Americans Are Too Disciplined -- Go Do Something Fun!

Productivity-obsessed Americans believe taking vacation or other fun time away from work is wasteful, maybe even immoral, says Harvard Business School professor Anat Keinan.

It's not that we love work so much. Rather, we believe that if we keep our nose to the grindstone today it will pay off big time later.

The problem, says Keinan, is this: We overestimate the benefits we think we will accrue at some mythical time in the future. Researchers even have a term for this condition: hyperopia.

Keinan's research clearly demonstrates that in the long run we regret not having more fun along the way. Looking back, we wish we embarked on that Amazon rain forest trip rather than putting in overtime on the Smith account. Keinan outlines the antidote to this condition for Harvard magazine in The Poor Payoff of Pleasure Postponed.

"'Why,'" she asks, 'do we have to wait until we are 60 or 70 to realize what's really important to us?' The formula she suggests: recognize the tendency to prioritize short-term guilt over late-in-life regrets and make decisions that emphasize the long view."
Of course, sometimes the vacation is not the right long-term decision. Her framing method can help you decide that as well. Read the article for more details.

Moral of Our Story
In other words (Cue the Cliche Machine): Don't wait for tomorrow. Live for today. Smell the roses. And for goodness sake, take that exotic vacation.

You won't regret it.

Related Reading:
We wrote earlier in this space about the business strategy implications of Keinan's work, Convince Consumers to Indulge for Their Own Good.

HBS Working Knowledge interviews Keinan about her research in Indulgence vs. Regret: Investing in Future Memories.

(Cruise image by jimg944, CC 2.0)