Most of us know what we should do, but don't do it. We should diet, we should exercise.
One problem I used to have was it was hard to get out of bed in the morning. one thing I used to do when I had flextime was usually show up at work between 11am and noon, and work until 8 or 10pm.
The consequence of this was that my social life from Monday to Friday was horrible. I basically never did much after work.
Then I got a job where I *HAD* to show up at 9am. I thought I was going to die. But I adjusted, and I found that I could leave work at 6pm with a clean conscience and suddenly, I had a vastly improved social life.
Then I moved to the job I have now where, if I show up before 10;30am, no one is going to complain. Nonetheless, it remained in my interest to be at work around 9am.
Unfortunately, it was hard to translate this long range desire for a healthier social life into the will power to propel me out of bed.
So I adopted a rule for myself. If I get off the subway in Manhattan before 9am, I get to buy a ham and egg sandwich, which I really like, from a street vendor on my way to work. If I'm later, I have to settle for cereal at work, which I don't like anywhere near as much. Now, when I'm in bed and not feeling like getting up, I think of the sandwich. A tangible reward like that within an hour or so of the desired activity gets me to do it.
Once I got off the subway and I was 2 and a half seconds late. I didn't get the sandwich. It would've been a completely hollow victory if I cheated.
Similarly, I walk up 19 flights of stairs twice a day in the skyscraper I work in. The goal, of course is to be in good shape. Of course, it's a very long-term goal, and sometimes it's very tempting to skip the exercise. So if I make it up the stairs a second time, I reward myself with a large glass of diet sprite. Similarly, that helps get the job done.
So I think I've stumbled onto something here. The brain is too impatient to think in terms of long-term goals, so substitute short-term rewards for long-term ones.