Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Wait For It . . . Wait For It . . .

A few years ago, when my mode of public transportation was compromised, I was relieved to finagle a ride home from the city. 

It didn't end well. 

The driver found the restrictive bounds of standard rush-hour traffic to be insupportable, and swerved off onto unfamiliar sideroads (this was before Waze or basic GPS). He became quite lost, meandering aimlessly along dim, abandoned streets. The vehicle had no shocks; I was rattling about in the back and I began to groan in nauseous agony. Eventually he made his way back to the same highway, to the same exit he had originally left, at which point (forty minutes later) the cars were zipping along at a merry pace. 

It took hours for my face to lose that greenish hue. 

Now, I would have personally stayed on the road, since (1) I didn't know any alternate route and (2) ten minutes of traffic, to me, is better than forty minutes of wandering. 

Maria Konnikova reveals another aspect to self-disciple in "You're So Self-Controlling": Time. The original premise for the basis of self-control was simply delayed gratification—overeating now as opposed to be slender later, for instance. The brownie is warm, fudgy, delicious, with a divine aroma; it can be seen, smelled, and tasted in all its tactile glory, as opposed to the intangible future.
But that is sourced in another concept: It comes down to time, and how much time is considered a reasonable wait. In the real world, the reward is not always a given within a specific time frame. Even those with self-control, if the time passes and no reward, will wisk their original premise off the table. The real world is an uncertain world. We don't get guarantees. I can only control so much, even if I sit on my hands.  
“When you add future uncertainty to the mix,” Mr. Kable pointed out, “it completely changes the problem. Now it’s not just about your ability to wait. With uncertainty, you realize that everybody’s deep intuition, that when you’re waiting, you’re getting closer, is off.” The future may change on you, so what are you waiting for?
. . . You don’t think you get closer as you wait longer. Quite the opposite. . . The longer the wait time . . . the longer they thought they’d have to keep on waiting.
“The basic idea,” Mr. McGuire said, “is that while a decision maker is waiting, he is constantly re-evaluating the thing he’s waiting for. You’re waiting for the same reward, but your assessment of it changes as a function of the passage of time.”
If logic reigned it should be understood that only with the investment of time can an accomplished skill be learned or a new dress size achieved. But in the process, human nature thinks, "If it hasn't happened by now, it's not going to happen at all." 

Take, for instance, that old marshmallow study, you know, the kids being told they can have one now or two later. 
The thing is, the children were never told how long they were going to wait. When the studies were redone with reliable versus unreliable factors, that changed the results. Even with marshmallows, there was a cost/benefit alanysis. 

In the case of a distant goal, like losing weight, how much time we give ourselves is as important as the willpower not to eat irresponsibly. 
If you understand exactly how long it will take you to lose weight and incorporate the uncertainty into your thinking — if you realize that it may be a two-to-four-months rather than a two-weeks-or-bust situation — you would be far more capable of resisting that brownie in the present moment . . . At least you’ll understand that waiting longer doesn’t always mean waiting indefinitely. Investing upfront in realistic time frames — and learning to adjust those time frames as new information becomes available — may help us resist the pull of rewards that come too soon. Controlling our sense of the future, in other words, may help us control our behavior in the present
Can you imagine in how many spheres this theory is applicable? 

Take the standard single frum gal. "There's no one out there for me, I'm going to die alone, and my cats will eat my corpse." She's all of 26. 

According to this, because we are in middle of the process, so we think we are going to have to wait forever. 

That's just evolution talking. Buck up, singletons! One marshmallow can become two!        

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