Why Do we Knowingly Make Stupid Decisions?
Updated: Jun 19
Numerous studies have proven that spending too much time on your phone isn't healthy. Despite that, the average college student spends between eight to ten hours per day using their phone. Everybody knows that eating junk food is bad for you. Despite that, many of us can't resist eating two more cupcakes or having an extra scoop of ice cream. We all know that waiting until the very last minute to get things done isn't ideal. Despite that, more than 25% of Americans say they procrastinate.
Why do we engage in activities that we know might feel good in the short term but will negatively impact us in the long run? Our brains are wired to seek instant gratification. We naturally want great things to happen right away. That way of thinking ignores what the future ramifications are. How well someone makes decisions is likely proportional to how patient or impatient they are.
The people and environment around us impact our decisions. When I walk into a classroom before the lecture has started, I always see all of my fellow students mindlessly scrolling on their phones. That makes me wonder: "Why am I not doing the same thing"? I was certain that I wouldn't eat anything unhealthy before playing Ultimate Frisbee a couple of weeks ago. Why would I stuff a bunch of junk into my body before running a lot? However, my mindset quickly changed when I saw a bunch of chocolate munchkins in the dining hall. I got hungry just by typing that last sentence, fuck. Despite knowing better, I ate seven-ten munchkins before playing Ultimate Frisbee that night. The thought of doing that wouldn't have even appeared if I was in a different environment.
When we are about to do something challenging or scary, our brains will tell us to "take the easy way out". This is why it's so hard to step outside your comfort zone. When you're about to begin your homework, your brain will tell you to check one more thing on Instagram before starting. It's never really just one more thing. What we see on Instagram will prompt you to do something else unrelated to your homework. In order to break this cycle, you must realize that your brain will come up with excuses to avoid doing hard things. View your situations from a third-person perspective. Imagine if someone else saw you watching porn the same night you have a five-page paper due. That would probably make you feel like a giant dumbass. What would you think about that?
I know it sounds like a pain in the ass, but when you know you have to do something hard, just start it. You won't always feel motivated to make the "right" decisions. Instead of relying on motivation, improve your discipline. That will allow you to consistently make smart choices even when you don't want to.