’t matter, or it’s not appreciated, or that it’s invisible. The path of the creative is a very hard one. We don’t have it easy at all and rejection is an every day part of the deal. In fact, most people completely give up their creative work within less than a year. But for the rest of us, who choose not to give up because we know why we do what we do and we believe in ourselves and our work, and it’s contribution … what do we do?
We wake up and do it again. Maybe we doubt, cry, get afraid but then we get back to it, pouring our heart and time and effort into it again. Because maybe we just really love it. Because we are aligned to our why. And that’s the reason why we do it, but it still hurts if it is unappreciated, right? Not because we want the validation or because we are not truly loving it, but because beneath that “love for the craft” is the intention of wanting to contribute, and be of benefit to someone. And of course, we all want to feel seen, heard and appreciated; this is a most natural human need. Perhaps, this is where trust comes in, again.
Trust that whatever your heart pulls you towards, it matters and there is a reason for it. Prevail. Persevere. Trust the cycles of the land. Trust your heart. Allow life to move through your body and mold you into what you were always meant to be, and what you already are beneath the shroud of your skin. Trust that no matter how many twists and turns you make, or how far off the path you think you are, roads continuously re-shape and adjust, to place you where your soul desires to be. I know it’s all easy to say and trust me, I have to say this to myself also. A lake is still because it is aware, and in that awareness are all the feelings and seeings. In the being is the meaning. To be hopeful during challenges is not just foolishly romantic, but it is bravely realistic, because we are acknowledging and accepting that wholeness; the integration and interconnection of all parts of the road; that it is painted by celebrations, compassion, courage and kindness, not just with hardships and challenges. Give yourself permission to feel that it is okay when things are slow; when things take time.
All you’ll have in sweet due time.
Trust the divine timing of your life.
Trust the unfolding of your life.
In love + peace,
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Art by Louis Welden Hawkins.