Somehow this term came up and stuck with me in my meditation today.

Scheduled Gratification

Sounds strange when I write it down. I’m gonna run with the risk of sounding like another wacko from the internet and try to convey what it means in my mind.

I would describe it as expectancy of the outcome and the certain moment when that outcome should happen.

I noticed that with almost everything I do, I expect results by some schedule. It is somewhere in between instant and delayed gratification, with the addition of a certain time limit. At that specified (explicitly or implicitly) time I look back and ask if I got the result.

The best scenario for it is when we are self-aware enough. We can either set the date far in the future, or approach it as a reflection point, where we can look back at what we did without judging, and decide what was helpful and what – not.

I think that we assume scheduled gratification when we do anything – it is something positive that we think will happen as a result of our choice. It would feel good. It can be material or not, but it would still cause some feelings – we’re after them, to feel joy, happiness or just something better than now. We set the time when we want to feel it, be it now or in years.

I don’t treat this expectation is a bad thing – it can serve as a good internal compass, or be used as a reminder to take a look back from time to time.

What is important, is to be aware of how your mind usually schedules your goals.
If you expect your results too fast, or “set the bar too high” by default it can cause you to face the results much earlier than you can possibly see them. And, no matter how self-aware and positive-minded you are, it still takes energy to come up with counter-thoughts to the “failed expectation”. Not to say that you can miss the greater picture if you focus only on small chunks of time.

How to notice it running in the background?

For me a good indicator is the feeling of missing something or suddenly being sad and regretful at the end of the day without definite cause.

I had an insight into it, when I started feeling this way about something I hadn’t even thought I wanted that day. In my case it was talking to girls on the street, practicing what I already learned to do four months ago. It wasn’t my primary focus anymore. I handled that fear to an average level and switched my priorities to mental health and, now, my business. As it seems, it kept running in the background.
I was trying to ignore it, pretend that I had a different focus, but by doing so I unconsciously allowed to set the gratification check for the end of each day. I by default expected myself to talk with at least one girl a day, because of the hard work I put before.

After that I noticed the same thing happening with other things, even the ones I just started.

For the context: I, at the moment of writing this, still finishing 365-project with photography – which had consciously set gratification point of “I’m Proud That I Posted One More Photo” at the end of the day.

In parallel this month I began to work with my business: created a blog, started posting articles, phrases on twitter and Reddit topics/comments.
While doing it I, this time unconsciously, copied my template from 365-project to all of them too, causing a lot of “I had to” thoughts: “I had to post an article each day”. “I had to do something on Reddit”.

I was stuck in it until recently. Wasn’t even going deep enough to notice it, failing these implicitly set goals and feeling miserable afterwards without knowing the cause.

So what can we do with it?

I think the good approach here is to treat it exactly like that – like a calendar, a schedule. When you consciously set and devote certain time to reflect on your progress and expectation, you have agency over it. It stops injecting itself in every possible moment.

When you become aware of the expectation, you can move it to the time best suited to look at the results.
From end of the day to weekly or monthly reviews of a progress.

This expectation, with some practice, starts to patiently await the scheduled time and only then takes up all your focus. In the meantime, you will free mental resources to be reused for something else.

That helped me with things I mentioned before.

Now my gratification point for dating is set up months in the future.
Daily check/reward consciously lowered to “I’m glad that I still had intention of talking to girls today”.
With new goals, yesterday example: “I’m grateful I had opportunity to work on article for at least 10 minutes” and “I will aim to post 7 articles by the end of this week”.

On this note, I would leave you to notice these implicit dates and expectations in yourself.

Reframe them if you can, but at least try to see which ones are there – eventually you will be able to work with them properly.

Look at successful or failed expectations just like at events that happened. At the end of the day, you always did the best job you possibly could.

Stay aware. Stay grateful. Stay happy.

Everything is and going to be ok.

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