Being able to delay gratification is an ability that can make the difference between success and failure in life. If you can delay gratification, you can impact your health, finances, and relationships. Let’s look at some practical benefits of putting off pleasure until a later time. 

  • If you can delay gratification when met by online ads to buy products, you’ll save money that can instead go towards building a secure future
  • Putting off pleasurable things like watching TV and going to sleep will lower depression and improve your mental health
  • When you practice delaying gratification, your ability to self-control becomes stronger over time and you’ll be even more disciplined
  • Putting off the pleasure of snacking in the present moment is what will lead to an overall health boost in the long run

These are just a few ways that delaying gratification can positively impact your life. Let’s look at how to make it easier to do. 

Why delaying gratification is hard

An eye-opening experiment conducted by psychologist Hal Hershfield from the UCLA Anderson College of Management explains why it’s so difficult to put off making good decisions that impact the future. 

Brain scans showed that people’s brains are most active or light up when they think about themselves in the present. The brain is also less active when thinking about others. 

The interesting part is that when people thought about their own future selves, their brains again showed lower activity levels. 

This gives us profound insight into why delayed gratification is so hard. We can’t imagine our future selves with as much vividity as we can feel our current experiences. When we think of our future selves, we find them as different from us as other people are. 

That is why it’s hard to delay eating an unnecessary dessert. The pleasure our current selves can derive from a piece of cake feels more real than the potential health benefits your futures self may get a year from now from eating a healthy diet.

Visualization is the key to self-control

Visualizing your ideal future self and imagining yourself as already possessing such traits and behavior tricks your brain into thinking of the future self as the current self. This makes you look at delaying bad activities and taking positive activities more relevant because you’re doing it from the perspective of your future self.

Here’s how to practically use visualization to support making better decisions in the moment. 

Create an image of yourself in the future

If you want to be someone who is an entrepreneur, then you need to visualize yourself as a leader. Pick out the clothes you’re going to wear, the makeup and hairstyle. And then imagine yourself in them right now. 

You also have to visualize the mental and emotional attributes that you want to have in the future. Ask yourself – how do you want your future self to behave and think? If you want to start a business, then you have to look for problems to fix, be good with customers, and be proactive. Make this image as detailed and vivid as you can. 

Step into the image

Once you have imagined the best version of yourself, then visualize stepping into your ideal future self. Spend a few moments everyday inhabiting and embodying this version of yourself.

Start referring to how your future self would act

The next time an opportunity comes up where you can take a step, ask yourself what the accomplished version of you would do? 

If you’re want to become an entrepreneur, then networking would a key activity. So, the next time you meet a potential, check what your future version would do. The entrepreneur version of you would reach out first and start a conversation. So, go ahead and take that action right now.

As you take action and start thinking like the person you want to become, these thought patterns and behaviors won’t just be superficial, they’ll soon become natural to you. 


The key to successfully delaying gratification is to understand why it’s so challenging. Research shows us that when we think of ourselves in the future, it’s as if we’re thinking of a stranger. 

When you understand this, you’ll know how to leverage visualization to make better decisions now. Follow the tips given here and you’ll become better at delaying unnecessary pleasures that don’t serve your future self. You’ll also take positive action that will make your goals and dreams come true.