Who is The Future Self?
Have you ever heard of the concept of the Future Self?
We tend to think of ourselves as one entity. Still, as it turns out, many different people inhabit our very own mind.
When we plan, we tend to put the whole load of hard work onto our Future Selves.
Our Future Self miraculously has no problem waking up in the morning to go to the gym or finish the report in no time. Our Future Self is super disciplined and won’t have problems saving for our retirement and eat healthy tomorrow. The problem is, tomorrow never comes. We are always our Present Selves, who live in the present and are way more hedonistic.
So we wake up in the morning, and all we really want is to stay in our warm bed! “What was I thinking??? Why the heck did I think hitting the gym in the morning would be a good idea?”
When we make plans, we think we plan it for ourselves, but in reality, it’s more like making plans for somebody else.
As I wrote before in the post on better goal setting, when we make plans, our Present Selves get all the rewards while pushing all the hard work onto our Future Selves. Not cool, dear, not cool.
That is the trap we fall into when we’re not deeply connected to our Future Self.
Of course, some of us learn from experience and take the discrepancy into account. We might adjust our plans to make them more realistic. But in general, it’s hard. We prefer to stay optimistic about how awesome our Future Selves will be and like to believe they’ll conquer all difficulties without a hitch.
Developing Empathy towards The Future Self
I’m not saying we have to give up all hope and just decide we’re doomed. But how about befriending our Future Selves? If we tend to think of our Future Selves as someone else from us, how about we construct a mental picture of our clone? They may be just a day older than us or, when needed, three decades older. Imagine they are your best friend, someone you care about deeply, like a loved relative.
Then, whenever you make plans, think of their best interest at heart. What would you like for them? If you’re a parent, you probably don’t let your child watch tv all day and eat candy for breakfast because you want them to be healthy and grow.
The psychological research on the future self examines the processes and consequences associated with thinking about oneself in the future. People think about their future selves similarly to how they think about other people. The extent to which people feel psychologically connected (e.g., similarity, closeness) to their future self influences how well they treat their future self. When people feel connected to their future selves, they are more likely to save for retirement, make healthy decisions, and avoid ethical transgressions. Interventions that increase feelings of connectedness with future selves can improve future-oriented decision making across these domains.
I propose to become a loving parent to your Future Self. Or if that’s too much, just raising some empathy towards it.
I find it easier to push harder and follow through on my projects when I adopt that attitude.
Of course, it’s a balancing act between thinking of the future and living in the present. You don’t want to focus on your Future Self all the time.
It’s about cultivating a healthy relationship between the two entities.
It’s so easy to push unpleasant things away and into the future, but more and more, I try asking myself a couple of questions:
Will the problem/task disappear or go away or stay? If it’s not going anywhere, think of how nice it would be to just do it and be over with!
What can I do to make tomorrow a little easier, better? You can think of another hectic morning ahead of you and just think for a moment what can be done to make it even a tiny bit easier. Maybe get your coffee cup ready? Perhaps prepare your bag & keys, so you don’t have to look for them franticly when it’s time to leave?
As always, start small and go from there.