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Image by Hebi B. from Pixabay

I still struggle to find solutions to the need for immediate gratification. We are bombarded with a need to immediately react or complete tasks—sometimes consciously but more often sub­consciously. One only has to walk down a street full of people to notice what today’s technology has done to humans’ need for speed.

Speed can result in miscommunication or negative communication. Time demands and the internal need to speed along can put nerves on edge and create environments where people tend to communi­cate less or in ways that are ineffective. We find ourselves reacting to another person’s haste or impatience with negative judgments, often steering the discussion onto tangents that only feed negativ­ity and provide nothing constructive to the original issue. Going too fast tests patience, and in today’s world of need for immedi­ate gratification—or I should say, of demands for information or action—a lack of patience often leads to disagreement.

Technology Induced Attention Deficit Disorder (TIADD)

When I travel, there is one universal action that is consistent in every town I visit: cell phone usage. Cell phones are no longer just a phone; they are also TVs, workspaces, computers, game consoles, and much more. Want to freak out a human between the ages of 13 and 50? Take away their cell phone.

With the applications available to us, we can manage most of our life on our cell phone—from communicating with people to turning on the lights in our homes. Want to know where your teenager is? Look it up on your phone. Missing your favorite TV show and don’t want to wait? Get an app and watch on your phone in real time.

These kinds of technologies have created the need for immedi­ate gratification. Patience is waning in all aspects of human inter­action, and the whole of society is affected. I identified this issue in my dissertation long before it became a commonly known problem: Technology Induced Attention Deficit Disorder (TIADD).

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There are many places in society where this manifests itself on a regular basis. Let’s begin with a prosaic example of immediate versus lasting gratification: cupcakes.

To eat a cupcake is to have immediate gratification. Most peo­ple enjoy cupcakes like Lay’s Potato Chips: you can’t eat just one. Those who eat cupcakes in search of immediate gratification of their need for sweets may be jeopardizing their potential long-term gratification of being fit and healthy. Individuals focusing on how they feel now often lose sight of the long-term consequences of a single but repetitive act. Eating just one cupcake occasionally is not bad, but the habit of eating several cupcakes has derailed many plans for a thin summer physique.

The internet is another place where humans have adapted to expect faster gratification. In 1995, when I began using the internet on a regular basis, I used AOL as my service provider. My first modem was a 14,400 baud rate modem that made crazy digital sounds and required me to use a phone line to connect. I would sit in front of my computer and wait patiently for it to download messages, photos, and website content, amazed at the amount of information I could access and work with on my computer.

In 1997, when I was designing ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems around the world, I began working with 128,000 baud rate digital network connections that did not require a standard phone line. In two years, the speed at which we commu­nicated over the internet had increased tenfold. The amount of data we could transfer and share also increased, allowing more people to access this data and allowing us to do more. The wait for messages, photos, and website content decreased tremendously.

By 2001, when I argued my dissertation on TIADD, I was still designing and implementing ERP systems and working with companies to manage the organizational change being caused by the influence of technology on humans. Internet access rates were increasing, and you could get a 128,000 baud rate at home and a 1,544,000 baud rate at work. In less than five years, we had again increased the speed of communication over tenfold. Humans quickly adapted to this increase and raised expectations for their data.

Through the years, from 2001 to now, we have seen data speeds increase more than fiftyfold. We have also expanded the influence of technology from the workplace, to home, to the back of your pocket. This transformation in data delivery has created an insistent need for immediate gratification of knowledge; we need answers this instant.

Immediate Gratification’s Negative Influ­ence on Human Relationships

This need for immediate gratification has had a negative influ­ence on human relationships in all aspects, from quality to quantity. In 1997, if we wanted the immediate gratification of speaking to someone, we picked up the phone, wrote a letter, or visited them personally. We took our time, and the conversations were thought­ful and memorable. How many visits or phone calls to people in your life do you remember?

During Christmas of 1990, I had just begun dating René. I already knew I was in love with her, and our first months of dating had been typical of the time. We talked on the phone and saw each other as often as we could. René and I had some “missed communi­cations,” which made me feel kind of insecure. So, while shopping for René at Aurora Mall in Colorado, I stopped at a payphone and called her. Our call lasted for almost an hour, and to this day is something we both remember. That hour-long phone call had meaning; it had context.

Today, we text. We talk about life and what is going on, but I cannot tell you anything meaningful that we discuss via text. Unlike that phone call over 30 years ago, texting is immediate and at such a speed that most of its content is lost as soon as we are interrupted with the next text, email, or other notification—it has far less mean­ing in the grand scheme of our lives.

There was a lot of long-term gratification in communication prior to advances in communication technology. Today, people post or tweet in order to immediately satisfy the need to say some­thing to remain relevant. Almost gone are the days when we cut out a news article about a loved one or put a picture in a photo album to create a book where we sit around the table and look at things that once provided long-term gratification.

Moving Quickly from Issue to Issue and Losing Focus

The propensity to quickly move from issue to issue and juggle texts from work, friends, and family—while we are also trying to perform manual tasks at work or home—diminishes the value of the information we receive. In our workplace, we often see gaps or mistakes caused by the interruptions that come from the amount of information being thrown at us.

I am guilty of this myself, and sometimes to the detriment of my team. Brenda, who works with me on a daily basis, is seated right outside my office. She is responsi­ble for work that requires great focus and detail; I know this, as does she. However, I often just yell out to her and interrupt whatever she is doing to satisfy my own immediate need. If I’m not in my office and want a similar response, I text her and skip email—knowing that she will respond more quickly to a text.

My need for immediate gratification may resolve the issue at hand but it allows interruptions to invade the current chosen task or me or those I influence. These interruptions create risks that either my work or the work of the person I am interrupting will not be completed to the best of our abilities. Focus requires us to find a way to keep ourselves and our influence in sync for our personal and team objectives. The best way to do this is to create a deliberate environment.

Key Takeaways: Immediate Gratification

  • Speed can result in miscommunication and/or negative com­munication. We often know what is in our minds, so we may pass over details when communicating. We also don’t usually know how much knowledge another individual has on the subject, but we may assume.

  • When possible, slow down and have thoughtful and mean­ingful conversations.

  • Be mindful of the communications you send out using tech­nology. It’s easy to quickly say something you might regret.

  • When technology slows down, freezes, or leaves you with an infinite loading circle, remind yourself to have patience; technology has come a long way.

Slow Down: Reflection

Slowing down may be the most important aspect of your journey to aid in your discovery of self. Without slowing down, you are unable to organize thoughts and emotions and remain present. These are key to discovering your foundation and learning more about what makes you you.

As you continue on your path, slow down, and come into the present, you will find that these actions inherently cause you to focus. Use this focus to keep you on your path of discovery.

Copyright 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Article Source:

BOOK: Individual Influence

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book cover of Individual Influence – Find the “I” in Team by Brian Smith PhD and Mary Griffin

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About the Author

photo of Brian Smith, PhDBrian Smith, PhD, is founder and senior managing partner of IA Business Advisors, a management consulting firm that has worked with more than 20,000 CEOs, entrepreneurs, managers, and employees worldwide. Together with his daughter, Mary Griffin, he has authored his latest book in the “I” in Team series, Positive Influence – Be the “I” in Team (Made for Success Publishing, April 4, 2023), which shares how to become our best self with everyone we influence.

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