Carpe diem vs. the superego

December 29, 2009

Some interesting new research for those who delay gratification as an art form, in this New York Times article.

Psychology research supports the benefits of cultivating children’s (and adults’) ability to delay gratification today to gain a (larger) reward later. Controlling impulses is good, but what about overcontrol?  For people who have overshot the mark on this skill, it could be beneficial to take some rewards sooner as a way to boost mood and motivation when taking on the less enjoyable, but necessary activities of work and life. I coached an executive who dutifully began each morning at his computer, checking email before he would take time to read the newspaper, something he enjoyed more. I suggested he experiment trying the reverse. He was just as productive, got a boost in starting the day well, but it wasn’t so easy at first to turn a deaf ear to the voice of his superego.

It can take discipline to allow some fun first and reward yourself — with work — later. But it’s worth the effort.

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