Why We Gratifying Over Long-Term Goals and How To Stop It

One of the reasons why it’s been quite a while since I posted an article is because I had an experiment. So here how it goes. The experiment purpose is to test my self psychologically by installing games that I obsessed with (football manager 2018) and try to restrain my self from not playing it and to keep productive.

This will test my prefrontal cortex to control my own impulse and gratification to play. Long story short, I failed to control my own impulses and succumbed into gratifying with playing football manager. Every time I saw the shortcut of football manager 2018 on my desktop, I always wanted to procrastinated and delay my work and play the game.

So clearly I overestimated my capability to control my impulses. I was so delusional and overconfident that I thought I could control my self, even though I couldn’t. Even until now I still regret and disappointed to my self. Especially when imagining how many effort and time that I sacrificed just to become a football manager in a world made of codes and algorithms. By reflecting on my self and researching about this gratifying phenomenon. Today I’m gonna share with you the brain and the psychological process behind that and how to overcome it.

Primarily, we gonna learn about the part of the brain that is responsible for such a malign activity which is Amygdala. Amygdala is basically the part of our brain that is responsible for our emotions and fear. The amygdala plays a huge part in our limbic system (fight or flight system).

Even though amygdala is primal and crucial part of our brain, there’s another part of the brain that I highly regard and values. It’s called prefrontal cortex that located in the frontal lobe. In a nutshell, the prefrontal cortex is essentially the ones that separate humans from animals. The one that made us capable to create and discover this advance civilizations and technologies that we have today, through advance planning and other cognitive activities. When I played football manager instead of studying and being productive, the amygdala won the battle of control. FYI if you want a more detailed and comprehensive information about the battle of amygdala and prefrontal cortex, make sure to check out my post about mastering emotions.

If you feel that you always gratifying, don’t blame yourself. Some people are actually could control their impulses better than others. It was clearly shown in one of the most popular psychology experiment, the marshmallow experiment. When the children are tested to delay their impulses to eat the marshmallow now, to get an additional marshmallow later. Here is the video (I really recommend you to watch it if you haven’t). After they took the test, the experimenter also scanned the participants’ brain. And the children who patiently wait (high delayers) have a more active prefrontal cortex rather the ones who eat before the experimenter go back to the room and gave another marshmallow (low delayers).

As I said before (“Even until now I still regret and disappointed to my self. Especially when imagining how many effort and time that I sacrificed just to become a football manager in a world made of codes and algorithms”). I regret it because I could use my time to do things that are more useful and productive that could possibly make me more successful.

Maybe you think that point of view is naive and irrelevant. But as a matter of fact, marshmallow experiment proves that more self-control could lead to a more successful life. This is shown by another survey that concludes that low delayer (the one with less self-control) perform less in SAT test, and the high delayers (the one that patiently waits) perform significantly better at SAT.

So how to reduce our tendency to gratifying? There have been many solutions and you can definitely find them on the internet. Nevertheless, after experimenting with many solutions there just only one solution that really stood out. It’s called prospective memory.

Essentially, prospective memory is future thinking. In the marshmallow experiment context, rather than imagining how delicious to eat the marshmallow now, we could think how great if I got another marshmallow later. With imagining future rewards we could convince ourselves, that the long-term benefit will outweigh and more beneficial compared to the pleasure of instant gratification. In my context, by imagining the successful life that I could have by working hard and being productive could possibly reduce my craving for playing football manager.

Hopefully, this post will help you to fight the same gratifying problem. Thank you for reading. If you have anything in mind, tell us in the comment box below!


Amygdala. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/amygdala.htm

Bauer, M. (2013, January 15). How to Avoid the Temptations of Immediate Gratification. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-to-avoid-the-temptations-of-immediate-gratification/

Budihardjo, W. (2017, November 11). Emotions Mastery – The irrationality of emotions. Retrieved from https://behavioralviews.com/2017/11/06/emotions-mastery-the-irrationality-of-emotions/

Chu, M. (2016, December 02). How Our Brains Trick Us Into Choosing Instant Gratification Over Long-term Goals. Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/285138

Chu, M. (2017, July 10). Why Your Brain Prioritizes Instant Gratification Over Long-Term Goals, According to Science. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/melissa-chu/why-your-brain-prioritizes-instant-gratification-o.html

The Differences Between Being Past, Present, and Future-Oriented According to Philip Zimbardo. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.conversationagent.com/2015/05/differences-between-being-past-present-and-future-oriented.html

James Clear. (2017, September 26). 40 Years of Stanford Research Found That People With This One Quality Are More Likely to Succeed. Retrieved from https://jamesclear.com/delayed-gratification

Prefrontal Cortex. (2017, January 30). Retrieved from https://www.neuropsychotherapist.com/prefrontal-cortex/

Sicinski, A. (2018, January 18). Do You Struggle with Instant Gratification? You Must Try These 5 Steps. Retrieved from https://blog.iqmatrix.com/instant-gratification

Stanford marshmallow experiment. (2018, May 17). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_marshmallow_experiment

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Study: Brain battles itself over short-term rewards, long-term goals. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.princeton.edu/pr/news/04/q4/1014-brain.htm

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