Be Good to Future You

By Audra Casino

mysterious envelope with wax seal

So, I was surfing the internet the other day, looking at cat videos, because I do that sometimes, and I found a story about a guy who was really, really hard up for money.

(If you prefer audio, you can listen to this episode on the Smarter Artist Podcast)

He was going to have to sell his laptop and so he was going through all of his files and pulling out the important ones, saving the ones that he would need, doing everything he could to keep his data and then he was going to wipe the computer.

Well, he found this random old file on his computer with just a weird file name. So, he opened it up and in that file he found a message that he had left for himself some time far in the past.

The message said “Hey, I tucked $50 in a book”, this certain book the he’d probably never read. And so the guy was excited, right, let’s call him Steve.

Steve was excited, because he was a little bit closer to not having to sell his laptop.

So, Steve went and found that book. He opened it up and there was an envelope inside.

So, what was in the envelope? I’ll get to that, but it raises a question every one of us needs to consider.

Are you being good to future you? Or more specifically, are you being good to the person you’ll be in a year?

Now, here’s the interesting thing. According to a Princeton study, we tend to sign our future self up for things that we really don’t want to do. And we do it because we think of our future selves as separate from our current selves.

There was another study on brainwaves that showed the same parts of our brains lit up when we thought about celebrities as when we thought about our future selves.

There’s a little bit of sense in that because we haven’t actually met our future selves, just like we’ve never met those celebrities.

So, it’s a lot easier to assign tasks to someone else, isn’t it?

But the truth of it is, when you procrastinate you’re really only screwing yourself, even if it feels like you aren’t.

man with hilly path aheadNow in addition to the work you’ve put off, you’ll also have everything you would normally do, and the random things come up, as they inevitably do, and you end up putting off more and more and more, and it becomes an endless cycle.

A vicious endless cycle.

So, it’s not just procrastination. Screwing your future self also happens with good intentions. You know what they say about the pathway to hell.

You want to achieve more, so you slap far more than you can accomplish on future you’s plate.

So, let’s talk about how to be good to future you.

Since you already view your future self as someone separate, you need to hack your brain and change the way you think about who that person is.

So, future you isn’t going to have anymore hours in the day. Like there’s not going to be any more days in the week, because if there were that would mean Earth stopped doing what it was supposed to do and we all died.

You’re going to be just as busy, and probably busier than you are now. It’s a lie that we tell ourselves, that things are going to calm down.

I told myself that lie for a long time and things never, never calmed down.

You won’t develop super human powers that will allow you to work at triple speed. Like you’re not going to grow a second brain, or another set of arms.

And you probably are not going to enjoy a task tomorrow that you hate today. And you’ll be just as likely to put it off again, unless you stop and break the cycle today, right now.

Are you being a dick to the future you? Stop it. Be nicer to yourself! Click To Tweet

So, with that framework in place, you need to think about future you and give them a face, a personality and feelings.

Think of your future you as your long-distance BFF. So, she likes the things you like. She wants the same things you want, and the two of you have conspired together to do something that will change both of your lives.

Now, you care about this person, so as you partner with her to do this amazing thing, you’ve got to work together.

And her hands are full, so what kind of friend would dump their workload on her as well?

The crappy kind.

So, take the future part out of the equation. Picture the two of you working side by side at the same time.

Everything you do enables her to do her part, and in fact, she’s waiting on you to meet her deadlines.

And finally, know that every reward she reaps from your work, you will enjoy too. You’ll be counting on her to put the finishing touches on everything.

So whatever you can take off her plate now brings you one step closer to the goal and ensures that she is able to do her part as perfectly as possible.

I get that’s kind of out there, but think about it.

man looking into envelopeWhat happens when you give future you a face and feelings? What happens when you think of that person as your partner instead of your mule?

Let’s go back to Steve, the guy with the envelope.

What was in it? Another letter.

And this one said “Ha, ha, ha, ha, made you look.”

Needless to say, Steve was not very good to his future self and he had to sell his laptop.

But what would you have found in that envelope? So, before you make any decision in your life, just ask yourself am I being good to future me?

If you want to see the article cited, read here.


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