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“Things that come fast rarely last; they never develop the depth of mastery” – James Arthur Ray

Is a desire for instant gratification hindering productivity, or can it tune your focus? Life coach James Arthur Ray is obviously of the former camp, and if you would have asked me a week ago, I would have said I was, too.

Then a friend sent me an article about a new take on The Marshmallow Test, and it got me thinking two thoughts:

1) Sure, delayed gratification has its benefits.

2) What if, sometimes, the craving for instant gratification is not so negative?

First, let’s dive into the test a bit:


The Marshmallow Test: Can You Resist Instant Gratification?

If you haven’t heard of the Marshmallow test, it’s an experiment that people have been using and trying twists on for decades. Basically, the original test left kids in a room with a marshmallow, saying that if they didn’t eat it until the researcher came back, they’d be given double.

They were rewarded for waiting; they got a double payout for delaying their gratification.  The original 1960s study by Mischel concluded that this delay was related to “willpower” and success later in life.

However, this new take on the study tried again, with a lot more (900) participants from different demographics. Instead of focusing on one group, they looked at many. Actually they found that kids with a more affluent social background and more educated parents were the ones with willpower.


Well, the Atlantic article summarizes that it boils down to:

1) the belief that the second reward is actually available (scarcity in poverty situations) and

2) little trust that “things will work out in the end”, based on past negative experiences


Delayed Gratification and Success

Choose To Give It Your All

As I write about having discipline and reaching your goals, I do generally agree that being able to see the future and give up what you need to right now, for a future you want is positive.

However, is it delaying the gratification that gets these results?

Let’s imagine socioeconomics statuses are more or less equal, for a moment. Also, imagine that we’re talking about adults.

Here’s my question to you:


Is A Desire for Instant Gratification Negative?

Well, not always, in my opinion.

Now, most articles like this Business Insider one will have you convinced the opposite is true.  If we really crave something though, aren’t we more likely to just go for it, and do it?  Take the risks that are necessary to propel yourself forward, to live the life you want?

On the one hand, in most situations you would need to delay gratification, work hard and slowly climb your way to the top. On the other, are you really going to take risks and try something because you want it now, can’t that be good?

For example:

  • Leaving a job that isn’t ideal to search for what you want
  • Moving to a different city without a full-fledged plan, but taking the days as they come
  • Jumping at an opportunity because it’s great, not because it’s expected


Well, that’s my short food for thought this Monday. As much as I’m a planner, some of the best parts of my life have come from a bit of spontaneity.

What are your thoughts on instant gratification? Is it positive, neutral or negative? Do you have something exciting to share?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Have a lovely and productive week!


P.S. Photography lovers, the photo for today’s post (and poster!) is one I took in the Swiss Alps.

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