Gratification Trap

We are bound by the quest of accomplishment in our everyday life. The drive to accomplish our goals is making us work late hours, go beyond code of conduct to make it happen, build relationships; sacrifice something (it could be money, time, and ego).

Why do we do that?  If it wasn’t a pull to experience the pleasure of gratification most of us would be sitting at home doing virtually nothing. People work hard for end of the year they look forward to a promotion or a hike in salary or a recommendation. An entrepreneur works 100 hours a week for he expects to turn around his startup in to a profitable, sustain-ably growing organization. Charity workers sacrifice their personal life & contribute to uplift the underprivileged people of our society to satisfy their hunger of being tagged as social entrepreneurs. Parents raise their kids with delight and care for they want to see them grow and succeed in their life (professionally and societally). Government (collective term for a group of people who run the country), builds infrastructure, creates financial systems, nurture army for they want to build stability in the country and see it grow in global arena.

The quest for gratification has led to many people sacrificing something in their life. For instance, Steve Jobs despite of being diagnosed of liver cancer refused to undergo surgery and instead focused his attention on the launch of Ipad. Mahatma Gandhi sacrificed his personal life for freedom struggle; Mother Teresa left Europe to settle in shanty suburbs of Calcutta, Japanese people turned in to workaholics to gain lost glory as a nation.

Why gratification is so important for humans?

Humans in their evolution had to struggle for their survival from the much powerful beasts. Their brain development, the amygdala developed to make fight or flight decision just to survive. As humans started building tools (weapons) to fight the giant animals they started realizing that they can beat the powerful with their brain. Brain became the epicenter of their development. Later the neo cortex and the frontal cortex developed augmenting brain power to analyze and rationalize. With these in built ammunition humans did not have any enemy they couldn’t conquer. When there was no external enemy the amygdalae couldn’t rest and started building an enemy within the race. Humans becoming enemies of humans. This amygdala versus amygdala fight intensified and then came the completion to succeed among the fellow race. Humans realized that if they have to succeed within their community they have to set a target of doing something a normal person can’t do or achieve. After succeeding in that goal or that mission they received a gift of praise, recognition, wealth, prosperity and most importantly the gratification kick (HIGH). This sense of accomplishment became core driver of human behavior and existence. Out of this race the word GOAL took shape. Goals were that target which had inherent benefits on accomplishment. Goals became epicenter of human beliefs, actions and cause for living.

Setting goals became a way of life and accomplishing them a matter of life or death. A person without goals was deemed insane and person committed to goals was worshiped and person accomplishing goals became a Hero. Movies launching such heroes, those bashing the criminals, rescuing people, going to the moon, fighting the aliens from distant galaxies started becoming talk of the town. Parents shared their life’s success or failures with their kids and started setting them up for a bigger challenge.

Goals have a definite finish line and that is gratification. The craving for gratification will make us do anything beyond our normal capability. So, is this addiction for gratification good or not so good? As always there’s no Yes or No as an answer to this question, but, some pointers which will help you navigate with purpose in your life. These pointers are:

  • Setting goals with the expectation to gratify becomes point of failure. Rising expectation creates disharmony within persons mind and body. Stress levels go high and he experiences out of balance situation in work life. To avoid this while setting goals one should also look at potential failure possibilities and be ready to embrace it or have plan B. That doesn’t mean he cannot stretch himself. Goals are meant to be stretched.
  • The gratification pleasure after accomplishment of a goal is short lived. Mind starts looking for next goal. This is inherent way of life and human DNA. It’s natural. Hence while setting goal never set it with the expectation that this is going to be the final task on earth I am attempting, Oh boy, there’s lot coming up.
  • Failure does not mean end of everything. It doesn’t mean anything as such. Failure doesn’t invalidate our existence. Out of 2 billion active sperms that one tiny creature who made it is you. So if you have fought and become victorious over an army of 1.99 Billion you are capable of doing anything.
  • Goals shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. If my goal is to pull down someone to take his position I will not only create a rift between 2 minds but I will also have a rift within. While my amygdala will push me for that victory over someone, but my emotional part of the brain (chemicals viz. Oxytocin and Dopamine) will invalidate my quest. So, I will be actually driving a 1000 BHP engine with accelerator and brakes applied with equal force at the same time.
  • Post accomplishment of my goal, I just need to set myself up for next challenge and that is the way of life. This quest will come to an end with my last breath (for now at least I can’t see beyond this).
  • While focusing on set goals it is equally important to glance at other aspects of life. Am I spending enough time with my family, am I helping the underprivileged, am I active in sports, am I regular at exercise to keep my body fit, am I am meditating enough to gain peace. When you realize that you are kind of leading a balanced life (kind of is analogous to the fact that nothing is perfectly balanced), goals do not drive you insane.
  • There is an insidious hunger of learning while working on goals. If this hunger is satisfied, gratification doesn’t mean too much. When Karoli Takacs lost his right hand when a faulty grenade exploded accidentally, he learnt that he can use his 2nd best hand (the left hand) to win Olympic gold.

So, to conclude, gratification is not the Nirvana. However, without this quest we all will be like a log of wood lying in corner only to be used for cooking someone else’s meals.

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