Hyperbolic discounting: Do you avoid activities that take a long time to "pay off"?


Coach Josh here, from TFW Portland and today I want to talk to you about hyperbolic discounting.

A big shout out to my man Echo Charles (from the Jocko podcast) for talking about hyperbolic discounting during LITERALLY every podcast... and talking about how important it is to behave your own change. 

In a nutshell, the further away the benefits appear = the less likely you are to take action.

In general, people will put off an activity that has less immediate benefit. The more immediate the benefit, the more likely that action will take place. This is somewhat intuitive; think about how you feel when you eat a cookie or twinkie, or take a nap, or drink a beer. All those things feel good NOW, right? 

Like the old proverb:

If you want to be happy for an hour, take a nap.
If you want to be happy for a day, go fishing.
If you want to be happy for a lifetime, help make somebody else happy.

The more effort it takes and the further the payoff, the less likely we are to do the activity. 

That's a shame, because "payoff" often comes a bit later when it comes some of the most important things in life. 


Try this, make a list of things that are really important to you. This might include some of the following: 

  • Having close personal relationships
  • Investing in your current relationships
  • Getting in better shape
  • Taking care of yourself
  • Managing your health
  • Managing your finances
  • Being proactive about the future
  • Reading books
  • Advancing your skillset
  • Advancing in your field and receiving exposure

All these things take energy NOW and the payoff comes later. In some instances, MUCH later! If you're starting a business, it could be years of high-intensity efforts for very little payoff. 

Hyperbolic discounting means that you're will need to have some stomach for being uncomfortable with spending that focus. The focus = time, energy and money. You're going to be tired, out of cash, and time! You're going to sacrifice time that you might have had doing pleasurable activities, like hanging out with friends, drinking beer, napping, things that are fun and make you feel good. You're going to have less of those in order to take on a more important task. The question you gotta ask yourself is not, "What does it cost me to do ______?" 
Instead, ask yourself "What does it cost me to NOT do ______?" 

What does it cost you to not do it? 
What does it cost you to NOT take care of yourself or invest in yourself?
What is it costing you to discount? 
What is it costing you to wait?

THAT'S hyperbolic discounting. That's the uncomfortable part, and that might be one of the things keeping you from your absolute best.

So don't be afraid of being uncomfortable and don't be afraid of committing.

If you have any further questions on hyperbolic discounting, shoot me an email or comment below.

Coach Josh here at Training for Warriors, helping YOU bring out the warrior within.