I think it’s important to consider that some of these people may exhibit this extremely forward-thinking problem where they can’t focus on the present in only some aspects of their life. It likely just so happens that these aspects are the ones that are most visible to the outside observer.
I’ll use myself as an example. To most people, I appear to be some kind of machine-like high achiever. I’m a jack of all trades, and I seem to be very good at everything I do. I’m graduating from college (I live in Canada, so by that I mean a 3-year diploma; Americans might call this “community college”) in a couple of weeks, and will be going to university in the fall to upgrade my diploma to an Honours B.Sc. I’m at the top of my class, with a 4.53 cumulative GPA. This is on a 5-point scale, and I looked it up and I think this is the equivalent to a 3.8 on a 4-point scale, but it depends on who you ask. At the university I’m going to for my undergrad, my 4.53 is equivalent to a 4.0.
I’m graduating from a biotechnology program, which is not only not easy, but it’s arguably one of the hardest programs at my entire college. While I was in college, I was also a peer mentor for two years, an ambassador for the school at things like open houses and orientation for two years, a member of the student emergency response team last year, and heavily involved with the drama club. Last year I was the president of the drama club, and I both acted in and directed our year-end play, as a first-time director, while I was taking six classes, dealing with my other extracurricular activities, and attending to my other responsibilities as president. In short, it was a lot.
Most people are amazed that I did all that and can’t believe that a single person could be talented in and dedicated to all of these things. So I seem like the type of person with the opposite problem from the one Beeminder solves. But am I?
I would argue that I’m on both sides of the spectrum. There are a lot of goals I have that I’m very akratic about and put off because I have these long-term goals of academic and personal excellence. Some of these goals, though, are also long-term goals. For instance, I’ve always been overweight, and even though getting fit and healthy is a long-term thing and something I’ve always wanted to do, I delay it because in the moment it’s never as important as the short-term consequences of whatever delicious dessert is sitting in front of me. There are other examples in other areas of my life as well, of long-term things I want to accomplish but delay because of whatever is happening in the moment.
Adding to the psychology aspect of this discussion, I will note that I previously attended university a few years ago, but dropped out before the end of my first year because I was so depressed I could barely leave my dorm room. When I came to college a year and a half later, that experience was at the forefront of my mind, and I was determined not to fail, because I knew that if I failed in college, I wouldn’t get another chance at post-secondary education. So having had that sort of experience at a crucial juncture in my life may have pushed me in this direction, like willinvent’s banker friend.
Another thing I think is worth mentioning is that I wasn’t using Beeminder for most of my time in college, either. I largely got all of these things done with hard work and sheer force of will. I am using Beeminder now, but my focus at the moment is mostly to create a series of goals relating to physical and mental wellness, because doing all of this hard work is stressful, and I don’t spend enough time taking care of myself. So as far as achieving academic success, being involved in extracurricular activities, and creating a full life for myself, I’m fine on my own. But staying healthy, both now and in the long term? That’s what I need Beeminder for.