Brief Happiness: The Truth Behind Why We Want Instant Gratification

by Rachael Tulipano

The members of Generation-Y have the “gotta have it right now” mindset. Growing up with technology has made us dependent on the idea of always being connected. Information, entertainment and communication are only a click away all day, every day.

With the touch of a button, we are connected to anything we could possibly want: a selection of movies on Netflix, a library of books on our tablet, a phone call, text message or YouTube videos. Our smartphones, tablets, computers and even our watches are programmed to bridge us with information, entertainment and communication at any given time.

This powerful link fuels our need for instant gratification. It has defined our culture.

What Is Instant Gratification?

Instant gratification is known as the quick and immediate attainability of satisfaction and happiness. It is a way of experiencing pleasure and fulfillment without delay or patience.

Millennials are most apt to feel this immediate need for satisfaction. We live in an age of modern technology, and devices meet our demands to create quick pleasure.

Instant Gratification and Our Modern Devices

We are constantly plugged into social media and the Internet. Our steady connectedness with virtual reality brings information, entertainment and communication to us in real time.

Posting a photo on Instagram immediately floods our phone with “likes” and comments. Status updates on Facebook and Twitter open up lines of communication with our virtual friends and followers, which make us feel noticed, important and involved. We can sift through history with the touch of a button on Google, upload videos to YouTube in seconds and message friends halfway across the world via text.

With the Internet, there’s no delay. We don’t need to busy ourselves with perusing old libraries for research. Instead, we have online databases and libraries that can instantly present the information we need to write the perfect research paper.

We no longer need to play CDs. Now, we have iPods and iTunes to download music in seconds, straight to our phones and computers.

Can’t find a relationship in real life? No worries! Online dating websites will introduce you to potential beaus, according to a digital match of similar hobbies and interests. You can meet people simply by swiping through pictures on dating apps, and you can chat to find a place to meet up.

With modern devices, there is no holdup. We have access to anything we could possibly want on the Internet, and we are not encouraged to be patient in obtaining it.

Our fast clicks and quick downloads make it possible for us to be instantly gratified in the blink of an eye.

Instant Gratification and The Real World

These technological advancements also lock us into this idea of needing everything we want, exactly when we want it. To an extent, Gen-Y members lack patience. We are unable to truly respect that some things do, in fact, take time.

Consider job hunting: Post-grads coming straight out of college feel on top of the world. They just successfully completed four years of their undergraduate degrees, and they have an expensive piece of paper to prove they’re competent, talented and skilled contributors to society.

Yet, what does that pricey piece of parchment actually prove? You earned a degree, and so did many of us.

While a bachelor's degree may be the requirement to be considered for a job, it’s typically experience — and lots of it — that makes you a prime candidate qualified for the position.

Post-grads often face the harsh reality that graduating from college doesn’t guarantee you squat. The time (aka, patience) to gain experience will ultimately pave the road to professional success.

The need for instant gratification has spilled into our personal and professional lives. All too often, the quick fix is to withdraw from situations that seem difficult or require a considerable amount of effort.

We don’t want to work hard to prove we are qualified for an entry-level position. We went to college; why should we have to start at the bottom, earning pennies to pay off our student debt?

We get it: It’s a hard spoonful of truth to swallow, but unfortunately, this is the way of the real world. We have to put our needs for instant gratification aside and recognize some of the best things in life do take time.

Fleeting Gratification

Instant gratification is brief happiness. We get it when we want it; it comes, it goes, and it fades.

There’s no lasting aftermath of satisfaction. It’s fleeting. The point is instant gratification is not designed to leave us satisfied for any considerable length of time. It is intended to keep us coming back for more.

We want the rush of excitement every time our phone lights up with a new text message. We look forward to seeing how many “likes” we can earn on our Instagram photos and Facebook posts. We quantify the amount of followers we can gain on Twitter because, in essence, the more followers you have, the more popular you are.

Yet, what do these social media achievements really do for us? They offer a blind rush of happiness, and they all-too-quickly disappear.

Getting what we want when we want it is not a realistic model of behavior. Technologically speaking, it makes sense. Instant technology can be useful when it connects us to the right information, and makes our work more productive and rewarding.

Yet, from the vantage point of our personal and professional lives, is it really an ideal way of life?

That brief satisfaction quickly fades, and in its wake is a need for further connection. Perhaps, it’s time for Millennials to find other means of satisfaction.

We need to consider bringing meaning to our lives. We need to learn to slow down and enjoy a more patient way of life.

Escaping The Culture of Instant Gratification

Escaping our interconnected world is never going to truly happen on a universal level, and that isn’t the ultimate goal here. Instead, try to learn how to train your mind into appreciating long-term happiness and respecting that some things do take time.

Accepting a more patient lifestyle is bound to help Gen-Y members navigate adulthood. By keeping instant gratification localized in a social media setting, perhaps, Millennials and young professionals will understand the bigger picture.

The important milestones in life don’t happen overnight. Building a relationship, getting married, earning a successful career, having children and becoming a homeowner are some of the many traditional achievements in life.

While a large number of 20-somethings feel a rush to reach these landmarks, it’s critical to understand these major events take time to develop and achieve.

There’s no instant gratification when it comes to getting married or raising a child. These are major life events that require constant and consistent work, and then they will ultimately bring you happiness throughout your life.

Becoming successful in any aspect of life requires patience, persistence and dedication. Here are some helpful tips on how to push your need for instant gratification aside and respect a slower pace:

Establish a solid foundation.

Whether it’s a relationship, a career or a long-term goal, such as saving for retirement, you must begin by establishing a solid foundation. Lay the groundwork for yourself.

What are your values and goals in this endeavor? Is marriage important to you? If so, date people who share that goal. Do you want a career that brings you joy every day? If your answer is yes, don’t settle for a job that makes you miserable.

Work toward the career that fuels your passions. The key is to start somewhere and build the foundation.

Connect with supportive peers.

If you surround yourself with people who require constant praise and instant gratification, you’re not setting yourself up for success.

Surround yourself with people who agree that the good things in life take time to happen. Aligning your time with others who refuse to feed into our impulsive society is bound to push you in the right direction.

Detach from the outcome, and enjoy the journey.

It can be difficult to combat focusing on the end result. When we establish goals, we are paying most attention to reaching that designated target. Yet, this practice only feeds into instant gratification.

Take a different approach to goal-setting, and focus on the journey in reaching the outcome. Sometimes, we learn more from the obstacles we face along the way than we do from reaching the end mark.

Socialize face-to-face.

When you take a step back and look at social media differently, you’ll realize it’s centered on the idea of communication. Whether through photos, status updates or videos, we are using social media platforms to communicate and interact.

Consider moving your virtual discussions into authentic conversations. Meet your friends for coffee. Take a stroll in the mall with your parents. Go on dates with your significant other.

In short, try to keep your conversations in real life as much as possible. You’ll realize there’s some leisure in communicating face-to-face that you miss out on by keeping everything virtual so often.

While instant gratification has its alluring components, we don’t need to depend solely on immediate satisfaction to feel happiness. These tips, and so many more, are bound to make you understand the benefits of patience.

Not everything can, or should, be a touch away. There are many lessons to be learned in patience and hard work. If Millennials took a chance to see, life really is about the journey, not the outcome.