Short Term Indulgences
Face it. At this very moment, if you're honest with yourself, you'd love to shove a piece of cake into your mouth, stop working those extra hours, and say fuck it, you deserve a break. Cozy up in front of your TV, grab a six pack of that IPA you've had your eye on for a while, and put your favorite sitcom on.
And yet one of several things may happen:
- You indulge, you feel relaxed, go to sleep, and wake up the next morning feeling reasonably comfortable, albeit a bit groggy. You're not exactly skinny, but not exactly fat, and have some muscle. Your career is going pretty well, and are considering asking your boss for a 2% raise in a few months. We'll call this situation #1.
- You indulge, you feel relaxed, go to sleep, and then next morning you have a little twinge of regret. It's so subtle that it's nearly imperceptible. But somewhere deep down, if you're honest with yourself, you're wondering if it was worth it. You look down and aren't 100% pleased with your body or financial situation. You sort of wish you didn't indulge quite so much last night. But your subconscious is excellent at what it does, protecting you from self-loathing, and you rationalize it. You're pretty sure you're on track to hit your goals, and you can learn to be happy with what the universe gives you in terms of relationships. We'll call this situation #2.
- You choose to not indulge, and either do some work or chores you've been putting off, or relax without the beer and cake, perhaps reading a book you are interested in. We'll call this situation #3.
- Your indulgences are now no longer the beer and cake. Your indulgences are: A nice Chianti from your cellar. The latest Star Wars movie in your movie theatre room. Perhaps you just fucked a great looking girl who is finishing up her last semester of school. Maybe you order some expensive heavy Mediterranean takeout. You look down, and are extremely pleased with your body. You feel relaxed. When you wake up the next morning, you have zero regrets because you realize that your "indulgences" (if you can even call them that) are not going to hurt your goals. Your body is already at top shape, and you'll simply work a little harder at the gym and eat a lighter lunch today to compensate, bringing yourself back to before your indulgence meal. Your career is on track, so you know that spending time with Jennifer last night is not going to change whether or not your company succeeds. You have the financial freedom to be able to walk away and maintain your lifestyle, so buying that home theatre room doesn't take away from your finances. We'll call this situation #4.
Now before you act like a pain in the ass, and come telling me that there are a million different scenarios, and these 4 barely scratch the surface of all the possible types of nights, this is obviously meant to illustrate a point.
But what is that point?
The point is that these situations are sequential. The point is the twinge of regret. That little voice in the back of your head, knowing you could have better success if you really tried. And that one of the reasons you have not achieved those goals are that you have been indulging too much. The point lies in the links between the situations; the acts of will, the invocation of your choice, in which you move from situation #1 to #2 to #3 and finally to #4.
The point is that the only way to get from situation #1 to situation #2, is to realize you're being complacent in situation #1, and that you deserve better. The point is that the only way to get from situation #2 to situation #3 is to choose to act on that inner-frustration, and turn the dial up on your productivity. The point is that the only way for the majority of us to get to situation #4, is to revel in the discomfort of discipline, and stay in situation #3 until time works its magic, and the discipline compounds.
The point is that discipline plus time is what is necessary to achieve your peak potential. That giving up of your short-term indulgences is one of the best ways to achieve your long-term indulgences.
But let us be honest. Time is a limited resource. And as such, (as described in the excellent book Good Strategy Bad Strategy by Deckle Edge), any logical thinker will realize that implies you must budget your time. You must give up working towards one goal to further another. That for a given hour, you can't be working on your career while you're at the gym. (Do not insult my intelligence by claiming that fitness will help your mental clarity long term, ad nauseum. In the concrete moment, it's simply a fact that you must focus a majority of your energy on one goal.)
So how to you decide how to spend that limited resource?
First, you always start with a long-term vision of success approximately 10 years out. What would my life look like then? What goals would I have ideally achieved? What does my house look like, my body, my bank account, my maid, my car? Great. Now you're just depressed, because it's far off. But there are also a plethora of paths which will lead you to that goal.
So you look back from 10 years, and focus on one year out. What's the next step towards your goal? That's much easier to visualize. There are fewer paths leading there. The actions necessary to achieve that are clear. Perhaps difficult, but clear nonetheless if you think hard enough.
In the moment, you have a few choices of what to do for the next hour. You must simply imagine which of your one-year-out goals are being furthered in the next hour. Your amygdala may want you to indulge in some cake, but your forebrain (which has visualized the path to your one-year-out vision) will choose to either do some extra brushing up on a skill for your career, or perhaps hit the gym.
Since time is a limited resource, you must not regret choosing one action over the other, as any action necessarily is not pursuing another action. Goals must typically take turns. That doesn't mean you are giving up one goal for another, but rather that you are simply accelerating towards them at different paces.
Long Term Indulgences
There's one additional point about indulgences. If you've ever been in the real world and not in some self-help guru's imagination, you realize that burnout is a risk. If you give up all your indulgences now for future power and success, you'll be so exhausted by the time you receive it, you will not enjoy it. Or it will take you so long to enjoy it, because your productive output during your waking hours has slowly creeped from 100% to 65%.
That's why, on your journey to your Lamborghini and fancy whisky, or your two-month-long vacation in the French Riviera with a stellar body, you must indulge on occasion in short-term pleasure.
That's simply the truth of the matter.
The point of these small short-term indulgences are to remind you what you're working for, while cumulatively increasing the odds of getting there. They are meant to boost your productivity at other times.
But they must be infrequent. Because it's extremely easy to slip back into situation #2 if you give in to short-term indulges too often.
You must always bear in mind that their only purpose is a temporary recharge to (1) avoid burnout and therefore (2) to increase the odds of achieving your long-term indulgences.
A majority if your time (maybe 80% of each day, or perhaps 6 out of 7 days) is spent furthering your long-term goals. A very small amount of time is to recharge to keep you sane, and to keep reminding yourself of the excitement of the long-term indulgences that you are looking forward to.
My inner dialog has been conditioned and trained to think about the following questions several times throughout the day:
- What am I doing this current hour?
- What does my life ideally look like 10 years from now?
- What's next, in a year from today, to have that life?
- How does my activity for the next hour get closer to one piece of that one-year-out life?
On occasion, the answer to #4 is to relax or indulge with a crazy night out. But a majority of the time, the answer to #4 is either working, reading, lifting, cooking something healthy, or some other disciplined action.
You constantly must make choices for how you're going to spend your time in the next hour. Reveling in the discomfort of discipline. Realize that by being productive, given enough time, is necessary to achieve your long-term indulgences. But you must have a clear vision of that long-term lifestyle. And you must link it to a more immediate one-year-out lifestyle. Because that vision is the only way for you to even know if you're furthering your goals, and to know which goal you're furthering in a given hour.
Read this post on reddit or trp.red.
Read this post on reddit or trp.red.