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Beating Instant Gratification: Do The Hard Things | Day 21

“Do what is hard now, and life will be easy. Do what is easy now, and life will be hard.”

I’ve been hitting the weights hard lately, and it feels great. There’s always something I’ve loved about lifting and working out. Objectively, it’s an odd thing to enjoy.

Loading up a couple hundred pounds, putting it on your back and squatting up and down doesn’t sound that appealing on paper. Chances are good that you’ll sweat, be sore, and that you could fail in pushing the weights back up.

So let’s recap:

  • It’s hard
  • It’s painful
  • There’s a chance for failure
  • You’ll sweat all over yourself

But when you finish the workout, you have endorphins flooding your brain, so your mood is elevated. Your body goes into repair-mode to rebuild itself and come back stronger. And you get to eat a burger and fries which will generate a huge insulin response, making it a utopia for muscle growth.

Yet in life, we resist these same elements. If it’s hard, painful, has a chance of failure, or god forbid makes us sweat we tell a story about what that means.

  • If we fight with our girlfriend, it must mean that we’re not right for one another.
  • If we have a rough week a work, it must mean we’re not following our passion
  • If there are elements we do like, it makes the situation “not feel right.”

Yesterday I talked about passion; the real way passion comes about, and how you can create it. Today I want to take the blog in the exact opposite direction: “anti-passion,” or doing the hard stuff.

It’s something that’s been on my mind for months lately. I think it’s important, especially for my fellow Millennials.

We’ve gotten a bad rap for being entitled, having huge expectations for advancement and accolades (I’ve been working here for two years, and he’s the new CEO? You gotta be kidding me with this shit), and we’re pansies when it comes to taking criticism.

This doesn’t mean we are all lazy and worthless, of course. I mean, we’re into saving the planet, and we’re the most open-minded generation, like, ever. So that’s a plus. But stereotypes rarely come from thin air. There is often truth in them.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. We were treated as if self-esteem was the most important thing growing up. We are the first generation that got to jump immediately to the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

We’re already on the search for self-actualization. We are fortunate enough to skip over the food, security, shelter, and love blocks, and jump right to esteem and actualization needs

MaslowsHierarchyOfNeeds.svg

Second, the poison of comparison is constantly at our finger tips. Facebook shows our friends making six figures at 23 years old. Snapchat shows the coolest parts of everyone’s day. And just in case you forget all the awesome things people are doing, not to worry, you can refresh your memory by simply reaching into your pocket.

I remember being a kid, and somebody I didn’t like from school would want to hang out, so they would call my house phone. My mom would answer, I’d give her the “eyeball” and she told them that I wasn’t home at the moment. Problem solved. Thanks, Mom.

Now, somebody texts me whenever they want and it says “Delivered” at the bottom of the text. Are you kidding me with this shit? I can’t relax for 5 seconds to watch Game of Thrones in my favorite pair of underwear with Kels without somebody being like, “I know you got that. It says ‘Delivered,’ bro.”

Third, our biology is programmed to want it, and want it now. Our brain doesn’t know the next time it’ll get food, “so eat it now” it tells us. It doesn’t know when the next time we’ll get to reproduce, or when we’ll get eaten or killed, so it tells us to do it now! Do it now!

Spend it. Eat it. Do it. YOLO.

All of these factors make it very hard to do the things that we need to do for a truly successful life. Like lifting weights, life requires doing difficult tasks to reap rewards. It requires that we push beyond our limits. It requires us to take risks, fight thru pain, and push down urges to watch Netflix in order to train our muscles.

It’s easier to spend it now, because saving is so far “out there.” It’s easy for us to eat the burger now because it tastes so good, and besides, one burger won’t make us fat. It’s easier to just let it go than to have the heavy, uncomfortable conversations to build trust and understanding in our relationships.

“Do now what others won’t, so tomorrow you can do what others cannot”

It can’t be all rainbows and butterflies all the time. And that’s not a bad thing. Although hard things are never fun in the moment, they are actually good. They make us stronger, better people. They help as grow as human beings. 

But of course that’s what’s so hard about it, it’s hard to do the hard things! Make sense? Good. 

Here is the best tool I have come across on how to fight instant gratification, and do what is important, not necessarily urgent.

Imagine Your Future Self

  1. Become Mindful: First become aware of the difference between what you truly want verses what is simply a craving or a desire for instant gratification. If you really want to save money, then dipping into your saving account is not what you want. If your greatest desire is to get in shape, then the late night pizza is not the way.
  2. Imagine Your Future Self: Once we know the difference between what we want and a craving, we can move into phase two. When you feel a craving come on, thy this:
    • Set a timer for three minutes. Next, visualize a conversation with your future self. Is she really going to be wearing those shoes 6 months from now or will she be glad her savings account is compounding? Will he really be okay with you breaking your promise.. again? Would she want you to get back with him,, again? Would he want you to eat that pizza, or does he like his newly found six pack?
  3. Once the three minutes is up, you’re free to give into the craving. Yep, go for it if you still want it. My guess is that if you waited the full three minutes, and spoke with your future self, he or she talked some sense into you, and the craving has disappeared. 

I’ve been using this tool for months, and it has really helped me. Sure, I still slip up, but I’m getting better. If we live by our emotions, our passions, and our desires, we’ll never do anything hard.

We’ll never grow stronger willpower muscles, and we’ll never get what we truly want out of our lives. Because if not now, when? I mean we can’t go on eating pizzas, dating horrible people, spending all of our money, and watching the same Netflix shows forever, can we?

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