Why short-term satisfaction will always be in the way of your success, discipline and reaching the things that are valuable in life
An entire generation grew up with the world at their fingertips.
Just 30 years ago life was a lot different. The people didn’t have over 100 tv channels on their TV, allowing you to always find something entertaining.
When they’d trip as a kid, they wouldn’t be rewarded with some candy because their parents felt bad.
When they were working their ass off all day they weren’t rewarded with random notifications of friends texting, sending messages on Facebook, the newest gift you get from the game you’re playing or an instant answer to their problems.
Let’s face it: the generation of 18 to 30-year-olds of today is one of the most spoiled generations to ever grow up (and the generation after it will be even more spoiled). Which is fine (also I’m part of this generation so I’ve also experienced it).
A huge part of being motivated is knowing that short-term dopamine is a terrible way to reach your goals. You only get disciplined to do something when you know it will take hard work, tears, sweat and a bloody face before you reach the goal.
Now, when I say short-term satisfaction I talk about the useless satisfaction such as social media likes, eating terrible food, watching tv all day or using substances in order to feel good. I’m not talking about activities such as hitting the gym, meditating, reading a good book that teaches you new things or any other activity which truly allows you to invest in yourself.
See, while growing up, with most things that I did there would always be short-term satisfaction. People aren’t used to working long and hard to reach their goals: if you want something you need to get it now.
If you want to feel happy, you post a picture on Instagram and get 100 likes. If you want to feel entertained, you open up any app and just look at pictures.
The brain is used to short-term satisfaction. Research has shown that the rush of dopamine that you get from your smartphone is already bigger than the rush you get from using cocaine, sugar or any other food.
And it’s messing you up. It’s setting you up for disaster as it is a terrible way of living your life. Let’s say you want to find a new job. You apply for one and immediately believe this will be the best job in the world. You’re already thinking about all the things you can do with the money.
Even before you go for the initial intake you already feel like you’re going to get it.
But then… you don’t. They reject you. And you feel horrible. All the outcome that you thought of before, all the dreams in your head on how life was going to be so much different if you just got the job, they’re all gone now. They seem out of reach.
The generation of 18 to 30 year olds, also now known as the ‘millennials’, is a great generation. A generation that will, just like the generations before it, change the world. They’re the ones that will be in charge soon, running the big companies, running governments, running whatever is needed to build a better world.
Yet, the short-term satisfaction of people will also be a horrifying part of the generation. Sure, we’re not the first generation to do so. Look at the generation before it.
A great example is the housing crisis of 2008. Millions of people got greedy. They started selling and buying terrible houses. Mortgage after mortgage was signed. People got rich from it and the amount of short-term dopamine they received from it was incredible. They were on cloud nine during this entire period.
Or look at cars, another short-term dopamine rush for the entire world. We never realized how much damage they were doing to nature. Or forests, which we’re cutting down killing all the animals and original inhabitants just to make some quick cash.
Now, I’m not here to tell you I’m a left-wing environmental enthusiast that believes we should all be nice, holding hands while wearing flowers in our hair singing songs to Jesus while dancing around a campfire.
But I do want to explain how all this short-term satisfaction is eventually a great way to beat yourself up. To go after something that doesn’t even matter as much as something that you need to work hard for.
I’m part of this generation and I grew up with the same feeling: when X happens I get Y. That means that when I was crying, I would get some candy. If I made a mistake, it wasn’t bad. If I was last in the annual pie eating contest I would still get a medal.
A lot of things within this generation was set up in order to avoid negativity. Which is a direct result from the fact that crying kids are pretty terrible. It’s awful to see a kid cry so you might as well make it better. But it’s a terrible way to raise an entire generation, a generation that soon needs to run the world.
Because all this short-term satisfaction and these short-term dopamine rushes stand in the way of actually accomplishing something in life.
It’s why when we have a terrible day we just watch that favorite TV show on Netflix for hours straight. Short term dopamine rushes are at the core of people’s personalities.
If you look around while walking in any city, you will see almost 80% of the people staring at their phones. In the subway it’s even more. We need a constant stream of entertainment because imagine if you’re just not doing something for a second. How terrible would it be if you totally didn’t check out that cool picture of that friend of yours that is on a holiday rather than just wait 2 weeks for him to get back and listen to his stories about the trip.
Smartphone addiction is becoming a huge problem. Technology has perfectly played into our internal hormones and releases so much dopamine that it’s hard to stop. And all that dopamine, combined with the fact that you are looking at people that seem to have a happy life (wake up call: research shows people that are acting like they’re happy on social media are usually a lot more unhappy than their peers who don’t do that) is again setting us up for a lot of short-term expectations that will almost never be met.
Which is why it is so important to learn how to get disciplined in life in the long term. A lot of things that stand in the way of becoming disciplined to reach your goals are related to these activities that give you short-term satisfaction.
We expect more from the work we do and we want to see it instantly. And that’s fine, that’s the way we were raised. But it’s better to just let that go if you truly want to be satisfied in life and have the ambition to work on things that will give you that satisfaction later.
Why going to the gym is a great example of this
The first time you enter the gym, whether you’ve never been or you’re just starting out again, you will lift weights, run or do any other activity.
And then you leave the gym.
What’s your expectation before you go? Do you believe you will instantly be fit just because you go once or do you know that it takes weeks, months or even years to reach the goal you have set for yourself?
Do you realize that when you start doing the bench press at 80lbs that you won’t have that bulk body that you have set as a goal or do you believe it will take you months before you reach 200lbs and then might have the chest you are working for right now?
Do you leave the gym unsatisfied because you haven’t gotten the body immediately or do you walk away knowing you did everything you could today and in a few months you will be able to reach your goal?
The problem for most people that have a hard time being disciplined is that they expect that these results are instant. Maybe not in the gym as that is something most people know takes a lot of time but with other goals in life it is a huge factor in holding you back in life.
You want to start that business and you talk to your friends about it. Everybody thinks it’s a great idea that you finally start doing it (which, by the way, is most likely because they like you and not because they are actually going to buy your product – been there, done that, learned a lot from it).
But then you go to the outside world. You’ve prepared as much as you could’ve prepared for it. You believe you did everything you could’ve done in order to get the things in the right order to talk to that first client that is a total stranger.
And they reject you. They say no. Every second you’ve spent on thinking they will buy the product is wasted. All the time you spent thinking how amazing this idea was is being shattered.
And you get disappointed and maybe even angry at yourself. “O my god, this was a terrible idea, how could I even think somebody would buy it?”
Well, that’s not really much of your fault at that point. You just didn’t know any better. But you still give up, the disappointment of one rejection was enough to believe your product is shit and you don’t want to do anything else with it.
You didn’t get the short-term dopamine that you wanted. Rather, you got the exact opposite of dopamine. The lack of dopamine is killing you so much that you look for other ways to get that happiness. Whether it’s spending hours watching Netflix, going out drinking, spend hours on social media or whatever it is, you need to fill that void of dopamine that you are now lacking.
But let’s look at it in another way: maybe it wasn’t you. Maybe it wasn’t your product. Maybe this was just not the right person to sell it to. Maybe they can’t afford it. Maybe they’re just not in the mood today.
No matter what it is, it can be 99 different options aside from the fact that you are shit or your product is terrible.
Instead, you need to push forward. One rejection is nothing. Do you stop talking to women/men entirely because one of them rejects you? Are you going through life without a job just because one company rejects you?
Or do you get up, again and again, after that rejection and keep pushing forward in order to get there?
Maybe the product wasn’t the best fit. Then try someone else to sell it to, try 50 other people. And if still nobody buys, maybe the product is bad. So fix it, adjust it in order to make it better for those people.
Maybe the sales pitch was terrible; people didn’t understand what they could do with the product.
Maybe the way you dressed was terrible and people didn’t have any faith in the product because of it.
Then go out, push yourself to fix these things and keep going. But never do that after just one person tells you that it’s not something they’d buy.
Never stop doing whatever you are doing just because you didn’t get that instant satisfaction. Never give up just because your first interaction was terrible. Keep going, keep pushing, whenever you hit the ground, get up and keep going.
Because you’re not going to sell your product to the first person. You’re not going to be extremely fit by going to the gym once. You’re not going to marry the first girl/guy you ever talk to. You’re not getting the first job you apply to.
And that’s why it’s so important to be disciplined on the long-term rather than the short term. We can all work for a day to do something. We can all work for a week. But the people that get furthest in life are the ones that work day in day out to work towards their goals.
People don’t go to the Olympics because they just randomly went to the gym every month to run a bit. They have set up everything in their lives in order to compete in the Olympics in 3, 4 maybe even 10 years from now. They’re doing everything they can, every single day, in order to be able to compete at such a level.
If you truly want to reach things in life that you believe is out of your reach – or are on the edge of what you believe you can reach – you need to put in the work that is necessary to get there. You need to push yourself.
You need to get up every morning being grateful that you get another day to work on whatever goal you have set for yourself. Every single night, you go to bed knowing that tomorrow is going to be another day for you.
That’s why you don’t lay on your bed till 3 AM watching some random Netflix show that is giving you short-term dopamine – because you know that when you get up at 7 or 8 AM tomorrow, you have a headstart in order to push yourself further in life.
That’s why you don’t go drinking until 5 AM on a Friday night because you know you need to be at the gym at 9 AM being as fit as you can in order to push yourself to lift that weight you’ve never lifted.
Life isn’t easy if you believe it’s going to be easy. Life is only easy if you work hard. If you work hard to reach your goals, if you go out every single day believing that today is going to be a great day, if you just tell yourself every single day that you are going to make it, that nothing is going to stop you, then that is exactly what is going to happen.
Stop going after that short-term dopamine. It’s standing in the way of your own success. It’s one of the biggest reasons why you are having trouble being disciplined. You want it NOW. You want satisfaction NOW. You don’t want to work for it, you don’t feel like it’s worth doing, you’re afraid of failure, you’re afraid people might make fun of you because of it.
Maybe that’s how you were raised, where every failure was met with a reward. That means your reward system is totally damaged. Every time you do something NOW, you want the reward NOW.
We all know the stories of overnight success from companies like Facebook, Airbnb, Uber. It seemed like they just appeared out of nowhere and were an instant hit.
But what they don’t tell you with those stories is that those guys worked their asses off, time after time, creating opportunity after opportunity in order to move forward. They didn’t just sit in their basement and randomly were successful.
The products they sell/offer today aren’t even the exact products they originally were planning to make. They spent years and years readjusting their strategies, talking to other people, talking to their customers, aligning their companies towards a new path.
It took sweat, blood and tears, time after time. Overnight success? The guys from Airbnb were dealing with a $40K debt after their company didn’t become successful for years. The original idea of Airbnb wasn’t even to rent out a room, it was to offer people an airbed in your living room (hence air bed & breakfast)
The original plan for Facebook wasn’t even to build the biggest social network in the world. It was just going to be a platform for students at Harvard to use.
Uber wasn’t originally going to be the biggest riding company in the world. It was just a project for Travis that would allow him and his friends to get a limousine whenever they wanted in the city they lived in back then.
But they found something in their product that spoke to others. And so they readjusted it to reach more people. Then bumped into another obstacle and broke that down. And another, they just didn’t quit.
They knew what they were doing. They weren’t looking for some short-term satisfaction. They grinded their teeth on the pavement, for years and years on end. Getting rejected by investors, getting spat on by their customers, making mistake after mistake. But it didn’t matter to them. They had something they felt they needed to do, no matter how big the goal was at that time.
Imagine if Mark Zuckerberg quit building Facebook because the Winklevoss brothers told him to stop. Then Facebook wouldn’t be the biggest social network in the world today (and we wouldn’t all be scared as hell because our data was used in insane ways).
Imagine the guys from Airbnb quit building their platform because nobody wanted to rent after they had their first three customers (it took them almost a year before they truly started getting more bookings and had a constant growth rate).
Imagine if Uber just quit after the first investor told them no.
Imagine if an Olympic athlete just quits because they didn’t win their local tournament.
Imagine if Steve Jobs just gave up after he was fired from Apple. He would’ve never been able to launch NeXT, which ultimately led him to become the CEO of Apple again and launch the iPhone.
And that brings us full circle to the whole story, as the iPhone and all the other smartphones are the reason we are craving for that short-term dopamine so much.
Realize that all this short-term dopamine is a huge obstacle in your journey towards whatever you want in life. It’s holding you back, it’s constantly telling you that you can do X now because it is more satisfying than just taking some time to invest in yourself to be better in 100 days from now rather than now.
Investing in yourself and becoming disciplined and motivated in life comes from the fact that you are willing to sacrifice your time and energy now to reach greater things that you are able to reach right now.
If your goal in life is to just look at pictures of Instagram all day, that’s fine, don’t take the message. But if you believe there is more in life for you, if there’s more than the position that you are currently in. If you believe you can do fantastic things in life, if you want to push yourself to those goals, to stand on the top of the mountain that you believe is set out there for you, then get the short-term dopamine rush out of your system.
So, how do you fix this whole issue and actually get somewhere?
I’m not going to make you read 3000 words and then not come with a great twist on how to actually fix it.
Because let’s face it: you’re looking for a solution.
You’d rather work on moving forward in life than spend the most productive hours of your day doing something like looking at cat pictures, browsing any website that doesn’t make you smarter or anything related.
If you do, that’s totally fine. You don’t have to fix it. If you’re happy with what you’re doing, keep doing it. But if you truly feel like there’s more out there for your life and your destination then it’s time to put some work in.
Now, I know you’re probably hoping for a quick fix; that’s the short-term dopamine talking. But let’s face it: it’s going to take sweat, tears and blood to reach the big goals you want to reach in life.
It’s not something that gives you instant satisfaction, it’s something with which you know that every single step you take is leading you closer towards the goal. And whether it takes a month, a year or even ten years doesn’t matter, all that matters is that you do all these things in order to get yourself to that point in life that you truly want to be at.
The first thing you need to figure out is what truly makes you happy in life. I know, it sounds cheesy as hell but that’s really the number one thing you need to figure out in life.
Because that’s the one thing that your goals will match. You’re not going to give up all these short-term dopamine rushes if you’re not working on something that is going to be better than that, that will make you give up those rushes just because you don’t have time to give into it.
And whatever makes you happy doesn’t matter. Some people enjoy cooking, some people enjoy making statues, some enjoy making movies, taking pictures, building furniture. It doesn’t matter what it is, find something that is truly worth it to you.
Don’t listen to what others say on what is supposed to make you happy. You’re you, you’re the one that knows best what makes you happy. Your parents don’t know you better than you, your brothers or sisters don’t know you better than you, neither do your friends.
Listen to yourself, listen to what your own voice is saying. What is the one thing that truly makes you happy?
Figuring this out isn’t something that takes a few seconds or minutes. It sometimes takes people their whole life before they realize what is truly the one thing that makes them happy.
Odds are you will tell yourself: being rich will make me happy. That’s not a good motivation. See, getting rich is just something that comes along with doing whatever you feel is necessary for you to do in this world. Wealth is an outcome of doing that, not the cause.
Doing something you enjoy so much and knowing it is going to take you where you believe it should take you is the best way to boost your self-esteem. Self-esteem comes from knowing that the things you are doing now will lead to the point where you want to be.
And that will flow through in everything. You’re reading a specific book because you believe it will bring you one step closer to your goal. You’re going to the gym 3 times a week because you believe it will bring you three steps closer to your goal. You’re attending a specific class in college because you believe it will bring you one step closer to your goal.
Going after what makes you happy is the most satisfying thing in life. And it’s also the thing that will take a lot of effort, it will never give you short-term satisfaction, it will always take sacrifices, it will require you to fail, to get out of your comfort zone, to do the things you never did before. But you need to do all these things in order to get to where you truly want to be.
And that’s exactly where discipline will come from as well. If you don’t feel disciplined right now, it’s most likely because you are doing other things than the things you believe you should be doing. But if you’re so obsessed with the things you truly believe you should do, discipline is one of the things that you will get from it.
Again, you won’t go out on Friday night because you know you need to get up at 8 AM because you are working on that goal. You don’t sleep two more hours because you know you need those two extra hours to work on that goal.
The whole short-term dopamine rush issue will fix itself when you believe it is not necessary anymore to look at your smartphone, eat that candy bar or anything else because you believe it’s better to spend your time on something else.
One of the things that truly makes me happy in life is helping others. That’s the main goal. And the things I do are in line with that goal. That’s why I am currently spending my time writing this article, sitting in a little bit too hot room with a cup of coffee next to me, about to piss my pants because I have been holding it up for way too long so I can finish this article.
That’s the goal that keeps me going in life. That’s why I wake up early in the morning and go to bed in time at night. That’s why I meditate, so I won’t have those 1000 voices in my head telling me to do other things. That’s why I eat the right food because I know my brain works better that way and I’m a better writer.
And as long as I have just helped one single person with what I wrote down, that makes me happy. That person can be you, that person can be the friend you’re sending this to or it can be me in case I ever need to hear this advice.
That’s why I shut off all the notifications on my phone and put it on airplane mode. It’s the reason I listen to music so I won’t get distracted by the noises around me. It gives me purpose, something to put my time in, something that I can do for hours and enjoy every single second of it.
If you don’t feel like you have something in life that you are truly passionate about, that you can’t find the ambition for, that you feel like is not worth putting everything else on hold, it can take a long time to find it. Again, there’s no quick fix for this. If being disciplined was so easy, everybody in the world would be disciplined.
But it’s not easy and that’s why you stand out from the crowd when you are really the one that can find the discipline to do something. That’s why some are more successful than others. It’s the sole reason why some go much further in life than others.
If you still need to find what you are passionate about in life, look around you. Try new things, try figuring out what is really giving you that feeling of interest.
In the end, it’s worth every second that you spend on finding out what truly gives you the ambition to do something. It’s going to lead to better things in life. Eventually, it will help you figure out what your best role is in this world and how you can truly become the person that you believe you should be.