The Key Difference Between Successful and Unsuccessful People

Photo by Grant Ritchie on Unsplash

“Most of the challenges that we have in our personal lives come from a short-term focus”

Tony Robbins

The Stanford marshmallow experiment was a series of studies conducted by psychologist Walter Mischel in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In these studies, a child had to choose between receiving a small reward immediately or two small rewards if they waited for a short period, during which the tester left the room and then returned.

Pretty much a study on delayed gratification.

Do you want it now, or are you willing to suffer and wait for it?

The results are interesting, to say the least. Those who delayed gratification scored significantly higher in every area of human competency imaginable. Higher SATs, higher income, better lives.

Pleasure-seeking or being happiness-oriented?

Which one do you choose?

Do you want moderate enjoyment or fulfillment?

Genuine satisfaction or the illusion of it?

How do you think people usually go through life?


The problem with instant gratifications is that the pleasure you derive from them are always short-lived. Therefore, you need to constantly seek your next instant gratification, and before you know it you find yourself in trapped by this vicious circle of looking for something to be offered to you instantly.

The effects of delayed gratification, on the other hand, usually last much longer.

For example, the positive effects of financial discipline last longer than the short-term rush of excitement that comes from an impulse buy.

Finishing an ambitious project, such as writing a book, will have long-lasting benefits that massively outweigh the short-term pleasure of being engaged in mindless distractions.

Yet, most people are short-term oriented and choose pleasure, satisfaction and dopamine hits right now at the expense of bigger gains. Essentially, they are sacrificing tomorrow in order to feel good about themselves today. All in all, this is ruining their chances of success.

Being able to delay gratification is one of the most crucial aspects of success. The ability to not get sidetracked by temptations, to know your priorities, to know what you want and be able to wait for it.

To trust the outcome.

Carpe diem is a terrible motto. This sentence is written by someone who has it tattooed on his arm.

Why, you ask?

Well, because hedonists tend to be emotional crybabies. Pleasure seeking is only as good as receiving constant stimulus. Which, in turn, makes the brain over-active. Which, also, means that you need to be stimulated more and more as time goes on.

You’re watching TV, and then you’re not.

You’re making love, and then you’re not.

You’re eating that chocolate, and then you’re not.

And when you’re not, it doesn’t feel good. At all. You feel out-of-balance, and there’s no purpose for you too feel that way.

Your goal is to feel pleasure; when you cannot, there’s no reason for that.

On the other hand, someone who delays gratification for a certain reason has to develop the tools to endure those moments of frustration, the moments of lack, when there’s no pleasure to be found.

Simply put, suffering is inevitable. It is also necessary to give it a meaning, to tied it to a higher purpose, a goal, a dream.

Otherwise, suffering becomes unbearable.

If you always want to do what’s easy, your life will be hard. If you do what’s hard, your live will be easy.


You are always choosing to either delay gratification and play the long game or to seek pleasure in the form of instant gratification. Which of these two you choose most of the time will determine your success and the quality of your life.

If you want to live an extraordinary life, whether in terms of income, health, or relationships, you need to seek out to delay gratification for as long as possible.

Work on building the inner fortitude required to do just that, focus on your ambitions, goals,and dreams rather than on feeling pleasure in the moment, and you will begin to set yourself up in such a way that your future self will thank you for it.

30 thoughts on “The Key Difference Between Successful and Unsuccessful People

  1. Hi, Christian.
    Exact sentiments I had been feeling lately. The question I deal mostly – do I choose the easier path? What will I gain from it? How do I deal with impatience? Why are the results not as I expected?
    I am not a pleasure seeker from day one. I delight in hard work that produces good results. The thing is – impatience is my kryptonite.
    I am just sharing. The post triggered a lot of thoughts.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Instant gratification has its rewards though, picking and choosing when appropriate seems in order. But in the big picture, doing what’s hard makes life easier although not easy.

    Like

  3. Very inspirational and well written. I’d like to agree somehow on Carpie Diem is a terrible motto. Because it sometimes sounds like having lack of discipline, not aspiring at all and having poor self-esteem in such a way that let alone capitalizing on what life has to offer.

    Liked by 3 people

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