We live in a consumer driven world; we are bombarded continuously by people and businesses imploring us to buy our happiness. Fast food, online shopping, no contracts: companies know what we want, and we want things now. It has never been easier to check messages, make a phone call, get on a plane, buy something, or find a friend. Is all this convenience worth the cost we pay? What does the ability to get anything immediately do to the mind of the average American consumer? And remember, we now live in a global economy: people outside the US are no longer safe either.
When you are a baby, you are dependent upon care for survival; if you get hungry, someone has to feed you, so it makes sense that we learn early on to depend on others for our needs. Eventually, we are supposed to naturally learn to start doing more for ourselves and make our own needs met. However, in today’s society we are swaddled well into adulthood, sometimes even through adulthood into seniority. Today we live in a world of instant gratification; whatever you want, you can get it now or, at very least, very soon.
In a world where every impulsive desire can be met immediately, it is no wonder that we have all the issues that currently plague the United States; obesity, poor health, depression, violence, debt, and ignorance are all symptoms of decisions made for instant gratification. A classic example of instant gratification is food choice. We all know healthy food is better for you than processed and junk food, so why do we still choose the donut for a breakfast instead of hard boiled eggs or a vegetable omelette? The simple answer is, because the donut tastes better, it is cheaper, quicker, and easier, and it gives you an instant high. We choose the donut over the healthy choice and we feel good for a a few minutes; soon, we start feeling a low energy crash, and later we see our scales and our waist size going up as well.
Seeking instant gratification is a form of lower consciousness; when you act in the moment to seek only immediate satisfaction with disregard for the consequences of your choices, you sacrifice your well being for fleeting pleasures. Countless examples can be made for how seeking instant gratification affects your life negatively. You decide you want stay up late and watch a movie instead of going to bed; you oversleep because you are tired, get to work late;, and you get fired. You get upset with someone in traffic and decide to honk your horn and yell at them instead of just letting it go; the person slams on their breaks and you rear end them. You see a pair of expensive jeans that you can’t really afford and you buy them with your credit card; you can’t make your payment on time and get hit with interest charges.
Doing things on impulse without thinking through the potential consequences is a terrible habit that ruins many of our lives. When seeking immediate pleasure or relief is your main driving force in life, you will spend most of your time dealing with the negative consequences of your actions. Willpower is just knowing that the immediate pleasure of a choice DOES NOT outweigh the long-term consequences of your choice.
If you start asking yourself certain questions before making a decision it can help you reframe the situation in a way that the “easy” choice is not the right choice. If your thought process is, “I am hungry and I want tasty food now.”, then you will buy the donut; but, if your thought process is “I am hungry and I want to eat something that will give me energy and keep me healthy.”, you will chose something else. Why do I want this or want to do this right now? What will be the immediate results of making this decision? What intermediate and long term consequences will I experience from making this decision? Is this choice consistent with my values and goals? (read about setting goals here, determining values here)
Part of being a conscious person involves being mindful and self aware. You must choose to not be driven by your emotions and desires, but instead be driven by your values and goals. Making the right choice increases your self worth and will make others respect your sense of integrity. Making these conscious choices instead of following your immediate desires will reward you with higher self esteem and respect, better life situations and opportunities, and a simpler and happier life. The first step is to become aware of the choices you are making and find what their motivations are.
Are you making decisions based off of what’s best for you, or what you want right now? If you can answer this question honestly, you will have a much better idea of what the right choice really is.