Goals and Success Motivation

The philosophy of delayed gratification

Photo by Nerfee Mirandilla on Unsplash

We would often encounter this term in the world of self-improvement. But what is the deal about it that makes it too compelling to do, for every person who wants to be successful in the future? What makes it so special that this is also considered necessary in order for one to succeed?

With those questions in mind, have you really thought why this is important for you right now if you wanted to be a victor in the end? I decided to deep dive into this topic to give you a glimpse on how this can significantly affects how you decide and live your life.


According to Britannica, Delayed Gratification is:

“the act of resisting an impulse to take an immediately available reward in the hope of obtaining a more-valued reward in the future. The ability to delay gratification is essential to self-regulation, or self-control.

In other words, it is an act or ability to resist any current indulgence that you have for the sole purpose of having more-valued reward in the future. This means that you are only doing this for the sole purpose of the perceived benefit in the future.

Like you wanted to resist eating chocolates your sole purpose might be to attain certain weight, or if you wanted to resist spending money to bars your purpose might be to save and buy something worthy than just spending your money for some drinks.

We might have other reasons why we wanted to delay indulging into something but the sole idea of this is that delayed gratification is always anchored with what you believed as “Better” than the option that you currently have.


Delayed gratification is an aspect of self-control or self-regulation, without this ability you won’t be able to entirely regulate oneself.

In the Stanford marshmallow experiment conducted by Dr. Walter Michel in 1972, hundreds of children, between 4 and 6 years of age, were led into a room where a treat of their choice (Oreo cookie, marshmallow, or pretzel stick) was placed on a table. The children could eat the marshmallow but if they waited for 15 minutes without giving in to the temptation, they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow. Some covered their eyes with their hands or turned around so that they could not see the tray; others started kicking the desk, tugging on their pistailes or stroking the marshmallow, whereas other simply ate the marshmallow as soon as the researchers left. The scientists analyzed how long each child resisted the temptation of eating the marshmallow and whether doing so had an effect on their future success.

The experiment later on shows that those children whom was able to resist or deferred their gratification have later on become successful academically as compared with those who was not able to resist and immediately eats the marshmallow.

Such experiment has been a groundbreaking finding in psychology that significantly influence how we understood delayed gratification nowadays.


I believe Mark Manson has a good take on this, that Delayed Gratification is not necessarily all about self-control there is more to it than just willpower and motivation all alone:

“it’s only rational to delay gratification if and only if you believe you will receive that long-term reward. When you’re unsure of getting the results you’re holding out for, it can be rational to not wait and instead indulge. In these cases, immediate gratification isn’t so much a failure of willpower, it can also be a calculated choice—habituated over years and years of shitty, lying adults…”

“A much better way to frame the issue is to look at the failure to delay gratification as resulting from the interplay of different factors: self-control is one, but also the context—what situation the individual is in, how they’re feeling at that moment, what is their relationship with the action or people around them, what’s their history of issues, etc..”

The trust and perceived long-term benefit plays a significant role in our ability to defer such gratification for greater good. Without any of these, there won’t be any reason for you to defer any indulgence that you have right now.

Now, let’s discuss on some ways how we can increase this ability;

Control your environment

You don’t always have to put yourself in the verge of choosing whether you would do it or not and often times your environment plays a big role on how you decide to do it or not. Like for example, you would certainly be able to resist not eating junk foods if in the very first place you didn’t buy any of it.

You would certainly go to the gym if you already wear your gym clothes or have already asked someone to go with you to the gym at a specific time.

In the human psychology, it has always been proven that it is much easier to change your environment rather than relying solely on your willpower or motivation.

Remind yourself of your “Why”

Regularly reminding yourself on your main purpose, allows you to see the perceived benefits in the long-term term. The more you remind yourself of what you are giving up for, makes it easier to defer any gratification.

This is also what made successful people different from those who are just dreaming to be successful, they have this burning desire and clearly know their compelling “why” to say “no” to whatever they think that would hinder their goal.

Regulate your emotions

Despite the logical aspect of our brain, we can’t deny that we are people of emotions. We may not know it consciously but every decision we are taking are being affected by our emotions.

Our logical reasoning is only our way to justify our decisions taken out from our emotion.

Understanding your emotion helps you decide based on what you believed as “necessary” rather than just being controlled by your emotion and decide as what you just thought as what you “want”.


Delayed gratification is an ability that requires practice, this doesn’t came out from just a snap that you can already defer any gratification that you may have.

But this is just a reminder for each us that achieving our goals have always been systematic and doesn’t just happen overnight. This requires awareness of our mind and clarity of what we truly wanted.

One reply on “The philosophy of delayed gratification”

Great post and advice. Reminding yourself of your why – your larger purpose – is so important. I also think relying on willpower doesn’t work. Environment design is often overlooked but makes a huge difference. Thank you for sharing your wisdom 🙏

Liked by 1 person

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