Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Immediate Gratification

I believe that one of the few things that separates humanity from so-called lesser species such as dogs and chickens is our ability to connect the immediate surroundings into a much bigger picture. We understand that our actions in this moment have both rewards and consequences, and the outcome is dependent on us. We see how the past, present, and future come together to represent the world. We understand how seemingly small actions of an individual can impact the entire species and planet as a whole.

We can see the forest for the trees, as it were.

When you think about this gift, it's truly amazing. We have the ability to connect every single action of our lives into a map, cataloging what makes us do the things we do. We can catalog our DNA and show why our genetics make us do what we do. We can study history and see how that has lead to the incredible advancements we have today.

And we have incredible resources to expand this ability with! Go to the library, use a search engine, or surf the internet on sites like tumblr, and you can learn virtually anything you've ever wanted to know.

This ability we have is truly amazing. WE'RE amazing.

Except we never use it when it matters most.

Think about it. When you go to the store and see that chocolate cake you love so much. Do you stop and think about the potential health problems eating that cake could cause? Do you stop and question the cost of that cake and how it will impact your budget? Or do you think about how good it will taste and reach for the cake?

And what about that room you know you should get up and organize? Or that exercise you promised yourself you were going to do to improve your chances of survival? What about the meditation, the yoga, or the millions of hobbies you promised this time you were going to make stick?

I'm not saying this to make you feel guilty. I'm saying this to get you thinking. Humanity is an amazing species. We have abilities that haven't been recorded in any other species that has been observed. And yet, when it comes to so many of our life choices, we are just like animals, reacting on instinct and what feels good right now, regardless of the possible negative impacts it could have on our lives later.

What's worse, unlike the animals, we actually know better. We can see the big picture. We can understand how eating that cake, not exercising, or doing one of a billion of other illogical choices we make each day impact our future and the possible future of our species and planet. And we do it anyway.

Why? Because it feels good. Smoking, rain forest degradation, the damage to the ozone, political problems, and every other sin you could possibly name throughout human history can all be sourced back to the same problem:

Humanities inability to deny themselves immediate gratification (what feels good right now) in order to reap the rewards of the overall good.

When I use the word good in this case, I mean what connects to the world, the human species, and to your own life in the least negative and most positive way possible. Does it have more benefits than consequences? Will it be worth the cost?

So, next time you're making a decision about something, even something relatively small in your life, I encourage you to stop a second and ask yourself two questions first. Am I wanting to do this because it will make me feel good for a short period of time or because it will benefit my life long-term? Does this have any possible consequences that could hurt myself or the human species as a whole in some way?

Those questions push you to look at the big picture, access that amazing human ability to see how it all connects, and make a conscious decision of what is REALLY best for you. You might be a little amazed in how much it changes your thinking.

It's the only thing I think is keeping me going in this lifestyle change.

Daily Stats:

  1. Exercise, stretched, meditated, and worked on my writing twice today.
  2. Wrote in my journal, stayed on budget, and wrote a poem today.
  3. Posted on my blog.
  4. Made my bed.
  5. Tested some of the dietary changes I'm planning to make.

1 comment:

  1. Well you're right that a lot of people do just seek instant gratification but I think some of it is a lot worse than others. If you buy a cake then you can then work it off later down the line, or there's a good chance it's not going to really impact you much at all. You can fit a nice cake in to your daily nutrient requirements. It's true enough when you look at bigger things though, especially things motivated by money such as the destruction of land and political corruption. I think in those cases though those people really don't know right from wrong. They can't do to do the things they do.