This was a discussion in my head at lunch yesterday.
Now brain: Look! Chocolate pudding!
Later Brain: Wait. You’ve been working so hard to lose weight and be healthy. You know that this won’t help. You have some pretty big goals.
Now Brain. You don’t understand. Chocolate Pudding!
Later Brain: You’re eating salad. Don’t ruin all the work you’ve done. No.
Now Brain: CHOCOLATE PUDDING!
Later Brain: This isn’t what you want. This isn’t what you want. This isn’t what you want.
Now Brain: CHOCOLATE PUDDING! Oh, and with Strawberries.
Take a wild guess which brain won?
The now brain and the later brain don’t always want the same things. The later brain often is focused on long term-goals; health, relationships, retirement, buying a house. The short term brain is often more focused on pleasure, or lack of pain. It is often focused on feeling good, or feeling better. These now goals won’t always work in favor of our later goals. The chocolate pudding didn’t work toward my later goals. Was it delicious? Absolutely. Was there guilt later? Yep!
More often than not my Later brain wins. I save the money, I eat the right foods, I don’t comment on Facebook posts and I do the workout. I don’t adopt all of the cats and dogs I see on the web begging for a home. If my Now brain won, I would need a couple of houses and acres of land just for the cats and the dogs that I want to love and save. This is because I have learned the lesson that my Now brain wants to be rewarded. So I have to find ways to reward myself when I do what my later brain wants.
Now brain and Later brain are all about rewards. The Now brain wants the reward now, and the Later brain is willing to delay the gratification until a later time, knowing that the reward will be worth it. In an effort to get my Now brain willing to participate in working toward the goals the Later brain wants, it needs rewards in the short term. It wants some kind of recognition that it did something worthy when it gave up what it wanted. There is often a level of distress when the now brain doesn’t get what it wants. Not getting the desires met can lead to minor frustration, or considerable pain. If you make the effort to deny Now brain for a long term goal, make sure to give it something, even if it is only a congrads for a job well done.
We sometimes wonder why we aren’t able to achieve the goals we want. We often have very specific goals such losing weight, not calling the ex, saving money, and then we act in opposition to those goals. The Now brain is not interested in tolerating the distress that is caused by ignoring the wants. We have to learn to deal with the distress, and to give ourselves rewards when we do. Often when we give our Later brain what it wants, we are more fulfilled in the long run. We just have to make the Now brain know it is worth it.