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Effort and why coffee is breaking my heart.

When you wake up in the morning and go to the gym, it takes effort. It takes some kind of superhuman effort to get yourself to move out of bed if you are just getting into the habit, and then get dressed and go to the gym. It may not be for a decent amount of time until you see the benefits of going to the gym, it is an activity that takes a tremendous amount of effort. The reward is powerful, you feel healthier and generally more active, you begin to leverage your capabilities and that allows you to simply become a better person.

Now think about the substances you take and the effect they have on you. For example, lets take coffee. It takes very little effort for me to drink coffee aside from ordering it, pressing a button on the work machine, or at the very most making my own shot of espresso. The effort is negligible but the effect is palpable. Your morning becomes immediately better, you feel more aware of your surroundings, the caffeine mimics the effects of adenosine so that instead of making you feel sleepy (which is what adenosine does to your cell receptors) you feel more awake. You are chemically modifying your brain and it is changing how you feel. However, you didn't work for it. You did not put effort into the system but you are reaping the benefits of that experience.

Once I began to think of this three part process, it had a fascinating effect on how I thought about my life. The three part process is as follows:
  1. What genuine effort does this action take to execute?
  2. What effect does the action have in the short & long term?
  3. What is the difference between the effort you put in, and the effect the action has?
From preliminary experience, it seems to be the case that activities that have an equal effort to short term benefit are often things we can endure for a very long time. This is your standard 9-5 job, every action you take at your job has the short term benefit of a paycheck within two weeks, and the effort you put in will be demonstrated in your paycheck. If we feel differently, like if we are being overworked (the effect it has is less than the effort it takes to execute) we'll eventually quit because it is not worth our time.

Then, there are the experiences that do not require that much effort, but have a decent amount of effect in your life. The best example of this is any type of drug or even fast food. The effort is little, it requires only some of the 'effect' from your job which you believe takes an adequate amount of effort, and the satisfaction is instantaneous. These are actions which I believe are usually not worth our time.

The last case is interesting though. There are experiences that require a lot of effort that do not give you a rewarding effect (generally they do in the long term, but it becomes incredibly difficult for us to hold out until we get that effect). These are actions that we will only do if we have some other type of motivation that keeps us going. However, there is still an imbalance.

It became clear to me that the imbalance in effortless activities that give us an effect we enjoy and activities that require a lot of effort but do not have enough reward go hand in hand like connecting puzzle pieces. We go out drinking after a long day of work in order to create a peaceful balance between our effort and the reward that we get. It sounds obvious but beginning to understand this in a concrete manner helps me better comprehend the effect that changing the way I feel about my life has on how I can continue to perform certain actions.

However, what is driving me to a state of confusion is the idea that the imbalance is merely an illusion of a short term benefit that is actually detrimental in the long term. Perhaps the belief that we can be happier if we choose to do so may allow us to accept imbalances that in the long term are incredibly beneficial. The mentality of 'I worked out today so I can eat junk food' is inherently counter-productive. However, for those that struggle with putting in the effort to work out, it may be the case that what we really need is not the appropriate replacements of actions that give us a quick fix so we can keep putting in the effort into these long term activities. It may be the case that what we really need is to start believing that the actions we are performing are beneficial, and knowing that such a belief is enough to make us become better.

I am torn in what seems to be the difference between motivation and discipline. I am torn between believing that it is okay to use quick fixes to continue to motivate yourself to do better, but also that little by little we must rid ourselves of them by believing in ourselves more and more, in order to transcend who we were and become the best that we believe we can be.

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