Choose what will make you happy a bit later
2 min read

Choose what will make you happy a bit later

Every single day I learn something new or gain insights about life, either from books or experiences I live.I'm not here to give anyone lessons. I'm simply sharing this first and foremost for myself, as a way to make it stick and, second, to help anyone for whom these insights could be helpful.

Also, I'm keen on avoiding contributing to the overwhelming noise on the internet. Thus, I'll try to be as concise as possible.

Studies proved over and over that delayed gratification is one of the most accurate predictors of success. You know, the kid who can wait without eating the candy gets double treat. The best way to get what you want in life is to choose what will make you happy a little bit later.

Hedonism or misery?

I'm not saying "keep delaying enjoyment forever." People work their ass off in lousy jobs for decades. Others torture themselves at the gym, or go running every other morning in the cold. They follow a strict and bland diet for weeks or months, feeling miserable in the process. That's stupid.

By the way, I did that. Waking up at 5am, hustling 12+ hours a day. Running hard, lifting heavy weights. Reading boring books until I finished them.  No pain, no gain, right? Well, not exactly. You have to experience some pleasure along with the pain. If you're just 100% miserable, you're just gonna quit. Relying exclusively on willpower for extended periods of time kills passion, excitement, and fun.

Of course, instant gratification is not  the solution either.  But it doesn't have to be black or white.

There's a middle ground

All you have to do is consider the second-order consequences of your action, and ignore the lure of instant gratification. But you don't have to muster vast amounts of willpower. Just a bit, by choosing what will make you happy, not now, not in one month, but maybe in 15 minutes, or an hour.

Instant gratification means pleasure now, pain later.

Long time delayed gratification means pain now, feeling miserable for an extended period of time, and hopefully gains if you didn't give up. That's a big if.

But short delayed-gratification? That's the sweet spot, baby.

That's it. It's not hard. Doesn't have to be. Let me give you some examples:

Goal Instant gratification Long time delayed gratification Short delayed gratification
Get fit Eat those chips Follow a strict diet for 3 months Go for a walk, do some push-ups, call somebody. Then get those chips, or don't
Get work done Watch an episode of The Office Work for 6 hours Start working on the most exciting part of your work for 15 minutes, and see where it goes.
Learn a skill Read inspirational blog posts / watch videos on YouTube Finish 3 books and 2 years of apprenticeship Do one small, practical and fun task involving the desired skill
Wake up early Sleep until 11am Wake up at 5am Wake up at 8am. Take a nap in the afternoon

In essence, don't cut corners. But don't take the long and tortuous way either. Give yourself a bit of challenge and have fun at it.