I’m on a road trip deciding between a motel room or the back seat. Maybe I should book myself a night at the casino resort? Motel is fine, car is cheap, casino is pleasurable and fancy.
Say I’m in the mood for a game of poker. I’ll lean towards the casino option, quickly convincing myself the free dinner and drinks make up for the cost. It’s the mental equivalent of a “why not” shrug. It’s impulsive.
What about the book sitting in my backpack that I wanted to read? Am I on the road trip to go indoors or to explore the outside world? Five years from now, will I remember the room or the time I made do brushing my teeth on the side of the road?
It’s obvious which is the easy choice. The one that allows me to hide behind the demonstrable. Look, I spent some money. Look, I played a game. Look, I ate all this fried food. I probably won’t remember much about either choice in five years anyway.
The un-obvious implications come later. On my deathbed when I long for one more walk outdoors. In midlife when I’m not sure my actions are playing out my values. Tomorrow when I’m hungover and cannot make up the miles. Little decisions and small behaviors compound.
If it’s worth pausing for a moment to consider the options, then it’s actually worth pausing and considering the options. What else am I missing?
There is no brain hack for discipline, only practice.