Instant gratification: A success poisoned

The faulty definition of success causes us to be skewed toward instant gratification. We want badly those shiny results, and we want them NOW.

The kind of success we constantly see in media can poison our minds. Golden medals at the Olympics, massive IPOs, scaling a business from five figures to seven figures in a year, wonderful weddings, decisive military victories or losing 100 pounds in five months. All those stories have common themes: they are shiny and fast.

They all fit the dictionary definition of success:

The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

The above examples may or may not be success, it depends on the cost attached to it. My friend has a friend who was a very “successful” gymnast. She represented her country and won medals when she was young. Nowadays, she cannot sleep, because her body is in pain every single night.

Is business success worth it, if it leads to the end of your marriage? A wonderful wedding means nothing, if the marriage will not last. Was achieving a military victory worth the lives of soldiers? What if the guy who lost 100 pounds in five months gained 200 in the next 12 months?

Poisoned success

Success is NOT achieving an aim or purpose. Not if the cost was too high. But we don’t see the full equation in media, only the shiny part.

The faulty definition of success causes us to be skewed toward instant gratification. We want badly those shiny results, and we want them NOW. It’s better to lose 100 pounds in one month than in five, to get your business to six figures in a year, not in three, or to win an Olympic result after a 3-year career, not a 10-year one.

And hey, if you could condense each of the above examples, don’t shy away from doing it!

So we want success, and we want it now.

Which leads to frustration

It’s so easy to feel frustrated when you are full of instant gratification mindset.

You try a new diet and get frustrated when you lose “only” 4 pounds in the first week.

You start a business and close it down after two weeks, because customers didn’t knock down your doors.

You start a blog, keep posting for a few weeks and then look at the statistics. Heck! Only you and your mother visited the page.

It goes like that with everything. You cannot stick to a chosen path, because you expect results too soon. You expect them immediately.

Shiny object syndrome

And then comes the worst. You cannot stick with one thing long enough to see results, so you look for the next big thing to give you the desired breakthrough. You find it quickly … but again, you cannot persevere long enough to get results. So you seek again for another instantaneous solution.

Your life morphs into this vicious cycle: a shiny object gets your attention, you jump on it with ferocity and dedicate a lot of your energy… for a short time. You get disappointed with your lack of progress, so you shop around for “something better.” A new shiny object draws your attention, you jump on it.

And it goes like this on and on.

Instant gratification makes it worse

Have a look at this chart.

The Slight Edge chart

If you repeat the cycle of hope-frustration-hope, there is no space in your life to introduce perseverance. However, perseverance is what gets you on an upward curve and keeps you there.

If you keep chasing shiny objects, your life will go in a downward spiral. It’s unavoidable.

Is there a remedy? Yes, absolutely. First, you need to redefine success, then stick to one method for long enough to see the results. Once you get effects, frustration will have a limited access to you, and you will be less prone to pay attention to shiny objects.

How to do that? That’s material for a whole different post.

Michał Stawicki is a coach and self-published author writing about how to ‘expand beyond your limits’ so you can regain control over your life (based on my personal experience).