Hyperbolic Discounting: Why most people don’t succeed

I can tell you that without a doubt, hyperbolic discounting has to be one of the primary contributors to non-success. Given two similar rewards, humans show a preference for one that arrives sooner rather than later. Humans are said to discount the value of the later reward, by a factor that increases with the length of the delay. In simple terms, humans (even adults) want instant gratification more than long-term success.


Research has shown there are two types of people – those that can and CHOOSE to delay gratification and those that can’t or CHOOSE not to.

I can tell you, with 20 years of business coaching and mentoring experience that I concur AND it is one of my key determinants in working closely with a client. UNLESS this is fully understood and adhered to, there is no point in expecting success to “happen”.


Success is a habit, a way of life, of being, of doing. It is making daily investments for a lifetime of rewards, many of which are days, weeks, months or years in the making. Take an academic degree – it takes months or years before you can “obtain” the designation or diploma and graduate. The same is true with playing a musical instrument or mastering a sport.

I have to admit that the SOURCE of this ability to NOT discount hyperbolically is unknown to me and if you do indulge in it, I am not sure what you can really do to counteract it other than to bring forward the benefits in a tangible, realistic fashion. Imagine the rewards or results RIGHT NOW… Feel it, think it, know it will happen and that one day will come when you will have this feeling… Just not today. Ask yourself if you think it’s worth waiting for and if it is, then stick to your plan and MAKE IT HAPPEN.

This is where willpower comes in or what I call Whypower – if the WHY is strong enough, the will will be there.

Create a big enough WHY…

Then, all you need are strategies to make your goal or outcome happen… Strategies that work. Strategies you can implement – NOW so you get a sense of instant relief that at least you are progressing towards your goal or outcome.

Contact us if you want to learn shortcuts to making things happen. There is always a better, easier way – the key is to have someone who can show you what they are, so you stop wasting valuable time, money and effort with a trial-by-error approach.




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