how to cure yourself of the need for instant gratification

lessons we can learn from gardening

Why do we seek instant gratification at the gym? Why do we have expectations of "I need to lose X kilos" when we do a diet? Sometimes, I feel the expectation of an outcome reduces the joy of the experience.

I think it is because we are annoyed/angry with ourselves. We let ourselves get here, wherever that is. And we want to get out of here as quickly as possible.

Or we feel going there is going to make us better and solve all our issues for us. I don't think any of that is true.

How about we look at this huge problem of instant gratification today and see if we can carry this into our journey this year, at least in the realm of strength training and nutrition?


I had two conversations with two different people about growing plants. I don't do any gardening but I've been on the lookout for an activity that's outside of my comfort zone and so was interested in learning more. One has a small community garden while the other has a large farm and what was striking was the amazing similarities in what they were talking about.

My lens is strength training and the gym. It is important for me to understand the limitations of this lens. What's amazing is all of us have our own lens of looking at things - the more lenses one seems to have, the better we are able to contextualise. So, with the lens of gardening and farming, a few obvious and relevant parallels came up.

one leaf sprouts

The day you plant the seed, you don't get the fruits of your labour i.e. the vegetables do not sprout the next minute. Obviously. Yet, when we go to the gym or clean up our diet for a day or a week, we are expecting results.

Sometimes, we even have some results - just like one leaf sprouting, we might have lost a few centimetres or we might be lifting more weights. Even the act of making it to the gym, something you might not have been able to so far is a result! If you aren't looking for it, you will always miss it.

little and often over the long haul

You don't just plant the seed and walk away and come back in a few weeks/months and reap the rewards. You water the plants, you ensure there's enough sun, you ensure that the right nutrients are available - not too much but not too little either. Daily, weekly.

Just like that, you have to show up daily - it might be lifting weights 3 days a week, going on a walk 3 days a week, eating your vegetables daily and all that. Not once a week. But little and often, done daily for a long time.

environment matters

If the soil is poor or not prepared, the plant is not gonna grow. If the plant does not get enough sun, same deal. Likewise, if your environment is not conducive for your goals, you are setting yourself up for failure.

If your house is full of junk foods, well, eventually it will wear you down. There's a finite amount of willpower that we can all exercise and you are fighting an uphill battle daily. The energy drain on you is immense and we don't realise it until it just breaks down.

Training with a community, even if it is just 2-3 training partners, can make all the difference. They will pick you up when you need it. And you will pick them up when they need it. No, I don't mean pick them up on the drive to the gym or any such thing, although that's a start. I mean when things aren't going their way and they need a shot in the arm, they need support - that's your job.

A supportive environment matters.

the right fuel

We can increase the yield with a silly amount of fertilisers or we can go the organic approach. The short-term output will be high when we do the fertilisers-that-are-terrible-for-you approach. But we are polluting the soil, the plant, and the yield as well.

When we go the unsustainable route - doing stupid HIIT stuff and draining ourselves with random workouts that kill you daily, what do you think you are doing to yourself? The idea that you can walk out of the gym recharged is such an alien concept to us.

When we follow unreasonable eating habits and nonsensical diets that are so far away from our regular way of eating and living - we will see short-term results but eating disorders and a poor relationship with food is just around the corner.

crop rotation

We can practice crop rotation or we can keep planting the same crop.

We can keep doing the same thing or we can mix it up at the right time and come back stronger. At The Quad, we practice a quarterly cycle of 12 weeks and then taking a week off to rejuvenate and come back.

And each quarter, while the tools are the same, we focus on a different attribute of health and fitness.

and we go again

Patiently tilling and nurturing, feeding the right fuel, showing love and care produces results. We get a bountiful harvest.

And then we do it all over again.

It is easier the second time because we know what we are doing. We can build on our lessons.

But sometimes we will fail too. The harvest might not be as good as last time but that's okay. More lessons learned.

Every time, we start again. Not from scratch. But we start again.


To summarise,

  • instant gratification is the bane of all fitness and diet endeavours.

  • environment matters.

  • what you do matters.

  • the long-term outlook matters.

  • you will reap the rewards with patience and love and care.

  • and you will have to do it all over again.

  • and again.

  • and again.