Instant gratification (“junkification”) – I want it now!!
We have been programmed or brainwashed in our society to need to have what we want no matter the price we pay physically or emotionally this instant. Oral gratification is driven by our may unspoken needs for pleasure, love, avoidance and boredom.
As a whole, our capitalist system is designed to get us to take actions and spend money now – and those businesses that are more successful in that do better and prosper (at least in the short term).
Filling those impulses tests our ability to resist temptation and exercise self-control. What’s the benefit of that?
Can the exercise of self control be an important force in our lives?
Several decades ago, Walter Mischel started investigating the determinants of delayed gratification in children. He found that the degree of self-control independently exerted by preschoolers who were tempted with small rewards (but told they could receive larger rewards if they resisted) is predictive of grades and social competence in adolescence.
Delayed gratification is a predictor of success in school and life
Researchers at Duke University have shown that the role of self control creates a better mental and social outcomes in adolescence and into adulthood.
A 1,000 children were followed for 30 years, examining the effect of early self-control on health, wealth and public safety. Controlling for socioeconomic status and IQ, they show that individuals with lower self-control experienced negative outcomes in all three areas, with greater rates of health issues like sexually transmitted infections, substance dependence, financial problems including poor credit and lack of savings, single-parent child-rearing, and even crime. These results show that self-control can have a deep influence on a wide range of activities. And there is some good news: if we can find a way to improve self-control, maybe we could do better.
Where does the skill of self –control come from? So when we consider these individual differences in the ability to exert self-control, the real question is where they originate – are they differences in pure, unadulterated ability (i.e., one is simply born with greater self-control) or are these differences a result of sophistication (a greater ability to learn and create strategies that help overcome temptation)?
In other words, are the kids who are better at self control able to control, and actively reduce, how tempted they are by the immediate rewards in their environment, or are they just better at coming up with ways to distract themselves and this way avoid acting on their temptation?
It may very well be the latter.
Ability to resist temptation is environmental, culturally, innately and cultivated. Some children sat on their hands, physically restraining themselves, while others tried to redirect their attention by singing, talking or looking away.
Mischel found that all children were better at delaying rewards when distracting thoughts were suggested to them.
You can see a modern recreation of the original Mischel experiment by clicking on the video link below.(This experiment should be named Marshmellow Torture-editor’s note) Who are you most like in the video?
Remember there are many natural medicine strategies to help build self control and overcome addictive compulsive tendencies. Email us if you would like more information.
Editor Mary Wolken, PhD
Image courtesy of http://bit.ly/hkCroh