Being nice to my future self

Friday 14th October 2016

I've been working on this as a concept for a long time and I wanted to write it down to clarify it for myself, although of course you're welcome to read it too. 

You what?

It's a pretty straightforward idea. When I was young I used to go out and get blind drunk or whatever, even when I knew that I had to get up early to work the next day.

Come the morning and the inevitable hangover, I'd be cursing myself for not taking it easy or going to bed before 3am. 

After a while, I became aware that the person who had to get up early was actually me, and I could make life better for that person. It's not just me, research suggests that most people have the same level of compassion for their future selves as they do for other people in the present. 

This idea was first described by Derek Parfit in a book called Reasons and Persons in the 1980s. He suggested that our future selves aren't really us at all, which comes about by a series of tiny changes in ourselves, day by day.

As psychologist Hal Hershfield says

It's fine to think about that future self as another person—it just has to be another person you feel close to and have a lot of overlap with. The marriages that work best and the friendships that work best are the ones where people feel like the other person is almost part of them. So perhaps the key to being "future-conscious" is making sure that, insofar as our future self feels like someone else, it's someone we love and care about.

 

How does this help?

By making you more connected with your future self, you're less likely to procrastinate and more likely to do things that are beneficial.

There's now a website, futureme.org, where you can write emails to your future self. I've written myself a message to be delivered a year from today, containing my hopes for what my future self will be doing. 

US Bank Merrill Edge have launched a website called Face Retirement that shows how you're going to look at retirement age in an effort to make you save more into your pension.

I really hope I don't look like this at 67.

But I get the general principle. Feel like eating the entire cake? Want to stay up to 5am because Bryan's still awake and you have Fear Of Missing Out? Might as well finish the bottle? 

Think about what your future self would say, and listen to them/you.

Tomorrow morning you'll feel okay, and you can say "thanks, me from the past!"

 

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