“Hurry—while supplies last! Sale ends tomorrow!”
Who doesn’t love a sale? After all, it might be the LAST chance to buy something you REALLY NEED at a lower price. Right? Well, no, not really. But it does get your attention, and, after all, that’s the point. We humans are funny creatures. While some of us can pass these alluring ads, others become captured by the fear of missing out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
It isn’t just these striking headlines that aim us toward our wallets. Lottery jackpots, time share sales, trunk sales, closeouts, Going Out Of Business sales, and holidays all present the opportunity to “get a good deal” and indulge your fantasy of obtaining items that will be more expensive or unavailable later on.
According to Wolfram Schultz from the University of Cambridge, the brain lights up at the thought of rewards, sizzling with waves of electric impulses as the reward center is activated. For some, the object is the reward, and there’s very little standing in the way of the decision. For others, who have more clearly defined goals and possess the ability to delay gratification, the act of working towards the objective is the reward. People who find a reward in ignoring the immediate “wants” can better withstand the onslaught of marketers’ calls to action.
One well-supported theory of self-regulation, called the cognitive-affective personality system (CAPS), suggests that delaying gratification results from an ability to use calm and controlled “cool” regulatory strategies rather than emotional and impulsive “hot” regulatory strategies when presented with something that gets our brains sizzling. In “hot” processing, a person focuses on the object causing temptation, especially about its most appealing elements, and is subsequently less able to resist the immediate reward. Using “cool” strategies, which involve distraction and thinking about the downsides of the temptation to make it less appealing, gives a person more control over their behavior.
If you are lucky enough to be wired with the ability to delay gratification and ignore the constant bombardment of the marketers and advertisers, you have an advantage over those who battle with the allure of whatever it is that gets their brains boiling with need.
If, on the other hand, you are someone who just can’t pass up a good sale and you want that reward now, maybe it’s time to install some cooling-off techniques to help you survive the brain sizzle. Here are a few ideas:
- Take a walk, change the scenery and give your mind a chance to cool down
- Enlist support from a loved on with whom you can talk out the “need.”
- Create a bigger, hotter and more important goal: The bigger and more important it is, the easier it is to aim your actions in that direction.
- Listen to music; allow it to pull you into its power and away from the “hunter” trying to separate you from your money.
- Drink a frozen smoothie really fast. While there’s no real reason, the brain freeze will at least take your mind off the burn while improving your nutrition (an added bonus!).
When you boil it down, it’s not about the “stuff.” It’s about who and what you value most— and no one wants to miss out on that!