Time Tells the Truth
On any typical day we make thousands of decisions.
Seneca once said, “we should always let some time elapse, because time always exposes the truth.” If you do not know who Seneca was, please trust me, he was a fairly intelligent old Roman dude. I can not confirm he enjoyed a good deadlift session, but it’s reasonable to assume he’d have appreciate their worth. Here he speaks of our decisions, and how time is the ultimate truther. The decisions you make today will make their presence in your future.
Instant Gratification vs Deferred Gratification
In life, we are daily presented with choices that either slide into one of two categories, delayed or instant gratification, neither concept alien to any of us. Instant gratification is just as it sounds, immediate satisfaction. A dopamine slap across the face, that we love. Cheeseburgers, pizza, the comforter, social media…these all provide immediate comfort, boosting our mood in the moment. Delayed gratification is just as it sounds too, who’d have thought? Postponed satisfaction. Immediate DISCOMFORT. It’s challenging, it’s hard, often awkward. The salad instead of the super deluxe, meat lovers, stuff crust pizza. The couch rather than training. Curls (probably in the squat rack) instead of deadlifts *GASP*!
Yes, we’ve heard this before, nothing new, this is not a mind-blowing discovery. In fact it makes complete sense, otherwise society would be full of affluent Greek Gods and Goddesses, with no appreciation for what made them. The real reason for achieving your goals is not the goal itself, but what you become in the journey to reach them, which is such an awesome topic, I'll visit it in a later post. Yet we plow through the cheeseburgers, spend mindless hours scrolling, and sleep in, hitting snooze as many times as our phones will allow (my Samsung allows three, then all bets are off!). We know what we should do, but the excuses smother those thoughts as reason. We are no different than a dopamine addicted lab rat, we all are. Hell, most us are MINDLESS dopamine addicted rats, not even conscious of it. Becoming aware, and reminding ourselves, is the start of the battle. The irony is that though instant gratification is nice in the moment, it is ultimately negative. Not only is the net result negative, it compounds.
On the flip side, the irony is that delayed gratification is boring, even difficult in the moment, but has long term feel-good implications. Begin to make decisions of postponed gratification in succession, and the success in your life, in whatever regard your decisions are to, will exponentially compound. This is a fundamental universal law, and can be summed up in just a few words, do hard things and enjoy an easy life. On the contrary, do easy things, have a hard life.
Do hard things, enjoy and easy life. Do easy things, enjoy a hard life.
The Marshmallow Test
There was a study completed in the 1960’s by a Stanford professor at the time, psychologist Walter Mischel. In short, kids were given a marshmallow and promised a second marshmallow treat if they could wait fifteen minutes, 900 grueling seconds, without eating the first. Over time, their findings concluded that kids who had the innate ability to wait for the second marshmallow went on to lead more successful lives. Conclusion here? Delayed gratification is good, an indicator of future success.
FAST FORWARD to 2018…
A new study of the study (marshmallow), proved that the original is not so black & white, that many external influences were present to affect the children’s choices, specifically class dimensions and a scarcity mindset. In the end however, this doesn’t change the fact that delayed gratification is still good, an indicator of future success. I only mention this because most of us would have eaten the f’ing marshmallow.
A New Perspective
So now that we have determined that delayed gratification is good, and that no matter if you would have decided, or still would decide, to eat the damn marshmallow, you can develop the power to make decisions to better your future self. You can empower yourself to ignore the marshmallow. The trick is to make long term beneficial decisions that also feel good in the moment. Sounds like a “have your cake and eat it too” situation (I’ve never quite understood this, shouldn’t you eat cake that is yours? If there is root to this, please call me out in the comments). How do we make decisions that leak dopamine, but also lead to long term success?
We are Heroes
Think of yourself as the hero of your own movie. You are that person, whether you decide to be aware of it or not, and to win, you need to be able beat, or at a minimum negotiate with, yourself. If you can be aware of your thoughts, you do just that. This means that one, you must be aware that you are in the process of making a decision and two, must be able to control your mind in seeing the choices in a different light. If you can link the decision to go to the gym with the long-term benefits, then make that decision to go, you will get the dopamine you desperately crave for the win you just created. You see, we do not need to cower from dopamine, only acquire it in a way that will make you proud today and in the future. These decisions will gain momentum, and eventually replace the bad habits that had been holding you down. Good habits are the core.
Learn to love a battle and recognize resistance while seeking out hard stuff. Conquer yourself and be proud.
I’ll end with a more contemporary quote, if upon this article’s opening you decided Seneca was an out-of-touch (he’s not) old man (very) that doesn’t know a damn thing about physical training (not sure). Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, “Pain makes me grow. Growing is what I want. Therefore, for me pain is pleasure.”
Look at the hardship for what it is, progress.
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