Now or Later?

Should I Maximize Current Enjoyment or Optimize for the Future?

The Paradox of Abundance — Having to Choose All the Time

We live in a world with abundance. What people refer to as a ‘first world problem.’ The associated challenge is that we get to make a lot of choices. Multiple times a day.

We have to choose between enjoying the present moment vs. investing in rewards that we enjoy over the longer term. Sometimes the choice is obvious and easy. At other times, we feel guilty, torn or conflicted between the two clearest options.


Option 1: The Path of Less Resistance. Should I do the thing that feels easier or better right now? 
  • Buying new things, hanging out watching my favorite show / video / social media, enjoying a sweet, or an adult beverage, just to name a few options.
Option 2: Deferred Gratification: Would I be better served by optimizing for the future? 
  • Saving, investing, exercising, working harder, investing in challenging but important relationships, eating less or more healthy?


There is No Right Answer. Only Good Questions.

I want to empower you to ask yourself good questions. So that you can make the right decision for you at this moment in time.

Good questions start with “how” and “why”. They don’t lend themselves to one word answers. Some example questions include:

  • Why is this decision challenging? What values of mine are in conflict?
  • How would I dissect this problem were I explaining it to a friend or colleague?

Questioning ourselves and stopping to think before acting will lead to choices we are more bought into.


Diving Deeper: Questions to Ask Yourself before Choosing

Here are some questions I hope will help you make the right choice for you when facing specific choices. 


  • How many more times might you be able to engage in the activity? And how does that realization make you feel?
    • The number of potential future chances should influence how you choose.
  • What do you believe is the ratio of pain or joy today vs. suffering or pleasure in the future?
    • Remember that we all tend to discount the future a lot, both the enjoyment and the suffering.
  • Does either option involve doing things for others? What would you be doing that might help others?
    • Helping other people tends to feel more meaningful than anything we do just for ourselves.
  • Will you regret not making this choice (usually a risk of some kind) when you are older (70+)? In what way?
    • This question is based upon the “regret minimization framework” popularized by Jeff Bezos.
  • Imagine you are advising a friend. What questions would you ask them to help them make this decision?
    • Likely something around what values matter to them. And what course of action fits better with their identity.
  • If you are leaning towards putting off something that matters to you, could you do just a little today? How would you do just a little
    • Starting something you have wanted to do but put off repeatedly is an important step. Even doing a little increases the likelihood you will continue the activity.
  • Are you feeling any distress – physical or emotional (pain, hunger, anxiety etc.)? If you were not feeling this distress, how would that change your approach to the choice at hand?
    • We all make different choices (often poorer with hindsight) when experiencing distress.


Give Yourself Grace Once You Have Made A Choice

Being human means we make mistakes and poor decisions, which look a lot more obvious with hindsight. So expect imperfection and remind yourself that you made the best decision at the time.

Simply not choosing doesn’t actually save you. Indecision and inaction are also choices.

And, in many cases, you can make a different choice tomorrow or the next day. Simply choosing one path today, doesn’t absolutely close off moving in another direction at some point in the future.

Aditya Dehejia

Adi’s experiences as a CFO and HR leader in start-up companies inspired him to start the CxO Leadership Accelerator. He saw firsthand the challenges in building a satisfying career, the importance of leaders in developing people, and the difficulty in building broad business acumen while excelling in your functional role. Prior to his operating career in start-ups, Adi held roles in a growth capital investment firm and in the corporate development and strategy department at a Fortune 500 company. Adi is an active volunteer mentor in the FirstRound Capital and TechStars networks as well as within his University alumni communities. Adi was born in India and immigrated to the US at age ten. He attended Princeton University (graduated with a degree in Politics) and the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He lives in the suburbs of New York City and has two adult sons and two lovable, crazy dogs.

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