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This week, I'd like to introduce you to your future self. Our
future selves have a lot to answer for. Quite often, we don't care enough about
our future selves to look after them properly. So, actually making a change,
creating a career you love for example, is harder because it only benefits the
future self and not our current self.
Quite often I find that people absolve themselves of responsibility
for their future selves or believe that "the universe" will make
things happen if they're meant to be. Hmmm.
How connected do you feel to your future self? According to
psychological theory (influenced by philosopher Derek Parfit), the closeness of
this connection can influence how motivated you are to make changes that will
benefit your future self. Research suggests that the more closely connected you
feel to your future self, the more likely you are to make patient and long-term
This explains a lot, doesn't it?
The issue is that, in our brains, we all think about our future
selves as a person who is as separate from our current selves as you are
separate to me. So, when we over-eat or under-save or damage the environment,
we are actually harming someone who is disconnected from us.
Added to this, we all feel a different level of connection to our
future selves. Some of us think of our future selves as a stranger and some of
us think of our future selves as a loved one - and, of course, there is every
degree of connection in between. This level of connection will make us behave
quite differently - would you make the same sacrifices for a complete stranger
as you would for your child / parent / partner?
If you have a high level of connection with your future self then
you are more likely to save for retirement, look after your health and delay
gratification. With a low level of connection, you are more likely to live in
the moment and worry about your long-term planning at a later date.
On a scale of 1 - 10, how connected do you feel to your future
self? Could it do with a nudge up the scale?
Making a connection
want to make positive changes to benefit your future self, then you have to
feel more connection with them. Psychologist and social marketing expert Hal
Hershfield and colleagues ran some studies to further our knowledge about this.
They saw evidence that people are more generous with their charitable donations
when they really get to see the people that will benefit. So, the more vivid
the imagery of the recipients of charitable giving, the more generous we are.
Hershfield et al experimented with virtual reality to give people
the same kind of experience with their future selves. Participants were allowed
to explore a virtual room where there was a mirror. Some participants could see
an avatar of their current selves in the mirror and some could see an avatar of
their "virtually aged" self. Participants who had seen their
"virtually aged" avatar, put twice as much into a hypothetical
savings account as those that had seen their current self avatar.
watch Hershfield's TEDx talk on YouTube here.
What you can do
Evidence suggests that there are a few ways that we can get closer to our future selves.
If you'd like to increase your own connection with your future self, perhaps
you'd like to try one of these:
I'll leave you with a final question:
"What will your life look like in 5/10/20 years when you are
fulfilling your best career dreams and aspirations?"
I'm happy to take your answers and play them back to you in the
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