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Instant Repay: The Price of Immediate Gratification

By Martha Michael

Downfalls of Instant Gratification

If your idea of a hearty breakfast is instant oatmeal and you order ahead so you can jump the Starbucks line, chances are you’re a 21st century American. We’ve gotten used to maximum expedience in almost every arena of our lives -- from direct deposit to online dating. But are we aware of the price we’re paying for it?

For starters, we’ve lost some of the beauty of early American culture. Unless you’re one of the 318,000 Amish community members in North America, you probably don’t spend a lot of time sewing, woodworking or soap-making, where the payoff is in the process. You’re more likely, however, to be one of the 90 million Amazon Prime customers in America who orders ready-made products and gets them the very next day.

How’s it Workin’ for Ya?

Our tendency toward instant gratification is both a blessing and a curse, says an article in Psychology Today.

“Functional impulsivity” is the upside to making quick decisions and working at a fast clip. “Impulsivity can boost and even enhance creative moments,” says Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, MS, LPCS.

It’s evidenced by the many famous and beloved songs, works of artistic genius, that were created in 10 minutes or less.

Most of us have heard the haunting opening of “See You Again” recorded by Charlie Puth and rapper Wiz Khalifa. After the sudden death of Fast & the Furious star Paul Walker, Puth had to write the theme song for the next movie in the series, “Furious 7,” so he sat down and thought about Walker and another friend of his who died in an auto accident. What he composed in just 10 minutes stayed on the “Billboard Top 100” list for 12 weeks.

Paul McCartney came up with a musical composition in a dream. He awoke in London and went straight to a piano to play the song in his head, which turned out to be “Yesterday,” one of the most covered melodies of all time. Because the tune was completely written in a dream state, McCartney initially worried that it wasn’t original.

The less favorable side of instant decision-making is “dysfunctional impulsivity,” which occurs when you’ve acted on impulse and your behavior leads to regret. It leads to an erratic lifestyle and can create instability in your world.

“It’s comparable to letting a reckless driver take control of your life,” Lohmann says. “You allow your urges and desires to steer you down a path of destruction. Impulsivity can become a curse when spur-of-the-moment decisions are not moderated by forethought and logic.”

Lohmann offers some steps for achieving a balance between spur-of-the-moment inspiration and long-term planning.

Become More Self-Aware

“The Power of Now” may sound like a refrain from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory character Veruca Salt, but author and spiritualist Eckhart Tolle used it to promote a very different idea -- the importance of living in the present, which Lohmann advises us to do. Maximizing your awareness can improve the outcome of your response to life’s situations such as those in which you exercise less self-control.

“Ask yourself, ‘What needs and desires am I trying to meet when I act this way?’’” the counselor suggests. “Knowing and understanding your triggers will help you identify the situations that often result in impulsive behaviors.”

Make decisions to limit your exposure to circumstances in which impulse control is a problem. Take a “TV timeout,” for instance, if your wallet gets thinner every time the Home Shopping Network comes on.

Put Alternative Strategies in Place

Gain some routine. Creating structure can help in two ways -- you become more centered and purposeful, with less time for off-the-cuff decisions that cost you, plus you lock in healthy choices that benefit you.

Regular chiropractic care is a good example of investing in a more positive outcome where your wellness is concerned. When your body is in its strongest, healthiest state, you also have psychological benefits such as confidence and satisfaction. By assessing and monitoring the health of your spine, your chiropractor can alert you to changes in musculature and bone structure, minimizing the possibility of challenging health issues.

Your chiropractor can recommend lifestyle changes or suggest products to mitigate harmful tendencies, from ergonomic workplace furniture to pillows or back supports. You may need dietary support or advisement about posture problems, as well as recommended exercise.

Choose a Balancing Partner

It may be your chiropractor or a trusted friend, but feedback is important if you’re trying to offset a tendency toward impulsivity. A different perspective is sometimes enough to change course in time to avoid a negative outcome.

You may want to team up for yoga or mindfulness exercises so you can gain the calm that comes from valuing things that take time. But don’t feel guilty about using the drive-through ATM and ordering Minute Rice through your grocery delivery service. While speaking and behaving too quickly can cause distress, when you slow down and gain the benefit of routine, you’ll find the outcome is something you can live with.

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