Redefine Busy: Delayed gratification

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You often make decisions in the moment for the immediate gratification. Often though, that short-term pleasure will lead to long-term pain.

If you’ve ever dieted, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Even though you know you shouldn’t eat that bowl of ice cream, the short-term pleasure associated with it often wins. But once you’re done the ice cream and you can look back at it, you regret it. The pleasure has come and gone, and now all you’re left with is the pain.

Don’t feel bad about this though; it’s completely natural. You’re hard-wired this way. It’s called the Pleasure Principle, which was named so by Sigmund Freud, a very famous neurologist.

The Pleasure Principle states that you instinctually seek pleasure and avoid pain in order to satisfy your basic biological and psychological needs.

Why am I talking about all this here, though? is all about the business of photography, this seems pretty “deep”, doesn’t it?

Well … this is another instalment in the Redefine Busy Movement series, where we’re working together towards creating more margin in our lives. We’re gaining control and taking ownership of our time. If you want to get more balance in your life in this “anti-busy” movement, you must first acknowledge “busy” as a habit.

Therefore, if you want to redefine busy, then you need to redefine your habits. And the Pleasure Principle is one of the driving forces behind your habits.

The “busy” habits

Choosing short-term pleasure when you’re in-the-moment is likely what’s lead you down the path of busy.

Let’s look at a few example “busy” habits and explore what I mean.

  • You obsessively check your phone for new emails. This is a habit that has great short-term pleasure; your brain literally gets a hit of dopamine (the happiness chemical) when you receive an email. But there is long-term pain that you may not consider, such as phone addiction, not being available and present with your family, not living in the moment, always looking for the next email, and so on.
  • You let yourself get distracted by watching videos online. This is a habit that gives you short-term pleasure; you enjoy watching the video. But there is long-term pain that you may not consider, such as distraction and procrastination. Plus, this unproductive time adds up to a lot of hours wasted over time.
  • You procrastinate doing that one big task you need to do, and do the smaller, less meaningful tasks that you want to do. This is a habit that gives you the short-term pleasure of doing what you want to do, which is normally also what you like to do. But there is the long-term pain in that your real to-do list ends up piling up. You either get stressed about doing it, or you end up dropping the ball and not getting those things done that you really should be getting done.
  • You get sucked in to busy work and putting out fires. Busy work and being in “reaction mode” has great short-term pleasure, because you feel like you are getting things done. But there is long-term pain because this is just a form of procrastination, meaning you end up not being able to do the things you really should be doing. You never really get to move the needle.

These are just a few examples of “busy” habits – there are hundreds more.

When you’re really honest, can you see where your “busy” habits lead you? They may feel good in the moment, but they have negative long-term consequences that you may not think about.

In the last article of the Redefine Busy series, we spoke about becoming aware of our habits. Hopefully now you’re noticing them and bringing them to the forefront of your consciousness. The question now is – what do you do about them once you are aware of them?

The principle of Delayed Gratification

What do you do in the moment when you catch yourself about to impulsively indulge in a “busy” habit?

The principle Delayed Gratification gives us the answer. Dr. Bernardo Carducci, a professor of psychology at Indiana University, defined delayed gratification as:

Delayed Gratification: The ability to resist the temptation for an immediate reward and wait for a later reward. Generally, delayed gratification is associated with resisting a smaller but more immediate reward in order to receive a larger or more enduring reward later.

Children don’t have the skillset of delayed gratification. They usually don’t take into consideration the negative repercussions of their actions. They act in the moment, seeking only immediate pleasure, without any care or worry for the the consequences or the obvious pain that may be associated with their decisions.

As we mature though, we learn the skills of patience, will-power and foresight, and so we consider the ramifications of the actions we take. As we mature, we learn delayed gratification.

You aren’t a child; act with consideration

Once we gain awareness of our actions and look at their long-term effects, we can make smarter, short-term decisions.

That usually means forgoing the short-term pleasure or the immediate gratification. But we understand it’s worth the trade-off, because the long-term pleasure is far greater.

Let’s shine the spotlight back on the “busy” habits, and think about the long-term effects.

Who would you be if you were free of the lie of busy? How would you feel if you weren’t a slave to your business any more? What would it be like if you weren’t glued to your computer all the time? How would you show up to your family and friends if you weren’t constantly checking your phone?

If you eliminated your “busy” habits and freed yourself of the “busy” mindset, would you be happier? Would you be more creative? Would you feel more fulfilled? Would you feel like you’re being a better version of yourself?

Well … that is who you could be if you escaped the lie of busy. It’s who you would be if you redefined busy.

Isn’t the long-term pleasure of being that person desirable for you?

That’s the image you need to keep in mind when you catch yourself in a “busy” mindset. When you trigger a “busy” habit for the immediate pleasure, think about the longer-term, more fulfilling pleasure of being free of busy.

Practice the art of delayed gratification; forfeit the short-term dopamine rush and think about the long-term happiness you’ll have instead. Train your consciousness to interrupt your “busy” habits before you engage them.

In the next article, we’ll be getting into some of the tactics that you can deploy to be more effective with how you use your time

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