Trying to Bridge The Disconnect Between Small, Day-to-day Choices, And Their Consequences (AKA: Avoiding Future Toothaches)

Two days ago, on Tuesday, a problematic wisdom tooth that I should have removed several years ago, started aching. In the beginning it was not too bad, but then it slowly escalated to the point where I felt pain not only from the tooth itself, but emanating from the surrounding area of my face, until I could somehow feel a bad headache on top of it all.

Thankfully, Wednesday was quite a convenient day for having the tooth removed, and getting dental work done in Thailand is rather affordable, so it’s not too big of a deal. (Actually, the discomfort of two teeth suddenly not being there anymore seems to have motivated me to stay busy, which has led to me actually writing quite a bit more than I did last week.)

But there is also an(other) upside to all of this. Something I realized Tuesday night, is that this toothache, is a great metaphor for something incredibly common. An inability, or unwillingness, to fully comprehend the long-term repercussions of your daily actions, until you encounter a ‘rude awakening’.

Like when you’re aware your poor spending habits might very well land you in trouble should you lose your job, and when it finally happens, you have to deal with not only finding a new job, but doing so on a very strict deadline, living on a very strict budget.

Or when you’re aware you’ve been slowly putting on weight ever since you couldn’t quite bounce back after an awesome cheat day, and you don’t REALLY notice until the bathroom weight tells you you’ve gained 20+ pounds.

Or when you’ve had ample opportunities for years to remove two lower wisdom teeth that are slowly disintegrating the lovely structure of your teeth in your lower jaw, and you decide to just assume that something bad won’t happen, until you get a terrible toothache on a Tuesday in the third week of trying to re-implement self-growth efforts after finding yourself in your first long term full-time job. (Or maybe that only applies to me?)

Analyze Your Behavior And ‘Predict’ Their Outcomes

And not just the awesome habits you’ve managed to build up over the last years.

For example, ever since I started working, I have “harmlessly” been surfing imgur, a website that is as much about as ‘instant reward’ as any website can be. It’s a website that basically shows you random funny or interesting pictures and all you have to do is click next to see a new one.

Which is a little funny, because on one hand, I’ve been trying to reclaim my attention space. To improve my ability to focus for longer periods of time by focusing on things like meditation, working to the same combination of white noise every time to help make it a trigger. But now I realize I’ve probably been undoing most of the positive effects, by surfing imgur.

The wisdom tooth thing is also rooted(no pun intended) in a long-lasting habit to put seemingly insignificant things off until the last minute. This habit means that sometimes, I get in trouble for no real reason. Things just get put off and then when I notice it’s too late to avoid a problem.

Realize You Are Constantly Creating The Reality Of Your Future Self

Just as an example, if you have a goal of writing 30,000 words per month, you would have to write an average of 1000 words per day to meet that goal. But if you wrote 0 words one day because you ‘didn’t quite feel like it’, your daily average would have to jump up to 1034. If you miss another day, 1071,  and if you keep missing days or failing to meet the required daily average, the required daily average will skyrocket until it all becomes an unreachable goal. (This is probably one of the reasons why consistency is so valuable.) On the other hand, you could do a great job today, and knock the required daily average effort down by a bit. Giving your future self a bit of leeway to miss the daily quota when it’s completely unavoidable.

But sometimes, using this kind of argument on myself doesn’t seem to be very effective. In the past I’ve been great at running philosophical/semantic laps around an issue until I suddenly realize I’ve procrastinated for a good amount of time. But perhaps recognizing this as an excuse to procrastinate will help me choose to avoid getting stuck arguing circles in the future? At the very least it seems like a good first step in the right direction.

Have you ever had a bad wake up call caused by this disconnect? If so, what did you do to deal with it?

2 Responses

  1. Eileen February 1, 2015 / 9:22 am

    Welcome back Ragnar! Great to see you are writing again. I’ve been keeping an eye out for your return!

    • Ragnar Miljeteig February 1, 2015 / 12:16 pm

      Thanks Eileen, that means a lot! Will aim to not disappoint! 🙂

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