One of the hardest things to do for most people is delaying their immediate gratification. We live in a society where we want everything and we want it now, without much consideration to its future impact. This attitude is learned from a young age where kids want things immediately and parents more often than not give in. However being able to delay immediate gratification has a direct impact on our success in life, and not just financial, but in all aspects of life. By now you might know that besides finance my other passion is psychology (not surprising since I studied it for 4 years) and one of my all time favourite study is the Standford Marshmallow test. If you are not familiar with the test here is a quick summary”

Years ago, psychologist Walter Mischel conducted an experiment on a group of four-year olds. Each child was offered a marshmallow, and was told that they could have it now, or if they could wait several minutes, they could have two. Some children grabbed the marshmallow on the spot but many of them were able to hold off. The interesting part of the study was that Mischel followed up on the children as adults and he discovered that those who didn’t eat their marshmallows that day were generally more self-motivated, successful in school and considered emotionally intelligent. On the other hand those who simply couldn’t wait generally had low self-esteem and had suffered in school, branded by both their teachers and parents as being stubborn, envious and easily frustrated.

Delayed Gratification

This study has been replicated by David Walsh Check outthis Youtube clip. There is a very strong link between delaying gratification and success in life, the earlier we learn this skill the better off we will be. However it is never too late to learn how to delay your immediate gratification; here are some tips that can help you along the way.

1. Make an Advance Decision and Know What You Want

Get your decision in writing. Try to be as detailed as possible about your decision as well as the expected outcome. Sometimes it can be hard to say NO to things, you have to have a clear picture of what you want in order to resist the urge.

2. Know what is Important to You- Know Your Values.

In order to be able to delay immediate gratification you need to know what is important to you, what do you value to most. Is it the satisfaction of owning a brand new car or that you own a pre-owned car debt free? Know your values.

3. Have a Plan

I don’t think that every aspect of ones life should be planned out in detailed but in order to reach your goals, whatever they maybe, you need to have a plan. You should have a financial plan to reach your financial goals, a career plan to reach your career goals etc. If you have a plan it becomes easier to resists the urge of immediate satisfaction, you maybe more conscious of your behavior and how they fit in your plan.

4. Prioritize

Have clear priorities in life this can be financial priorities or just general priorities in life, such as school comes before entertainment, family before friends etc. Having clear priorities will go a long way in delaying gratification.

5. Reward Yourself

If you have long term goals, I highly recommend you set-up some short term goals and reward yourself for reaching them. Sometimes it can be very difficult to keep focus on long term goals if we don’t see some rewards, giving yourself small rewards can be very powerful.

Delaying gratification is not an easy task, but it is something that can be learned over time, following some of these steps will help you in the process. However do not stop at these there are tones of resources online on this topic, take sometime and go through some of them.

Are you able to delay gratification? How has this benefited you? Please share your tips with us!



Ray is an ex-financial adviser and the founder of Financial Highway. Currently working in the financial industry and working towards completing his Chartered Financial Analyst, CFA, designation.