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The delayed gratification delusion

Burnout is what happens when one tries to mimic somebody else’s success.

I will never fulfill all of my desires, even if I manage to turn each year of my life into a sabbatical. I’m also not sure which of the things currently driving me will result in what outcome. Even though what used to consume me may be a thing of the past, it defined a lot where I am now.

All of that gives me the peace of mind of putting whatever I enjoy doing the most in front of anything else. The practical benefit is that I’m more productive, while the danger is that I may get carried away, being productive doing the wrong things. To mitigate the danger, I do rely on critical thinking for correcting the course, but the gut feeling always gets the last word.

Too often do I see the tyranny of rationality over desire, as well as discussions around that. Should one favor spontaneity over delayed gratification or do just the opposite? What does it actually mean, to live “in the moment”, and if I commit to that popular advice in all honesty, can I even plan anything? Popular books have been written that defend opposite points of views on that dilemma.

The answer may lay in that everybody is different to the extent that no basis for such a dilemma exists. It goes away once an individual decides to follow whatever resonates most with them in each given situation. Feeling the itch to implement some fresh idea and share it with friends? Go for it if you can, don’t put it away. Likewise, if you feel enthusiastic about improving your writing skills over the course of a year, build a sustainable, fun-to-follow system - and stick to it, pumped from getting better as time goes by.

Grudgingly pushing through only drains energy and is no predictor of success [1], while being spontaneous on a plan is simply an oxymoron.

The big question then is: is delayed gratification even a thing, given that you enjoy working on long-term goals at any given moment? Do the grit and willpower heralds give an impression of grinding through their days for the sole sake of future outcome..?

So, when something doesn’t feel right, I try to pause, step back, and reflect. Besides relying on my checklist for sustainable productivity, I’m building my life around a certain leeway of choice: from the list of my current goals, I have the freedom to select, daily, what I feel like working on most. It may go against the (reasonable) idea of pursuing a single goal for an extended period of time - and if it’s your peace of cake, that’s perfect - but I equally don’t see why pursuing a few projects in parallel would necessarily lead to inferior results in the long run.

And that’s the flexibility that gives me a certain freedom to be spontaneous, which, in turn, helps with my main currency for productivity - my energy.

[1] The famous Marshmallow Test has been debunked.