Impulse control and instant gratification: the hyperbolic tee

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Everyone knows the problem: in January we register enthusiastically and with good intentions in the fitness studio, in the middle of the year it looks different again. Why don't we achieve our goals?

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Here writes for you:


Barbara Haag Fixed aspect ratio Barbara Haag is a management consultant and businesscoach.


From the author:


Laziness or hyperbolic tee?

The online edition of the American magazine The Atlantic reported earlier this year on the phenomenon of the seasonally increasing and decreasing flow of visitors in fitness studios - and the lessening of enthusiasm in the summer.

“You might call this behavior 'laziness'. Economists prefer the term hyperbolic discount, ”said Derek Thompson in The Atlantic.

Why addicts can remain addicted and governments can not save

At the latest when the weather improves and our stomach does not get smaller to the extent that we had imagined our new dream figure, the reward for all our efforts on treadmills and steppers, the enthusiasm wears off noticeably. Idleness? Rather not!

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The theory behind this is that it is relatively easy for people to motivate themselves if an immediate gratification beckons, but consider rewards to be less appealing in the distant future. And further Thompson:

“The hyperbolic markdown helps explain why Parliament doesn't make savings decisions, why drug addicts stay addicted, why debtors don't pay their bills, and why we always tell ourselves that the best day for our sports program is 'tomorrow'. ”

Tee instead of instant gratification

So if we can't have something right away, we feel like we have to accept a “discount”. Unfortunately, this also applies when it comes to our well-being and health, as in the case of a visit to the gym.

But is it so bad if we do not want to wait? After all, we have outgrown the childhood and seem to know what is good for us. Our living conditions also help us to satisfy our needs.

Satisfaction with addictive potential

And when we have “got our immediate gratification behind us”, we ultimately saved time and can thus turn to other things productively. Or?

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The stupid part of the fast gratification is, among other things, that we get used very quickly to the feeling of reward. As with drug use, we have to take the next dose even earlier, and it is best to take it even higher to achieve an effect.

Anticipation is important for personality development

And actually, we also know that the moment of fulfilling a wish is usually less spectacular than waiting for it. In the search for immediate gratification, there is also the danger that a stale feeling will remain when we deprive ourselves of the time of joyful expectation.

Science assumes that anticipation is important for our well-being and even for personality formation. It is clear that anyone who is allowed to experience anticipation is more satisfied and more positive.

First the work, then the reward

Those who find it easier to get up because they have something to look forward to prefer to go to work and do unpleasant tasks with more enthusiasm. Till Raether, editor at Zeit-Magazin, describes the function of anticipation as follows:

“Our brain feeds on anticipation. It serves him to develop all kinds of positive skills. (...) We may be training the reward areas in the brain through our ability to experience anticipation: Those who look forward to it learn to experience joy more intensively overall. There are brain researchers who suspect that there is a connection between the ability to feel anticipation and general confidence in life. ”

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Greed prevents wise decisions

Last but not least, we all know that “now right now” greed limits our ability to make rational and wise decisions. In the heat of the moment, we don't plan for the future, we don't actually plan at all.

In this way mistakes are made, which sometimes cost us a lot.

Our business system is based on instant gratification

Sure, a considerable part of our economic system is based on immediate gratification. If it were not, credit cards and financing would not make much money.

Maybe we would do well to let the child wait a bit and give the anticipation a chance. It can teach us to become wiser and motivate ourselves again and again. And last but not least, it can bring us a whole lot of fun.

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