How to delay gratification

Tell yourself “I can have/do this later.”

If you’re on a diet, and you’re craving something sweet, tell yourself “I can have dessert later, if I still want it.”

If you’re writing a paper, and you get the urge to check Facebook or Twitter or any other site that provides little more than Internet crack porn, tell yourself “I can check my profile later, if I still want to.”

If you’re tempted to snooze, tell yourself “If I get up now, I can take a nap later after I’ve finished my work (if I still want to).”

If you’re tempted to have one more drink, tell yourself “If I still want it thirty minutes, hell yeah!”

Telling yourself that you can have or do something later is actually very similar to having or doing it now. At the neural response level, this self-assurance activates many of the same reward pathways associated with eating sweet or fatty foods, experiencing novelty, and avoiding pain. It’s also so simple.

And when “later” does end up coming around, ironically, you almost never want to have that thing or engage in that activity. Your willpower is back (and your goals are salient), which makes successfully avoiding the temptation remarkably easier.

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