How To Control Desires To Have Long Term Happiness


How to control your desires so you can be more happy? It is connected with  “gratification”, which refers to satisfaction. As humans, our fervent hope and desire at     all times is to satisfy our five senses. Hence, delay gratification means to purposely and willfully delaying this desire. The objective of this exercise is to gain more control over ourselves. The intention is to   develop willpower to resist the temptation to gratify ourselves at least for a short period of time so that eventually we will be more gratified in the end.

Let me quote an example to illustrate this     phenomenon. When you see an item of food such as ice cream or chocolate cake it is natural for your taste buds to awaken and tempt you to taste it immediately. If you are practicing the concept of delay gratification, what you can do in this instance is to purchase this food item and wait until you take it home to consume it. By this means, you develop some form of self-control over your actions as well as enjoy the dessert later in more relaxed surroundings.


Today we live in a world of instant gratification. At a touch of a button, you can make purchases online of many items you desire as opposed to painstakingly visiting the store, comparing prices and making a purchase in exchange for cash as in the past. Then you might wonder why delay gratification? why control desires?  Well, by practicing this concept, you invariably teach yourself two, more important virtues of life.

Develop patience

How to control Desires - Develop your Patience

Today in this fast-paced world, you may have experienced that many of the vehicle drivers do not have the patience to wait until the red traffic light turns to green to pass through an intersection . They wear a frown on their faces or try to inch forward slowly despite the stop sign. At   the bank some people in the queue are impatient until their turn arrives to reach the counter to execute their transactions. They sometimes   peep over your shoulder to see how many customers are in the queue ahead of them. Therefore, by practicing our captioned concept, in such minor situations, you eventually develop patience. This training will help you if and when there is a need to overcome greater challenges in life. Imagine ,  you are ill and visit the doctor. He/she prescribes a daily dosage of medication to be consumed three times a day for 7 days, so that you will get better and return to normal. In such an instance, you might wish instant recovery. The reality is you will have to wait patiently until the medication takes its course for you to recover fully and your health is restored. Yet another instance may be  when you sit an examination. You have no choice but to wait patiently until the results are released for you to know if you have succeeded. Hence by developing patience in the manner described above in minor instances, you build up your character to make peace with yourself so that you can deal better when you are confronted with major challenges in life, which are more beyond your control than otherwise. To summarize the concept, if you know that there is light at the end of the tunnel, you need be patient until you reach the end of the tunnel to experience the light. You just have to control desires in a positive manner.

Reduce Craving

How to control Desires - Always need more and more

Harboring desires in itself is not harmful, as desire is one thing that makes a person look forward to a better tomorrow. Yet when this desire reaches uncontrollable proportions it is called craving; you can’t control desires anymore. Craving refers to a situation where one cannot live without a specific object, person or a thing, which may  be tangible or otherwise. When craving reigns supreme in your mind you tend to go to any length and breadth to possess the thing that you crave for. Let us say, you want to have more money in your life ( which is a universal craving of mankind). In your quest to make more money , you might forget your core-values and go to the extent of stealing or even dealing in narcotics. On the other hand, what you should do is  decide to delay your craving to gratify your desire for more money and in the process analyze how much you precisely need to fulfill your needs and live a comfortable life. If you do this, eventually, you might find   an avenue which will open doors for you to earn a greater income ( money) over a period of time.  Besides   ,you will still preserve your core-values and self-respect. Therefore, It is important at this stage to recognize and distinguish NEED from GREED and try to satisfy only the NEED.

How can you practice/train yourself to delay gratification? What are its benefits?

How to control Desires - Dog waiting with patience for the food

Steps to control desires are not hard as you might think. Select an item which you desire to have. Let us say, you want to buy new clothes for yourself. You can either visit the stores immediately or still better you may order on line. If you really want to practice delay gratification in this instance, you can decide to wait for a week or two or else, still better wait for the season of sales/discounted prices start. By doing so, first you train your mind to be somewhat/reasonably happy or ( if not unhappy) even without satisfying your desire. Thereafter, when you actually satisfy your desire ( make the purchases) you will eventually be happier. You can apply this concept even to bigger things in life such as buying a car or a house. For instance, you can train yourself to wait patiently until you reach the most opportune time and perhaps clinch the best price-quality trade-off, instead of making a purchase in a mad rush to instantly gratify yourself and perhaps forgo the best deal you could have got.

If you have children, you can teach them this concept from their very young days so that they end up being adults with a greater sense of self control and eventually live happier lives. The head priest at the temple I frequent, once told me that I should take my six  year old son shopping on Saturday evening after the shops are closed for the day, and ask him what he wants, from the items on display in the showcase/ shop-window. Once he expresses his desire, that I should  explain to him that it cannot be purchased now, as the shops are closed and that I  ( daddy) will bring it home on Monday evening, when returning home from work. By delaying the purchase by , say 48 hours, I will be training him in delaying gratification. Some day when he is an adult, he will have self-discipline and hence become better accustomed to lead a happier life with more self-control.

How do you choose what you should delay?

How to control Desires - You can have multiple choices, but choice is yours!

Are we to delay everything which we do to gratify ourselves or do we choose specific tasks or actions?. Are we completely forgetting what we want because we want to control desires? The most sensible thing to do is to list out your daily/ weekly tasks and choose ones which add little or no value to our lives but still we continue to engage in purely for the sake of pleasure and to maintain a healthy work-life balance. For instance, going to the cinema may add less value to a student than allocating that time to study for an examination which is due in a fortnight from now. Similarly, you have the liberty to choose wisely what activities you should delay, based on your priorities in life.

Is delaying gratification synonymous with procrastination?

Certainly not. when the concept of delaying gratification/ controlling desires is discussed it can be often misunderstood for procrastination. The latter refers to putting off things simply because you are lazy to do it now. In fact, procrastinators think that tomorrow is an extension of today. Delaying gratification on the other hand means consciously and willfully delaying a thing in order to develop self-control by combatting temptation.

Like William Shakespeare   said “ Everything comes to he who waits”. By the way, this does not mean that in life, all things you desire will be made available to you on a silver platter if you wait without exerting any effort. It means that what you desire will come your way at the right time and the place, if you persist with right effort.

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