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Finding the Right Balance Between Instant and Delayed Gratification

Couple Dancing the TangoWondering how to stay motivated, positive and focused at work and in your personal life? It’s a matter of  finding the perfect balance between instant and delayed gratification.

Today’s post is by Valeh Nazemoff, author of The Four Intelligences of the Business Mind (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

Did you get promoted today? No? That’s okay. Did you lead a successful meeting? Yes? That deserves a celebration. A mistake that we make is to only reward ourselves at the end of a large project or achievement of a huge milestone. I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to celebrate along the way.

Even though you may not have achieved your end goal yet, you’ve still most likely accomplished many great things on the path to your goal. It’s easy to feel frustrated and give up, but by building instant gratification into your journeys, you’ll stay motivated for longer. Allow me to explain.

I love to ballroom dance and I enjoy the challenge of competition. My dance partner and I are in training for a competition in three months. Training involves practices after work and on weekends several times a week. Even though I love it, it’s easy to lose focus and discipline since the competition is so far away.

So what should we do to keep in “step?”

We identify key milestones in our regimen, and then attach small rewards to the achievement of those milestones. My dance partner and I include both instant and delayed gratification into our regimen to mark our progress. Obviously, our long-term (delayed) goal involves the competition itself. But, at the end of a long day of work, I may not be thinking about how good it will feel to place well in three months and may be tempted to skip practice. However, if I’ve tied a short-term reward to that practice, I’ll be more likely to hang in there.

An example – this week our goal is to finish planning the choreography for our Samba piece. Once the choreography is complete, we are going to reward ourselves by going out to a nice dinner after practice. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy or expensive. Celebrating incremental accomplishments provides two main benefits. The first is that it forces you to pause and look how far you’ve actually come. The second is to satisfy the human need for gratification.

Let’s jump to the future and picture the actual day of the competition. Clearly, we’d like to win. But, suppose that we get 6th place. If our only goal or reward had been after the competition, we would be extremely disappointed. Perhaps we may think twice about competing again. However, by celebrating our accomplishments along the way, we would have a different perspective. All of the small “victories” leading up the end goal would be more readily accessible in our minds. We could say, “Well, we are proud that we choreographed a new routine and were motivated to practice 3 times a week.”

I used the example of ballroom dancing, but this concept of instant and delayed gratification also easily applies to the business world. In my book, The Four Intelligences of the Business Mind, I explore this concept further.

Studies have shown that business partners need a combination of smaller instant rewards (for example, a modest sign-on bonus) and a higher value delayed reward (a larger portion of profits) to stay motivated. The key is to identify what truly motivates someone when planning rewards. Is your partner motivated by competition? By power? By making a difference? The key to success is to figure out what keeps someone engaged, and then break down the goal into attainable chunks, with the right reward at each step. Remember – it is much harder to bolster up a demotivated person than it is to keep them feeling excited all the way through the process.

Regardless of whether you’re dancing through a ballroom or through a meeting, it’s important to keep something else in mind. At any point in your progress, you are not the same person you were when you began. Accept and welcome the fact that you are now dealing with a new challenge, and repeat that to yourself. Believe in yourself that you are smoothly on course to your end goal – stay focused and be confident in your ability to learn and grow.

Four Intelligences of the Business Mind– Valeh Nazemoff is the author of The Four Intelligences of the Business Mind: How to Rewire Your Brain and Your Business for Success (CLICK HERE to get your copy) and the senior vice president and co-owner of Acolyst, a high-level data and business performance management consulting firm working with all levels of government management and Fortune 5000 companies. She is passionate about improving people’s lives through strategic planning, teamwork, and technology.

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