Reach for an apple or reach for a danish? (or neither!)
Surf the web or dive into a great book?
Take a walk after dinner or collapse on the couch?
I love danishes and surfing and couches! And there are times when these things are the better choice.
But everything adds up.
Some call this quick-fix hedonic desire "high time preference" -- meaning wants and desires must get satisfied now! A low time preference mindset is more concerned with choosing actions that will result in the person you'll eventually become, or hope to become.
People with "low time preference" have their eyes on the "later" prize.
Which is better? I have no idea. Neither? Both? Living in the now always seems preferable to living in the later, and certainly better than living in the past, but clearly this doesn't mean a pint of ice cream every time you want to experience a better now. We do have some agency here.
Maybe the answer is the realization that a better now is the only now we have: this one. Not only being ok with whatever is happening right now, but paddling into it and going for a swim.
Sometimes the now is the ice cream, but most of the time it isn't.
So how do we paddle out? It seems like noticing stuff -- the air, our breath, sounds around us, aromas, how our body feels as a whole and as parts, watching thoughts go by as if they're unfolding on a movie screen -- is a very good way to start.
Abiding in all that is hard, though, since life tends to interfere and make competing claims on our attention. But even small snippets --sometimes measured in fractions of a second -- of full-on attention to the present can be magical and energizing.
I find that a good time to realize the present is between tasks: as you sit down to your desk or get up from a chair, those first few seconds when beginning to clean up the dinner dishes, when answering the phone, as a door opens, when you turn on the car ignition, picking up a knife to chop vegetables, etc.
Somehow this liminal space lends itself to pausing, and the pause is the notice.