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If you look around for a moment you will see that we are immersed in a 24/7 consumer culture where instant gratification is the underlying theme. I want to give you some simple steps that you can use to overcome the childish yet powerful pull of instant gratification. But not right away. You’ll have to wait a moment.

In the Western world, at least, we have access to great food and drink, the Internet, television, video games, smartphones, online shopping, cars, vacations and drive-through Starbucks. We can have just about anything we want, any time we want. We check our email and Facebook updates constantly. We get fidgety if we have to turn our smartphones off whilst on an airplane.

This way, the way of instant gratification, often leads to debt, clutter, restlessness and even poor health. There are no limits or restraints. 

There is another way, a way that is the opposite of instant gratification. It is the way of slow food, of limited Internet and television time, better focus and fitness, of fewer and more meaningful possessions, and of mindfulness. This is a way of better health, of achievement and appreciation for all the things life has to offer. In this way, it is alright to indulge in all that the first way offers, just as long as we do it by conscious choice rather than following the never-ending urges of our childish minds.

Now, there are some who will think that the way of instant gratification is just fine, thank you very much, and they will tell me to get back on the hippie bus and go home (but not before posting a selfie in front of it on Instagram). If, however, you are interested in a simpler, more deliberate way of life, there are some steps you can take to fight those urges of the childish mind.

Here are the simple steps:

  1. Watch the urges. We all have urges, to check on email or social media, to eat something sweet or fried, to procrastinate or find distractions. They arise in all of us, but that doesn’t mean we need to act on them. The first step is to see the urges arise. Keep track of them in some way, perhaps by making a mark in a notebook each time. The goal is to be mindful of the urges.
  2. Delay. Instead of acting on the urge right when it arises, pause. Don’t act right away. Put some space between the urge and your action. Calm down.
  3. Make a conscious decision. If you decide to indulge in a sweet, that’s perfectly fine … but do it consciously, not just following every whim and urge. Decide that this is a healthy thing for you to do, that you can afford it.
  4. Learn over time. There will be many times when you give in to your urges — that’s okay. We all do it. There’s nothing wrong with giving in sometimes, but the key is to see how that makes you feel afterward, and learn whether the decision was a good one or not. Over time, your decisions will get better if you pay attention to how they turn out.
  5. Enjoy the moment without following the urge. Life is meant to be enjoyed, but there are different ways to enjoy it. You can eat that donut, or you can breathe, pass on it, and mindfully enjoy a handful of berries. Both are delicious! Both can be done mindfully. One is healthier. 
Following these steps isn’t going to be easy, but doing so may lead to replacing a habit that isn’t good for you (instant gratification) with one that is better for you (mindfulness). I can tell you from personal experience that it is worth it. The benefits of overcoming instant gratification are many.
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Keep it simple. Live better…

 Set Your Canoe on Fire is a blog about simplifying your life, living better, and getting things done. Mick Logan is a human with a skill set rendered obsolete decades ago. He has learned a thing or two about life along the way.

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