Thin rewards vs. thick rewards

When you cave in to your impulses—to check social media, to engage an overwhelming emotion, to eat delicious food of little nutritional value, to not speak up, to people please, to follow a default path, etc.—you will feel good in the moment. Unfortunately, the feeling usually disappears very quickly. These are thin rewards, and you can acquire them with little effort or thought.

Conversely, when you make a difficult decision—to pursue something that compels you, to stretch out of your comfort zone, to seek and accept painful feedback, etc.—you will feel horrible in the moment. Fortunately, that feeling also disappears very quickly, and it’s followed by a much better, longer lasting, reward. It could be alleviation, inspiration, or self-confidence. These are thick rewards, and you can acquire them only with more effort and intention.

“Easy decisions, hard life. Hard decisions, easy life,” Jerzy Gregorek’s saying goes.

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