My challenge in this piece is to get you to see what is valuable and will change the quality of your life dramatically versus the present mistakes we are making that cost us one helluva lot!


Surely, we cannot make a good decision between two things if we do not really know their value.  Wouldn't you agree?

One of the greatest factors for successful people is that they are able to estimate the consequences of their actions (as opposed to not-yet-wise children and never-became-wise adults).

We'll take an hour of avoidance or relief watching TV versus resting or directly handling anxiety and investing the rest of the time in becoming wiser.  (Or investing time in learning how not to have the anxiety and stress in the first place!)

We value the TV time because we think we clearly see its value.  The benefit of doing something now that affects the future is either not seen or is highly discounted.  Excessive discounting of future benefits is rampant.  Discounting, as in finance, is the process of reversing out of the total value to adjust for its lesser value in the future compared to now.  (See Discounting - A Key Concept In Life And Money.)

We seek to feel good and to avoid feeling bad.  However, we inflate the "pain" of "lack of pleasure" and we make huge decision errors.   Pleasure is part of the "feel good".  If we are always shortsighted, like a young child might be, we will take the quickest shortcut to feeling good:  pleasure or "avoiding displeasure" (escaping from a bad feeling).  


When we "grow up" (which many people never seem to complete), we have a bigger perspective that includes the total value over time.  And we (all of us) will tend to place a higher value for each unit received sooner, while an equal unit received alot later will be valued at less.  This is called "discounting".
The term productivity is highly misunderstood, as it is often equated with white knuckling it (feeling stress and tension) to produce a work product.  That view is totally erroneous, in that we are seeking to produce net value (see definition in box) for ourselves. 

For now, we might call those net units of feeling good.  So, if we are more  productive we are generating more net units of feeling good - that is that we end up with more units of feeling AFTER we subtract any negatives or costs.

Is a fleeting pleasure that disappears like cotton candy on the tongue worth much?  It sure seems like it at the time, doesn't it?   But if we multiply the small, small value of an hour of cotton candy type activities times the time experienced, the multiplication product is a very small number. 

Or, as a story I read, we could do something positive that will last.  The little boy was given a choice of watching a half hour of cartoons or  raking the next door older lady's leaves secretly.  He did the latter - and he remembered it still 40 years later! 

[As part of the process of gaining wisdom, I laid out what the proven studies indicate actually causes happiness and what doesn't.  The wise person studies this and knows the relative values, so he/she can make good decisions and get more value for his/her life.  See The Happiness Creators - Taking Care Of This Half Of The Equation.]


Well, evaluating it "at the time" is a terrible, terrible strategy - one that is fraught with error.  All evaluations (of what is important anyway) should be made with our higher brain and adequate facts.  Once an evaluation is made, then there needs to be a recalling of it so that it can be used for the proper decision making - and that, too, needs to be done by engaging the higher brain. 

Certain chemicals are known to stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain.[citation needed] It has been suggested that physical exertion can release endorphines in what is called the runner's high, and equally it has been found that chocolate and certain spices, such as from the family of the chilli, can release or cause to be released similar psychoactive chemicals to those released during sexual acts

Actually we don't realize that much of what we've put in the pleasure category is not really pleasure.  For instance, a person can get "relief" from anxiety by doing some brain-numbing activity, like TV beyond a short time.  And it will look like pleasure, but it is really only relief that is more pleasant than being anxious or stressed.      

more internally or self-produced the better, as you are in control of obtaining it, rather than engaging in activities that may cause anxiety as one is waiting for positive interaction (such as being admired, confirming one's worth or lovability, etc.)

If I'm empty or tired, I want gratification right now - and if there is no strong opposing force for something that produces a bigger benefit but one that cannot be fully seen...

This is something that will not truly benefit me or might even be harmful.  I choose not to do this.  I shall enjoy, instead,         or I shall do what is gratifying and good for me."

Pleasure can disappear like cotton candy on the tongue, whereas gratification is a "captured" memorized  feeling... feels good, warm, expansive, joyful, proud - more filling of the tank.  a good person, sharper and more capable, did what was right

Something after which we don't feel empty or dull or bad about afterward...

the actual activity might not be a pleasure to do, but we need not "resist" it or stress out about it, but appreciate that we are doing the right things and that we'll have a clean house or a finished paper. 

Seligman’s experience, gratification happens when a person exercises their strengths, virtues, and talents in an activity. He doesn’t mention passion or interest, but those qualities seem to fit as well. When our top strengths are used to serve something bigger than ourself, then we enter the realm of living a meaningful life. Research backs this up.
A life of gratification and meaning topped with sprinkles of pleasure (or gobs of whipped cream if you prefer) seems to invite happiness.
Even imagining, even creating a pleasant dream, but what is it we truly want, something lasting that we feel good about:  ourselves

what will I feel best about?"  "i'm just so tired and stressed out I just need to crash and watch tv and veg out.   the first part of the sentence was accurate, the last part might not be a true solution....

a good balance, diminishing marginal returns.

Of course, you would not always be choosing to delay and defer pleasure or you'd be missing the point of why you developed the wisdom to choose.  Sometimes the value of a pleasure is quite high and a reasonable choice to make.  It is a bit like the positive effects of Rejuvenation, where you are renewed and feeling better and more capable.  But it is in more in the realm of psychological renewal or filling up the tank. 

Why Bother With Willpower, Self-Control, And All That Stuff? - What will I get out of it?  And is it harder or easier?  (It's easier...)

Know:  Discomfort - How to look at it and deal with it and manage it "comfortably".


Productivity - Doing that which produces positive results, preferably with the least amount of effort per unit of benefit.  Not to be mistaken with productivity in work, let's say, while giving up more of one's life value!

Pleasure - A mental state experienced as positive, enjoyable, or worth seekingThe state or feeling of being pleased or gratified; a source of enjoyment ; amusement, diversion
joy gladness   (a net positive over the long term is a true pleasure, ie no big negative later.

The opposite of pleasure is turmoil in the mind, discomfort, displeasure.

Gratification:   A source of satisfaction or pleasure, ranging from enjoying exercising a skill, to appreciating the arts, sex, exercise, accomplishment, recognition, having served someone kindness to another, 

Net Value:  The value I derive from something minus the cost.  (Netting out something means subtracting the negative values from the positive values to come up with a total.)

Not all things are of the same value, so to compare things we must convert to that common measure.  For instance, you "cannot add apples and oranges" by just counting the number, but you can add them by nutritional value.

Costs:  Negative units and/or positive units given up in order to "purchase" something hopefully of greater value.

The classic study of four year olds given the either-or choice above showed that the ability to choose delayed gratification with adequate value would affect the rest of their lives, even making a 200 point different in their SAT scores!  (See Predictor Of A Child's Success In Life- Delaying gratification for a greater reward.)


How much of life can I spend now on pleasures and diversions without cutting into time I could invest to create greater total happiness in life? 

I surely don't want to have an austere, no-fun life or work so much for money that I sacrifice too much of my life. 

But our prejudices, fears, and lack of knowledge that will help us "weigh the trade-offs" will do us much, much damage - much more than we realize! 

That needs to be changed!