If you're unfamiliar with the short story of the Ants and the Grasshopper, it tells of a starving grasshopper would wants food from the ants who worked to fine and store food while the grasshopper played music all summer long. In the end the ants refuse to give any food, mocking the grasshopper about how he can go dance if making music is all he cared to do. The point of the story is "There's a time for work and a time for play."
Additionally, I view it as, if you want to be irresponsible about your own survival, then pay the price for your foolishness. It shouldn't be up to other people to provide for your survival when you aren't even concerned to do it for yourself. Don't be a freeloader :)
Have you ever thought about what you choose to do, and when you do it?
Are we being responsible with our time?
Many of us can relate to the "ants" or "grasshopper", or maybe more of a bit of both?
Despite the prudence of thinking about the future and doing the work to prepare for the future, we often don't see how their is gratification down the road from such management of our time and energy put into something. We don't want to delay gratification that we could get by doing something else. We want to have our gratification in the 'now'. Delayed strategies that eventually pay-off can often be ignored because they don't provide immediate returns.
Fun is very enticing. We do what we want that provides us with positive emotional states, like happiness. We can engage in activities that stimulus endorphins and dopamine, or we can eat foods that stimulate neurochemical pleasure as well. There are many other ways to experience pleasure. But our focus on pleasure acts as a trap preventing us from putting out time and energy into things that don't give us immediate gratification, enjoyment or pleasure.
Long-term greater benefits are more time consuming, which affects our decision making. We want to experience something now, not later. Recent research by Susan Zhu and colleagues at UConn look at how people fall into being an "ant" or "grasshopper".
People were surveyed with questions that they had to rate from 1-5 about strongly disagreeing or agreeing. Questions like "I never settle for second best", "I consider how things might be in the future and try to influence those things with my day to day behavior," or "I often think about saving money for the future" will give measurements of what people will tend to do. They show underlying drives and motivations for their actual behavior.
These are maximizers. Decisions are made based on the best choice imaginable to maximize the positive favorable impact for themselves and others. Due to considering so many variables to determine the optimal choice, the difficulty in making a decision tends to increase. Figuring things out to a greater level of precision and detail can become an overload. Maximizers are more stressed and less happy overall, and can come to regret making a decision with foresight of how it has issues or produced less than maximal results.
Despite some drawbacks, maximizers are conscientious and optimistic forward thinkers who are satisfied with the time, effort, energy and work to maximize beneficial outcomes.
Grasshopper people are happy with things being good enough, they don't need to be maximally optimized. The researchers called this "satisficer", meaning both satisfied and suffice. A satisficer lives from moment to moment and opts for instant gratification where they can get it. They feel good about making their decisions and move on with little thought for regret.
Two Polar Extremes
Of course the reality is that most people are not living at either of the two extremes, but are somewhere in between. Most people fall near the middle with qualities of both poles, matching a bell curve model.
People who tend towards the maximizer side are more future-oriented with better money-saving habits and concern about what will happen in the future, both for themselves or others. We should be planning for our future in many ways -- both individually and as a species co-habiting this planet with others -- but that doesn't mean there is no room for enjoyment, gratification or pleasure at times. The pursuit of pleasure, gratification, enjoyment or happiness shouldn't be the main goal. That happens as part of life, but it's not the goal of life.
Where do you see yourself falling in the maximizer or satificer spectrum?
I'm more of an ant, but slightly some of the other too. At times I have both positives and negatives from each polarity as well :P
Thank you for your time and attention. Peace.
- In making decisions, are you an ant or a grasshopper?
- Xiaoyuan (Susan) Zhu et al, Is Maximizing a Bad Thing?, Journal of Individual Differences (2017). DOI: 10.1027/1614-0001/a000226
- The Ants & the Grasshopper
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