Are marshmallows ruining your life?
Give your future self some God damn marshmallows. Let me explain.
The age-old battle of self improvement is that of immediate pleasure vs. delayed gratification.
Many have heard of the marshmallow experiment given to children. A kid is given one marshmallow and are told that if they just wait 10 minutes, they will receive another. When the experimenter leaves the room, they observe the kids as they almost always squirm in their chairs and naturally devour their tasty treat.
We run experiments like this on ourselves every single day. Usually they are more significant than getting an extra marshmallow, but each “experiment” begs the same question:
Will doing this thing I want to do right now be a favor to my future self, or am I fucking that person over?
Answering this question in hindsight is easy. Answering it in the moment almost always feels impossible.
Should I have another drink before driving home?
Should I order fast food?
Should I go exercise?
In these immediate moments, the answers seem clear:
It’s just one more beer. I’ll be fine.
I’m starving and a Crunchwrap Supreme sounds divine.
I’m exhausted and the gym can fuck off.
Having to disregard your emotions and desires right now is incredibly difficult. That’s why so many of us don’t do it. It requires thinking about something as if from another person’s point of view. You have to play the part of a responsible third party.
You’ll regret getting pulled over way more than not having another beer.
You always feel like shit when you eat fast food.
You have never regretted getting a workout in.
When you do this, it can feel boring, lame, unadventurous…And hey, live your life. Say fuck it on occasion. But it’s incredibly useful to get in the habit of asking this question.
Will doing this thing I want to do right now help my future self or hurt them?