How Are You Treating Your Future Self?
Psychological Distance, Seeing Clearly, and Being a Friend to Yourself
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How connected do you feel to your future self?
I am referring to the “You” that will exist 10, 20, or 30 years from now — fate permitting. In a recent conversation on In Search of Wisdom, my guest Dr. Dean Rickles (author of Life is Short), explained that we are nicer or nastier to our future selves depending on the degree of connectedness we feel toward them.
According to Dr. Rickles,
Distance apparently matters in practice, whether or not it is rational. Temporal distance is no different. We are indeed not suited to long perspectives. We have a nearness bias with respect to time. We are, in general, better to our present-selves, or five-seconds-into-the-future selves, than we are to our five-years-into-the-future selves.
It is challenging to connect (and visualize) the future self. If we actually saw how eating healthily would create a slimmer, happier, more active future you, explains Dr. Rickles, then we would be far more likely to eat healthily right now. The postponement of the outcome is the problem — the delay in gratification.
Thought Experiment — Consider reflecting on the questions below:
Do you tend to neglect what is best for “You” in the future?
How often do you postpone (or cancel) activities good for the future you?
On the Shortness of Life
Seneca called procrastination the “thief of time.” In one of his most well-known letters, On the Shortness of Life, Seneca asked, “What could be more foolish than the attitude of those who boast of their foresight? They’re burdened and busy in an effort to live better; they adorn life by paying out life.”
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