Sunday, September 11, 2011

Learning guitar and instant gratification



Instant gratification seems to be a hot topic these days. I often hear the older generations complaining that young people need to have everything now. If it's not instant they are not interested. I tend to believe we all feel like that at times but extensive research shows that children who learn to wait usually do better in life. I urge parents to checkout the Stanford 'Marshmallow study'.

More than 3 clicks and I'm not interested.

Website designers know very well the importance of providing instant gratification to visitors. In fact it's this need for instant gratification that has driven much of the phenomenal growth of the computer and Internet over the last 20 years. It's been reported that the Internet  has almost doubled in speed every year since it went public. When it comes to the net speed matters because speed equals instant. Amazon were one of the first companies to focus on minimizing the number of mouse clicks it takes to purchase after research found that with each click your company sales would go down. Drastically! We have become conditioned to expect much of our life on demand and we don't have time to wait but there are some things that are simply not available at the click of a mouse.

Short term gain, long term dissatisfaction

The irony of instant gratification for those who pursue it is long term dissatisfaction. Studies show that real long term satisfaction mostly comes from those achievements that require a long term commitment. Martin Seligan points out that the more we pursue outcomes that require a long term commitment the happier we tend to be. Children today are more at risk than ever when it comes to the negative effects of instant gratification which may help to explain the recent rapid rise in depression among children. They learn to expect everything instantly and when it doesn't happen they become depressed. The world has become very convenient and almost everything seems to happens at the push of a button and when it doesn't we get irritated. This can also lead one to believe that anything that requires too much effort is a waste of time.  After all 5 hours on a guitar is unlikely to make much difference to your playing but spend that time on a new video game and it might be flashing the words 'Congratulations. You are now a level 5 super champion.'

Spending your time wisely

Despite the obvious attraction of instant gratification your best strategy is to avoid such temptation when it comes to the important things in life. It is often better to spend your time focused on the long term benefits of learning guitar then the short term thrills of playing a game. When it comes to children I think learning a musical instrument is a great way for them to see this in action. It certainly worked for me as a child. I started learning music at 14 years of age and while frustrating at times I came to understand that it was a slow gradual process but was well worth the time and effort. Learning music goes far beyond just being able to play music. Its a lesson in life and happiness it seems.

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