Strategy 3: Will it matter?

Suppose that I have the useless habit of mindlessly surfing the internet, say, checking out showbiz gossip. Besides, I don’t really care who is dating whom. I’m just doing this out of boredom or procrastination.

A question would be: if I were to read that juicy stuff today, will it matter tomorrow? Next week? Next month? Next year? Five years from now?

Of course not. I may not even remember what I’ve read yesterday, let alone five years ago. And who is dating whom will change over the next five years.

So why bother? It’s a bad habit I will gladly discard. The next time I’m bored, I’ll just switch to something interesting rather than something useless. Rather than scrolling down my Facebook feed and forgetting what I had liked or ha-ha’d, I am writing this Linkedin post right now. Plus, I am creating valuable content.

But there is a reverse scenario. Suppose this time I have the bad habit of nervous snacking. I am now drooling over a luscious piece of doughnut. If I were to devour it,  will it matter tomorrow?

Actually, this time the answer is yes. I may be smacking my lips today, but I will pay for it tomorrow by way of higher cholesterol and blood sugar. If I keep indulging in those sugar-and-starch bombs, a year from now I will be overweight and diabetic. And I won’t have to wonder why.

So it depends on the habit. It may not matter years from now. On the other hand, it may. But this mental time travel can stop us on our tracks before indulging in that undesirable behavior.

This is related to the concept of temporal discounting. It is a person’s tendency to regard a desired result in the future as less valuable than one in the present. Thus, looking back at a life well lived takes a backseat to pouring through showbiz brouhaha. Or being healthy five years from now doesn’t feel as important as chomping on that doughnut today.

So the next time you want to do something you know is useless or undesirable, ask yourself: will it matter five years from now?

Because it does matter.

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