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Notes & Thoughts - Issue #4 - Your Future Self

October 29 · Issue #4 · View online
Notes & Thoughts
Welcome to the fourth issue of the weekly Notes & Thoughts newsletter from The Red Notebook!
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Thank you, and enjoy the newsletter!
Solomon King Benge

Your Procrastination Is Killing Your Future Self
I’m a little obsessed with studying procrastination, mostly because I struggle with it, and I’m always exploring ways to be more efficient in my work.
The truth is, we all prioritize doing exciting and immediately rewarding activities over those which are more important (and often, more boring). It’s inherently wired into our DNA to crave short-term pleasure over long-term benefit. You may be familiar with the concept of delayed gratification and the Marshmallow Experiment, or the thinking behind Skinner Boxes and how rewarding certain behavior reinforces more of the same behavior.
A few years ago, I stumbled on an interesting perspective that helped create a pretty striking visual that shifted my mindset into getting better at getting things done.
In its simplest form, our present self makes poor decisions now because we have no identity, connection or empathy for our future self.
The Philosophy of Two Selves
Procrastination (or any vice that prevents success, affects health, etc.) can be considered as self-defeating behavior. Literally, your Present Self is engaging in behavior that is defeating your Future Self.
Research from Hal Hershfield, an assistant professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business showed that most people, when thinking about their Future Self, have the same brain patterns/activity as when they think about a stranger. This means their current self has no emotional or mental connection to their Future Self.
“It’s kind of a weird notion,” says Hal Hershfield. “On a psychological and emotional level we really consider that future self as if it’s another person.”
Their future self “felt” like somebody else. In fact, their neural activity when they described themselves in a decade was similar to that when they described Matt Damon or Natalie Portman. And subjects whose brain activity changed the most when they spoke about their future selves were the least likely to favor large long-term financial gains over small immediate ones.
I believe that the gap between intention and action is an empathy gap between Present Self and Future Self. Self-continuity or empathy towards Future Self can be a first step in helping us avoid making bad choices in the present that undermine the success and well being of our Future Self.
Pulling away from a task that’s necessary right now puts unnecessary stress on your Future Self. You have to realize that the person who has to suffer from the consequences of your current choices is your Future Self. (It seems rather obvious, no?)
But more importantly, the positive choices you make today will help Future Self work better, live healthier and generally have a more positive life, that you will be grateful for when that time comes.
Reflect on this: A Future Self Exercise
This is an exercise I love sharing with my mentees (and people who ask me for advice), I hope you’ll find it beneficial, too.
Instead of thinking of future you as some abstract concept, take a few minutes to visualize your Future Self, very clearly. Project yourself 1, 2, 5 or 10 years from now and think about who you will be: how you’ll look, live and act based on the choices you make today, right now.
Now spend a few minutes and write it down. Describe your life in detail, write it in the present tense. “It’s 2030, I just finished building our family house in (xxxx). My family is moving in tomorrow, and the kids absolutely love the front porch with the rose garden.”
You can be as detailed as you want, and you can focus on a specific area of your life, career or business. The goal, however, is to have very specific things you’d like to achieve by a certain time because you can then use that to create a plan for achieving it by working backwards.
For example, you want to own a home in five years, or save $20,000, achieve a certain weight target, or maybe earn a certain amount of annual income from your business. What steps need to happen each year, for you to achieve that 10-year goal? And in each year, what needs to happen each month to achieve that annual goal, etc.
It’s a step that goes beyond simply stating goals because it allows you to see yourself and project the results of today’s work and choices into an actual person, lifestyle, or event 6 months or 10 years from now.
And then - now - your procrastination hack is, for example, to remind yourself how developing a daily exercise routine and good eating habits today will lead to that healthy lifestyle and body you want two years from now. Resolve that sending those twenty proposals or finishing that project right now will lead to a better outcome next year.
And trust me, your Future Self will be eternally grateful.
(There’s actually a site (Future Me) that lets you write a letter to your future self that then gets emails to you on a future date).
Read This: The Psychology of Procrastination
As I mentioned, I love researching on procrastination - which in a cruel twist of meta irony, becomes an exercise in procrastination itself. Check out these articles for a deeper dive.
Also, one of our Daily Snippets this week touched on human behavioral psychology, specifically the Skinner Box.
Listen to This: A Discussion on Future Self
I stumbled upon this entire concept of Present Self vs Future Self from the iProcrastinate podcast, and this newsletter picks heavily from the concepts discussed therein. Also, I’m really glad the site is still online, because I found this almost six years ago!
“Procrastinating today means more work later. Ah, but that’s future self’s problem, right? Oops, future self is still me, and that’s one reason why we consider procrastination a self-defeating strategy. In this episode, I interview Eve-Marie Blouin-Hudon about her research relating present self to future self, the notion of self-continuity and how imaging future self might help us procrastinate less.”
Connect and Share with us!
We are building a community of African entrepreneurs and business professionals, and we leverage social media heavily, so please take a minute to connect with us and follow us on the following platforms: Twitter - Facebook - Instagram - YouTube - LinkedIn and Telegram.
And lastly, communities are not built in isolation. If you believe there’s someone who could greatly benefit from this, invite them to subscribe and join the Red Notebook!
Thank you, and see you next week!
Solomon King Benge
Founder - Fundi Bots and Curator - The Red Notebook.
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