⏰ Your future self

Published On: December 9th, 2022

Who are you today? Tomorrow? Next year? Science says we’re terrible at predicting our needs as time passes. It’s a problem if you want a bright future.

💡 Let’s look at the power of ‘seeing’ your Future Self.

 Today’s newsletter is 543 words, 2:45 minutes.

1 big thing: Who are you?

💰 Do you want $50 today, or $200 two weeks from now? If you’re like many, you’d take the fifty bucks now. This choice may seem odd ’cause waiting just 14 days would bring 300% more. A wealth of decision-making research explains why we often choose a little money now over a lot more tomorrow.

  • It’s not entirely a lack of self-control or impulsivity that leads to pocketing the instant cash – there’s more at play. I’d like to introduce your ‘Present Self’ and ‘Future Self’.

👥 You are two people. Ok, technically you’re one person – one driver’s license, one birth certificate, and one passport. Government ID doesn’t tell the whole story, though. Look in the mirror you’ll see your Present Self staring back. You may need to comb your hair and that’s easy ’cause you’re standing right there.

  • Now try to picture your reflection years from now – this is a little harder. Do you still part your hair in the middle? Do you still have hair?
  • This is your Future Self. Both of you are handsome humans, but science says your Present Self is the person you care most about, so this version scores $50 and a neater hairdo.
  • Our brains are not wired to care much for the future person, so they’re stiffed the full $200. Future hair is a mystery only time will tell.

❓ Why it matters: Research by psychologist Hal Hershfield suggests we see our Future Self as another person – a complete stranger. We feel emotionally disconnected from the person we’ll become years from now and this disconnect affects our decisions across many areas.

What can we do to make better decisions for our Future Selves, starting today?

2. Make friends with your Future Self

Investing for the future is not something we’re good at. We humans are notoriously bad at saving money, eating healthy, and moving more. We don’t have a lot of empathy for the person we’ll become.

🔌 Connect. How can we feel more connected with our Future Selves and improve our decision-making, and care a whole lot more? The answer lies in seeing that future person in the mirror, today.

📱 Face it. Taking a photo and digitally altering it into an older version of yourself has been shown (pdf) to help! Happiness might take a hit from the shock of seeing an older you, but connecting with a future likeness builds empathy for the person you’ll become.

  • An Instagram filter or FaceApp can be used to age yourself.

📜 Message in a bottle. Writing a letter to your Future Self may also help you see the consequences of inaction. Writing down needs and financial goals for retirement may just bridge the gap between the two selves, leading you to be more empathetic and invested in the future.

Love love love,

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