Why is it so easy to form bad habits but so challenging to develop good ones? The feedback gap might explain this problem.

Most of us seek out bad habits because they provide immediate stimulation. Whether it is food, sex, laziness, or technological distraction, the thing we are after is immediately received.

On the other side, we have healthy habits. The reward of a healthy habit takes months (if not years) to appear. This lengthy delay in feedback and gratification decreases our motivation to continue moving toward the finish line.

There are, of course, other factors at play as well. Bad habits act as painkillers. Good habits often require a certain amount of suffering to achieve. When we are in the moment, the well-being of our future selves is not a top priority.

Human beings are present bias. We are quick to sacrifice long-term reward for immediate gratification. This is a cruel joke in the human experience. It stems from the need to survive on a minute by minute basis when we were living in the wild. A starving ancestor isn’t going to forgo a pit of honey because s/he was on a low carb diet.

Those who overcome their present bias win the game of life. The rest of us end up fat and sick.

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