Instant gratification: If you don’t see it, imagine it

For creating green habits – the task can seem daunting, hard because the creation of a habit occurs over time, and as humans we tend to like the instant gratification of convenience now. And it’s gotten the environment in a lot of trouble, and we know it, and we don’t want to be brow beaten with it time and time again. The thoughts that go through my head – I want to make a difference, but it seems daunting and as one person, at first I feel powerless. I don’t want to solely hear about the problem. Give me actionable solutions that I have the power to do every day! I don’t have immediate impact on the policies of manufacturing corporations and the immense carbon output and waste produced. But I do have control over my actions and what I choose to consume. Sometimes though, I forget to do the little things or I’m too lazy some days or I don’t know what to do to improve it… and honestly, there’s no immediate incentive for me to change my habit to a slightly, seemingly more “inconvenient” option…

So here’s a suggestion I came up with for myself – if it’s good for the long haul and I know it – make up in my mind an immediate gratification for doing what I do AT THE MOMENT I AM DOING IT – every time I turn off the water faucet while brushing my teeth, Frank the fish from the Sesame Street cartoon can say thanks from his underwater phone. Every time I turn my computer off after each day of work rather than locking it/putting it on snooze, I can imagine the “grid” of electricity having a little less stress, or my boss noticing how the expenses of the department have gone down. Every time I turn out the light over the front door, I can imagine seeing the stars at night brilliantly shining because there’s a little less light pollution. Every time I decide to walk or ride my bike rather than drive, I can think of my body feeling great, getting to bed easily that night from being tuckered out, or think of the barrel of expensive oil coming over on a boat and not needing to be bought to put in my gas tank.

Make it up! Who cares! Whatever makes you feel good now about partaking in a healthier habit for you, the world around you, those around you. That’s empowering, gives me a sense that my small individual actions do make a difference. And collectively they do. Every choice we make impacts those around us. That’s exciting. So it’s nice to allow ourselves to see that impact we have, even if it’s abstractly in our imaginations for the moment. Because otherwise we’ll go back to the “instant gratification” actions that we know aren’t beneficial for us or the world around us. And imagination is fun.

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