Your Future Selves

I often think about self-development, chores, and saving money in terms of doing my “future self” a favor. My future self is me, after all. Procrastinating might feel right for my present self, but my future self will regret it; I will regret it.

This calculation has been working pretty well. In fact, the payoffs often outweigh the upfront costs by a huge margin. But why is this? Why is there often such a good return on investment when I do my future self a favor?

In the midst of doing a mundane chore – vacuuming my apartment – I had an epiphany that explained it all:

I am one. My future selves are many. 

I realized that by vacuuming my apartment today (a 15 minute chore), I would benefit from having a cleaner apartment for several days. This week’s future selves would be grateful that I had done this little chore.

When I do something that’s going to help me in the future, my present self pays a cost in whatever time and energy is associated with doing the work. But the cost is paid only once, and I may benefit from it many times – or even continuously – for days, months, or years. So when I do something that’s going to help me in the future, I’m not doing my future self a favor; I’m doing my future selves a favor. And they’ll all appreciate it.

Here are some examples, ranging from the mundane to the life-changing.

If I exercise this morning, I’ll enjoy a 12-hour mood boost.1

If I choose to declutter my desk today, it will take a few minutes of my time, and then I’ll get to enjoy the superior serenity and focus that a tidy desk provides, continuously, for a day or two.

If I devote 10 minutes to meditating this morning, I’ll probably have a slightly better day. If I devote 10 minutes to meditating every morning, I’ll have a significantly better life.

Self-Love

It’s not always wise to avoid discomfort. Often, it’s better for our future selves to face it head-on. “We have to learn to be kind to ourselves. In the long run, avoiding unpleasantness is a very unkind thing to do to yourself.”2

By choosing to become sober, I suffered through a very difficult month, followed by several months of moderate difficulty. But I’ve regained my personal freedom, massively increased my self-efficacy, and I’ll be healthier and happier for the rest of my life.

When I’m struggling to make the right choice, I find it helpful to think about my future selves. It is out of self-love that I choose to be kind to them. They are me, after all.

So remember: You are one. Your future selves are many. Do them favors. You won’t regret it.

 

Works Cited

1 Sibold, Jeremy S. and Kathleen M. Berg. “Mood Enhancement Persists for up to 12 Hours following Aerobic Exercise: A Pilot Study.” Sage Journals. Volume: 111 issue: 2, page(s): 333-342. October 1, 2010. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.2466/02.06.13.15.PMS.111.5.333-342?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori%3Arid%3Acrossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%3Dpubmed&.

2 Gunaratana, Bhante. Mindfulness in Plain English. Wisdom Publications, 2011. Pg. 92.

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2 thoughts on “Your Future Selves

  1. Dominik Fry says:

    I think that it is important to remember that the people who are really good at what they do, aren’t necessarily so because they are naturally good at it, but because they have taken the time to practice and hone their craft.

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