Essay

What’s Our Carrot?

When the Inconvenient Truth Becomes Inconvenient

We fantasized about ice cream. After a grey and wet five-day backpacking expedition through the tundra of Alaska, we were ready for a treat. This last day was the most difficult, with periods of getting lost, a hazardous river crossing, and the constant worry that we wouldn’t make it to the road before the last bus passed us by. The ice cream we’d enjoyed at the lodge before setting out would taste even better upon our return. We fixated on it. Focusing on a future reward, however modest, can keep me going during periods of stress. The climb up Mt. Sustainability is only going to get steeper as simpler challenges give way to more difficult ones. We’ll need a treat, or a series of them, to keep us from abandoning the path. The ice cream store was closed when we finally got there. The disappointment was gut wrenching. In retrospect, it didn’t matter. Other sweets would be forthcoming and, more than anything, the thought of it had provided a more important reward.

Peter Nicholson, Innovationist
FORESIGHT DESIGN INITIATIVE

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