The Present Bias

Present bias is the tendency to overvalue smaller rewards in the present at the expense of long-term goals. For example, a present-biased person might prefer to receive ten dollars today over receiving fifteen dollars tomorrow.

The concept of present bias is often used more generally to describe impatience or immediate gratification in decision-making and it explains the gap between our good intentions and our actions.

It’s not easy to turn down rewards that bring instant gratification, but sometimes we have to resist present bias for the greater good — attaining our long-term goals.

When it comes to achieving our long-term goals, we’ll sometimes have to tackle demanding tasks that won’t make us happy right away but are essential for accomplishing our targets. There are some ways to combat present bias, such as:

  1. Instantly reward yourself for behaviors that benefit your long-term goal.
  2. Aim our attention at daily goals.
  3. Imagine our future self and future benefits.
  4. Predict how our future self will behave.
  5. Try to avoid procrastination.

Overcoming the present bias isn’t about making the Present You miserable in the hopes that Future You can finally enjoy life. Nor is it about throwing Future You under the bus so Present You can have all the fun now.

It’s about balance. To reach your long-term goals, you will have to make tradeoffs. And by using these hacks, you’ll be able to strike the right balance between living in the moment and preparing for the future.

Summing-up: In the present bias, the here and now feels disproportionately more important than the future does. It’s fine if we sometimes choose an immediate prize, but we have to keep in mind that staying away from this tendency is a crucial step in attaining our goals.


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