One of the reasons Americans are bad at making health choices or long-term financial planning is that we are disconnected from our future selves.
There have been a couple of studies in the financial realm where, if shown an age-progressed photo of themselves, people invest more in their 401K options than if they’re shown a current photo. No other change in variables.
There are some fascinating studies about language that feed into this as well. As it turns out, languages that don’t have a future tense (where present and future are the same verb conjugation), people are healthier and plan for the future better. English, of course, isn’t one of those languages, and so the present and the future are linguistically disconnected.
That means we need to work harder to help our future selves.
I have a habit — well, I fall in and out of it, so I’m not sure it’s really a habit — of talking to Past Heat and Future Heat.
For a while, I was prepping breakfast and lunch for the week on the weekend. It was a pain. But especially during weeks that were busier than usual, it was really nice not to be starting from scratch when throwing a lunch together. (And there was no day that ready-to-go breakfast was unappreciated.) Many Thursdays, I paused for a moment and thanked Sunday Heat for taking the time to make me lunch for today.
So many of us eat with abandon from time to time and then feel guilty. Either let go of the guilt or don’t do the eating. Have a chat with your future self. The one right after the meal. Or the one trying to button pants in a couple of days. Or the one that’s going to feel like crap and be out of commission for half a day. (Depends on the consequences of the binge, really.)
When you’re at a decision point, pause and talk to You in Two Hours, or You in A Week, or whichever You is going to be grateful that you paused and took the path of delayed gratification.
It doesn’t work all the time (at least for me), but it does work sometimes.
Appropriate for eating, drinking, exercise, sleep, financial decisions, parenting, and on and on and on…
Honestly, I think sometimes just the pause is sufficient, but the glance down the road? It helps.