Power Of Delayed Gratification: An Ultimate Guide!

It's in human nature that we practice instant gratification more often than a delayed one. We are more inclined towards the instant rewards rather than waiting a bit for the bigger ones, and all that is left behind is regret and guilt for not making the logical decision. However, if you are saving for vacations to your dream place or trying to attain weight to fit in your favorite jeans. In that case, you might know the importance of the reward that comes after waiting and its level of satisfaction.

This is what we call delayed gratification. Let's discuss it in detail. 

What Is Delayed Gratification? 

The ability to delay the urge to receive an immediate reward to get a bigger and better reward in later times is called delayed gratification. It is one of the most significant traits of successful people who tend to make more rational and thoughtful decisions to achieve their long-term goals. Delayed gratification is a great way to practice self-regulation and self-control.(1)

According to research, a trait similar to instant gratification has been found in human behavior called "Hyperbolic discounting." It means that if humans are provided with reward options sooner and later, the majority will prefer to choose the rewards that come sooner than the latter. For instance, if you are offered 60€ or 120€ in the next six months or weeks, most people will prefer taking less money today than more tomorrow. 

Freud's "Pleasure principle," says that humans are more inclined to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Children are the most prominent example that we can consider regarding instant gratification. However, as you mature, the reality principle hops in, and you start considering risks rather than instant rewards to make the right decision.

What Is The Importance Of Delayed Gratification? 

Instant gratification is an innate behavior; however, delayed gratification is an essential life skill you can only get a hold of through practice. You need to learn to delay the drive for immediate satisfaction or reward to get yourself on the track of long-term growth. Being fully aware of the 

impulse assists you in attaining clarity to achieve higher goals and find the right direction.

A study was conducted on a bunch of children by Wing of Walter Mischel at Stanford University in the late 60s and early 70s. They offered each child a marshmallow and told them that they were leaving the room and children could eat it if they wanted. However, if a child can delay eating the marshmallow until the team returns to the room, probably after 15 minutes, they will probably be rewarded with two marshmallows. (2)

After ten years, a follow-up test was conducted on the same participants to distinguish emotional and social differences associated with the delayed outcomes. Here are the takeaways that they concluded after this extended study. People who waited longer have the following attributes: 

  • Their speech is more fluent 
  • They are more focused and have a good sense of attentiveness 
  • They are more confident and self-sufficient
  • Better respond to a reason 
  • Are eager to learn and open to grow 
  • Manage stressful situations very well 
  • Are more likely to be trusted 
  • They are optimistic and always focus on opportunities for better 
  • Great in taking initiatives 
  • Have excellent communication skills and get along with new people very well 
  • Have no sense of jealousy or envy 
  • Practice delayed gratification very often 

What Are The Challenges Associated With Delayed Gratification? 

Delayed gratification can be challenging to pursue because we human beings are more likely to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Our brain has two different sections that handle pain and pleasure, respectively. Other circumstances decide whether you will avoid pain or seek pleasure. Another study revealed that poor delayed gratification is strongly associated with externalizing problems in adolescent boys. 

According to ickel & Johnson in 2003, teenage boys are more inclined towards following hyperbolic discounting, which is directly connected to an increased rate of drug use. It was also concluded that when practicing hyperbolic discounting more often, we start working incongruently for the things we value today without even thinking whether it is good for our future selves. 

How Can We Normalize Practicing Delayed Gratification?

Here are some of the most significant ways that can help you to improve delayed gratification.(3)

Make The Less Preferred Reward Out Of Your Sight

It has been observed that waiting for the reward can be more difficult when the reward objects are physically present in front of you. The hidden rewards or out of your sight make it easier to wait for long-term goals. Divert your attention by making you busy doing the work that needs to be done rather than thinking about the gratification. 

Switch Your Attention From Consumatory Focus To Logical Thinking 

If you successfully make self-induced changes in your attention and your emotions, practicing delayed gratification is likely to become a piece of cake for you. Focusing on the consumatory qualities of the reward, such as how a lesser reward will smell or taste, stimulates the urge to get it right away. Instead, focusing on the reward's abstract qualities will help you hold for a more extended period. 

Always Think Of The End Outcome 

Try to build your emotions and drive revolving around the long-term goal. It will help you to stay more focused and motivated to wait for a more extended period. 

Pay Attention To Physiological Components Affecting Impulse Control

Here are some physiological factors that are likely to affect your ability to self-control. 

Low Blood Sugar 

When your body is running low on carbohydrates, your body gets deficient in blood sugar levels and limits the production of glucose reaching the brain. As a result, you start feeling tired and grumpy and find it hard to focus on delayed gratification. 

Lack Of Sleep 

Poor sleep cycles can profoundly affect your power of self-control and make you less likely to practice delayed gratification. 

Hunger And Thirst 

Similarly to low blood sugar levels, when your body is out of energy or in a state of discomfort, it will look for quicker and more convenient options to get the reward.


Hopefully, this article has helped me understand the concept of delayed gratification in detail. Delayed gratification is the key to a successful life and the most valuable asset you need to teach your kids to become lifelong learners. Practicing holding on to instant rewards more often will help you to have a more realistic approach to life. 

So stay focused on the long-term goals and attain all the success of this world. 


  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5788968/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6684787/#:~:text=Children's%20tendency%20to%20delay%20gratification,et%20al.%2C%201988%3B%20Wulfert
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5553984/