Like your future self

Here’s an interesting psychological concept that I wished I knew about long ago. Your Future Self. Right now you’re living in your present self. Your present self is the product of everything that has happened to you—everything that has happened to your past self. You can’t do anything about past you, who has created present you. Sometimes it can seem that past you hated present you, and made choices just to hurt you. But present you can help out future you. The decisions you make today affect how future you will feel. Here’s one of the best articles I’ve read on this.

The key is to think about the future you about 10 years down the line.

I’m in my 50s, and I’ve already made most of the decisions in my life. I’m stuck with my present self, and to be honest, my past self didn’t make the best decisions all the time (what a jerk!). So, for me, I think about my future self. He’s in his early 60s, and retirement is coming fast. He’s been teaching for over 20 years, longer than he was a computer programmer. His son is out of college. He’s (hopefully) still very happily married. But it would be nice if he wasn’t still overweight. He should have more friends. Fortunately, past self has saved for the future, so future self has some money saved; but it would be good if past self liked future self more, then future self would have even more saved away, and present self would probably already be in better shape.

What can you, as a kid in school, do to help your future self?

Well, it’s about paying attention to what will be useful later on. Studying, paying attention, eating well, getting enough exercise. While joking around in class is fun (good for present self), you’re not paying attention and are hurting your future self.

But that’s boring! I want to have fun!

All things in moderation, padawan. You don’t have to be solely paying attention and taking notes. While that would help your future self the most academically, there’s more to life than just studying. Sure, you need to improve your academics. But school is also about having a social life, and having fun. But having fun and being social shouldn’t be done so much that you hurt your academics. There are lots of kids who are paying attention and doing their homework, and still have friends and have fun. These are the most well rounded kids, and some of the most fun to be around.

Your choices today determine what options your future self will have. Love yourself, love your future self. Make choices that will help you down the road.

The three main principles from the article:

  1. If something you do today doesn’t have a long-term benefit, then it’s probably not worthwhile to do it.
  2. Doing something with an eye toward the long term does not mean being miserable today.
  3. Constantly evaluate your choices and don’t be afraid to criticize yourself as long as it points you toward improvement.

The goal is to envision what exactly will happen to you if you continue with your current choices and routines.

This may mean that you end up being harsh about your past self. Don’t think of him as you—think of him as someone else who’s made decisions that have affected now you. What do you wish he had done instead? What do you want your future self to be like? Make choices that will lead to that.

Give these other selves names

While this next bit might sound silly, bear with me. My name is Chris. ‘B’ comes before ‘C’, so I’ll call past self Ben, and future self will be Dave. Ben has made a lot of choices that have affected me, made me who I am. Not all of those choices were good ones, and if I could sit down with Ben and talk it over, I’d try to convince him to make some changes for his own (my own) good. I want Dave to be a better version of me, so I imagine Dave as having cool hobbies. He’s done cool things and traveled more. Dave’s a pretty great guy! I’d like to be more like him. So I’ll make choices that will make me more like him. Hmm. Maybe I should read that article linked above again…