Last night we had sausages and mash for our evening meal.
The kids wanted the obligatory side order of ketchup to dunk their bangers in. There were two, almost empty, bottles on the table and they weren’t happy.
There was one plastic bottle of ketchup that was emptier than the other. They stood it upturned in an attempt to get the sauce moving; squeezing wasn’t working. While waiting they moved onto the glass bottle. (In an attempt to move away from single use plastic we have more glass and tins at home.)
The unhappiness turned to frustration, and then anger as they banged the bottle, shook it about (nearly without the lid on) and waggled a knife inside its neck to speed up this tiresome process.
As parents, we relished in the story of ‘back in our day we had to wait for the ketchup. When we were kids there were only glass bottles, you know!’
This incident got me thinking.
It’s not only the kids who lack patience. I know that my patience can be short outside of the therapy room. My husband would tell you that. He’d blame, in part, the first smart phone I got as a present from him.
Once upon a time, as a society, we all had to wait for stuff; for life to happen. I remember when I first worked in magazines how they were put together with tweezered words stuck down to create the spreads. No last-minute changes were possible even if the editor decided the article on Quick Evening Suppers was a bad choice.
These days, when do we wait? Maybe for a train or for the kettle to boil. But do we truly wait? We tend to fill that time with something, all too often technology. Even the technology itself has us being impatient. If a website is slow to load we ditch it and get our information from a different online platform or we impatiently retreat to shop elsewhere. We don’t want to wait for stuff to happen. We think we haven’t got time for that.
All this technology was meant to give us more free time. Though many of us feel we have less free time than ever before. We do things at short notice and we don’t even have to hold information in our brains as we can find out the capital of Bahrain at the call of ‘Alexa’ or her rival ‘Siri’.
We are not spending time with ourselves or our thoughts. Being bored is a thing of the past. The skill to be quiet, without productivity or purpose and to be patient is one that is fast disappearing. We want to be satisfied now and we all to often fill any given time.
What does all this demand for instant gratification mean for us?
Are we more impatient than ever before? Well, sadly yes, we have become used to fulfilment at the drop of a hat (or the squeeze of a bottle).
Don’t most of us go around the twist when the wifi is slow. Children act as if they will burst if they need to wait for Fortnite to load. They are desperate for the latest update. They have grown up in a world where everything is at their fingertips whether that be a bar of chocolate at every shop they enter or being able to find out exactly where their mate is at any given time via the latest app. Convenience and accessibility becomes the norm and both children and adults then expect it. The brain gets a lovely hit of dopamine as our pleasure sensors are activated and then we are looking for continual dopamine rushes to satisfy us. And we want it now. We are becoming so much less content in waiting for a long-term goal to please us.
Kids’ brains, and ours for that matter, have become wired to this way of being and the pleasure of that dopamine rush that instant gratification brings. The neuroplasticity of our brains means that we can learn new ways of doing things and these may be positive or negative. The urge to grab a tablet to watch the latest kitten video on Facebook or standing at an Apple store because we ‘need’ the new Iphone that will be launched at midnight are learnt behaviours. Therefore, we can unlearn them.
But, why should we? When we look for instant gratification it can ultimately lead to a lack of fulfilment when we are unable to achieve something immediately. Some things take time and effort; learning a new language, passing grade 2 trumpet, saving up for a deposit for a home. Lack of patience means we are become less good at being prepared to put in the waiting time or the commitment to get a reward and reach our truly valued goals.
We want the reward for nothing. Thoughts that fleetingly pass through our brains without conscious recognition such as – ‘I want that Mars bar because I’ll feel good now. I can’t be bothered to wait to be slim – I deserve fun now’ do not help us to be satisfied in the long term. Instant gratification over time leads to many negative outcomes such as anger, frustration, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, a lack of self-belief and even addiction.
Maybe it is time we begin to help ourselves.
There is already evidence of a backlash against the time swallowing technology with meditation apps, for example, being more popular than ever.
Gradually we can retrain our brains. We can learn to practice self-control if we want to. Set goals for ourselves that have various smaller steps to get there and acknowledge each step we take along the way.
Ask yourself next time you go for the instant gratification. Was it helpful to your mood? Was it ultimately better than waiting? Honestly more pleasurable? Helpful? What are the long-term consequences of your actions?
Be your own best friend by being accountable to your actions and this may mean including some planning. What do you need to actually do to get to where you want? You may want to set some firm off limit boundaries such as never checking your emails after 8pm. What are you going to choose to do? You may want to have a buddy so you can support one another with your longer-term goals. Look at the obstacles that could prevent you from making changes such as thoughts that justify unhelpful actions. Create a vision board or signs with reminders of your current intentions. Perhaps now is the time to delete your social media account or give up the box set binge and go back to once weekly episodes watching; even if it is to see how it feels and to give the space to do something different. Even a few moments of bringing your awareness to your breath is a useful tool to help bring calm to the present moment.
When we take back the power over instant gratification which will lead us to feel a greater sense of control over our life and ultimately a higher sense of fulfillment. Rarely people look back on their life and wish they hadn’t done things but instead you are more likely to regret what they didn’t do. What is happening in your life that impatience is preventing you from doing that is truly fulfilling?
So personally, for me, it is time to delete Facebook again, and take some time to practice that yoga headstand that’s on my goal list. And more importantly, In our family, the glass bottle of Tommy K remains because as Heinz said back in the 80’s: ‘Good things come to those who wait’.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and the patience to get the end. If you need support breaking habits, increasing self-discipline, changing your behaviours or thoughts then contact me at The Power of Your Mind Clinical Hypnotherapy, in Skipton and I will gladly work with you to help you reach your personal goals.