Prioritizing what we should do
“The obsession with instant gratification blinds us from our long-term potential.”
- Michael Dooley
In any given moment we have the option of choosing what we should do, what we want to do, and what we need to do. What we need to do is our biggest priority. This includes taking care of our responsibilities and commitments in our personal and professional lives. What we should do may relate to those ambitions and desires we have, whether it involves working toward a long-term goal or sharpening a skill we would like to master. It also relates to making smarter choices for ourselves that benefit our mental and physical health.
What we want to do hopefully lines up with what we need to do or what we should do, but a lot of the time it involves avoiding those very things in favor of instant gratification. This would include skipping exercise in favor of a scrolling session on our favorite social media app or binging content on your streaming service of choice instead of making progress on that side project at home. Once our obligations and commitments are taken care of, we choose how to spend whatever time it is we have left in our day.
We can fall into a trap if what we should do does not line up with what we want to do. If we keep putting off what we should do because it is not as appealing as what we want to do, we eventually look back at what we should have done and possibly regret what we chose to do instead. I'm thinking of the expressions, "shoulda, woulda, coulda," or "If only I had." It can be easy to fall into feelings of regret when we think about how we frivolously spent our time and what we had the opportunity to accomplish instead.
What is it that you should be doing, but keep putting off? You may want to do it, but perhaps not as much as the instant-gratification consuming your attention-span in the moment. Sometimes we prefer that quick rush of dopamine over the long-term satisfaction that seems too far off in the moment. We can remind ourselves how much we want to see the intended outcome, knowing what we need to do to get there. When we turn the "shoulda, woulda, coulda" into "gotta, need to and have to," we are able to put more effort into achieving what we want, no matter how far off it seems.
Harvard Business Review: Rethink What You Want to Do vs. What You “Should” Do
Psychology Today: 10 Reasons We Rush for Immediate Gratification
Talking for Wellness: 5 Steps to Eliminate the ‘Should’s’