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Instant gratification is a behavior that demonstrates a flaw in one’s character. One is only interested in what immediately gratifies, unwilling or unable to delay gratification for something worthwhile in the future. Do we believe this, or are we missing an important point?

The purpose of delaying gratification is to do the hard work now and be gratified in the future by some reward. We suffer through the unpleasant, stressful work now, so we can be gratified by pleasant comfort later. We do things because they are good for us.

Yet, we’re told to follow our bliss, to do what we love, to live meaningful lives. We do what we love because it gratifies us now. We don’t suffer through for some reward in the future; our reward is realized now. We don’t do things because they are good for us; we do things because they give us a feeling of being alive.

There’s an important point, however, that needs to be addressed. Instant gratification, without a vision, is a character flaw. Vision gives us a direction to live the instances, the moments, of our lives. “Instant” gives us comfort in the moment, but having a vision changes how we look for that comfort. Comfort doesn’t come from seeking it directly; comfort comes from seeking it in the midst of the challenges and stressful situations we intentionally engage…toward our vision. We follow the path of least resistance, seeking to be as comfortable as possible, toward a vision we’ve created for our lives.

Warriors are focused on instant gratification because they have a vision for their lives. That vision clarifies their decision-making process about what is gratifying in the moment. What gratifies warriors is what makes them feel alive, moving toward the vision they’ve created.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • Climbing: “Instant” without a vision causes us to climb what is familiar and comfortable. We seek comfort directly by climbing the same routes we’ve done before. “Instant” with a vision of climbing the Nose of El Cap, causes us to seek comfort indirectly by following the path of least resistance, learning sequences and improving skills that lead us toward our vision.
  • Driving: Let’s say we love to drive. Without a vision, we drive to wherever we find instant gratification. The desire for comfort drives (pun intended) us in many different directions, to fast food restaurants, to see a movie, seeking comfort directly. With a vision, such as driving to Boulder, Colorado, our decisions are driven by seeking comfort along the way to Boulder. We alternate driving and sleeping; we listen to music; we drink coffee. These are all manifestations of seeking comfort, along the path of least resistance, toward our vision. 
  • Living our lives: “Instant” without a vision causes us to eat junk food, not exercise, giving us instant comfort. We seek it directly. “Instant,” with a vision of being active and healthy, causes us to eat healthy foods, exercise, and integrate these into our daily lives. We seek comfort indirectly by being active and healthy.

We need to always come back to attention and the learning process to understand concepts like instant gratification. “Instant” puts our attention in the moment, in that instant, that now. And, with a vision, we blend with the challenges, following the path of least resistance, toward our vision. This is what learning is: blending. Solidifying our current beliefs isn’t aligned with learning. To learn we need to modify our beliefs so they can morph to an expanded awareness. We are instantly gratified by following the path of least resistance, modifying our beliefs, toward a vision of an expanded awareness.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Paisley


    This is great, as always! I’d love to see a post on vision and motivation. (Or maybe there already is one and I missed it?)

    Specifically, I’d love to hear your thoughts on choosing a vision that best fits us. Also, any thoughts on how to continue to be passionate about something when you’ve a.) been doing it forever and b.) are having a long slump of not reaching previous goals/visions.


  2. arno

    Hi Paisley, There are some lessons in the past that addressed these issues but I’ll put this on my list to address again, in the context taht you put it. Thanks for suggesting it.

  3. Barry Rusnock


    Your current article really hit home for me. I’ve been in a training slump since the ice season ended. I just randomly when to your blog after a hiatus, and here you are talking about vision! It didn’t occur to me that I lacked vision until I read your piece on Instant Gratification. I was able to make the connection between how I was feeling and my lack of motivation. I guess I need to find myself a climbing project and get the hell off the comfort food!

    Thanks for the insight,


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