Three Key Principles of Future Self Thinking

One of the most powerful concepts that I have come across in my years of studying and thinking about personal finance is the concept of the “me of the future.” “I am from the future” is pretty much exactly what you think it is: it is you at some point in the future. It is not an optimistic version of your future or a pessimistic version of where you are headed, but instead, it is as realistic as possible.

This post was originally published on The Simple Dollar .

A true view of yourself in the future

I’m in my late thirties right now. I have a wife and three school-age children. We are in fairly good financial condition, but we could have been better. I’m a little overweight. I have a flexible job that I love, but it probably won’t last forever.

What will I look like in the future?

In 10 years I will have only one child at home, and he is preparing to leave the nest next year. I guess I’ll still be married since our marriage seems to be pretty good.

However, if I do not change some things, I will most likely still be overweight, and by then it will have some health implications. If I keep my current pace, I’ll be in better financial condition than I am now, but I still won’t be where I want to. I will still have a limited social circle and a rather limited position in my community.

Moreover, I will be 10 years older. I have 10 years less left to live. I will have 10 years less to build up my finances and relationships. I won’t have as much energy or vigor as I have now.

Ideally, I will still be healthy, but this is not a guarantee. Ideally, I’ll still have a good job, but that’s not a guarantee either.

One might look at this vision of the future as pessimistic, but the truth is that it is realistic. If I continue to do something day after day, as I do, it will be my life in 10 years.

The connection between today and my future self

The choices I make today shape my life in the future.

My financial choices today determine the financial opportunities that I will have in the future. If I’m stupidly spending money right now, it might be fun at the moment, but I’ll quickly forget about it. On the other hand, if I am selective about the irrelevant things that I spend my money on right now, I will have a life in the future in which there will be many options.

My timing today determines the life options that I will have in the future. If I spend a lot of time with my kids, we will have strong relationships that will move forward. If I don’t spend a lot of time with them and instead do other things, like work or hobbies, or even just chatting on my cell phone, my relationship with them will be weaker in adolescence and adulthood.

My professional choice today determines the professional opportunities that I will have in the future. If I choose to spend time instead of doing productive things, or even if I do nothing but complete my work tasks and never go beyond those immediate tasks, I will never get the skills and reputation that I need to advance my career. a good place. I will always be stuck where I am now.

My choices in society and in society today help define my social and societal opportunities tomorrow. If I want to build a stronger social network, I can’t afford to stand in a corner at social gatherings (or worse, avoid them entirely). I need to communicate and build relationships. Friends don’t fall from the sky. If I want to be the mainstay of the community, I don’t need to dissuade myself from attending community events, and I don’t need to avoid volunteering.

My health choices today will help determine my overall health and energy tomorrow. What I put in my mouth today is of course the biggest factor, but also my level of exercise and movement. The better I eat today and the more I exercise, the healthier I will be and the better I will look in the future.

I could go on and on like this, but these examples are all based on a few key principles.

Key principles of thinking “I am the future”

If what you are doing today does not bring long-term benefits, then it probably should not be done. If you can’t easily articulate how this action will benefit you in the future – and by future I mean the months and years in the future – then this action is probably not worth taking.

When I sit down to eat, my short-term brain tells me to eat as much of the most delicious as possible, but from a long-term perspective, this is a terrible thing to do. This approach is not a good choice in terms of long-term benefits; in fact, it is a long-term disaster . Better to eat a variety of foods, but only eat until I stop starving, and then stop. I can taste some of these delicious dishes, but there is no reason to eat too many of them. In any case, most of the pleasure comes from the first few bites, and when the hunger is gone, there is no reason not to sit down for a fork.

When I walk into a bookstore, my short-term brain tells me to buy some books – after all, I’m an avid reader, and books are wonderful things! However, from a long-term perspective, this is not a good choice. Although I have long-term access to this book, I spend money on it, and I will also have to think about how to store it. Thus, it makes much more sense to buy only those books that I re-read many times or that I regularly refer to. How do I know if I will read a book many times or will refer to it regularly? I check this in the library first. That way, I don’t have to spend money on a book that isn’t necessarily close to my heart.

When I think about how to spend an evening, my short-term brain tells me to get out of the house and surf the web or go to social media. In the long run, however, it will do little to no benefit. It’s much better for me to spend this time with my wife and kids to build family relationships, or spend it at a social event where I can build social relationships and position in society, or spend it in an online class where I could learn something. , or spend it on reading an interesting book to strain my mind, or spend it on exercise and improve my long-term health and appearance, or spend it on household chores that will save me time later when I don’t have an evening to spare. …

The second principle is just as simple: doing something with a long-term perspective does not mean being unhappy today. However, this means that you might have to dig a little deeper and try something differently.

For example, changing your spending choices may seem frustrating at first, but the key is to just try a lot of different strategies to spend less money and see what actually works for you. Is store-bought hand soap right for you? Do you even notice the difference? How about making cold coffee in the fridge and then heating it up in the morning instead of stopping at the coffee shop? You can do a lot of little things. Some will work and some will not. However, just using some of them has pleasant long-term benefits , because if you find a more economical way to do something, or find that you don’t really get much benefit from an expensive way of doing something, you win. in terms of a long-term financial race.

Some may find it intolerable to change what you eat, but the true key to sustainably improving your diet is to try many different foods that are good for you and see what you really like and what you don’t. still enjoy many of the products you currently enjoy. First of all, this means slowing down and paying attention to your body, and putting the fork down when your body no longer signals, “I AM HUNGRY !!”

Some may find it unbearable to change how you use your free time, but again, the key is to find what you like and keep you satisfied, whether it is satisfaction in the moment or a true sense of what you are building. something great for the future. If you are doing something in your free time and you are not satisfied … what is the value? Find something that gives you a sense of fulfillment and makes you feel like you are creating something more than the present moment, especially when you can find joy in that moment as well. You can almost never go wrong.

The third principle is also invaluable: constantly evaluate your choices and don’t be afraid to criticize yourself if it indicates improvement. Absolutely no one on earth is perfect in this way of thinking. We are all programmed to be short-term creatures, dating back to the days of our savannah, when we were under constant threat of attack by animals and rivals, as well as the threat of starvation. We thought about the short term, because we had to do it , and those who were determined to do it survived.

We don’t need to think in such short-term ways today (in fact, we probably shouldn’t), but we stick with them by default anyway, because that’s how we are . Sometimes we just make mistakes and go the short-term route.

The difference between success and failure is not that you always put your future first, but that you back down and think about your actions, ask why you do them, and try to come up with ways to make them better.

There are several approaches that are suitable for this.

One great strategy is to think about the day to day when you commute to work or do other activities that may not require all of your concentration. Just go over what you have been doing all the time or have done recently and assess their impact on your future. If you don’t like this influence, or don’t see any positive impact, ask yourself if there is a better way to use your time, energy, concentration, or money.

Another great strategy is to keep a journal. Just set aside a few minutes each day to truly get through your day, think about your best actions as well as your worst mistakes, and then take a moment to appreciate them. How can you turn this “best move” into a pattern? How can you fix your “worst mistake” so that you don’t repeat it? Writing things down on paper is a great way to wake up your thoughts.

I think any technique that can help improve your focus is good. Cell phones are a disruptor of constant attention, which is why I often turn off my cell phone completely and do not carry it with me all the time. When I work on a task on the computer, I turn off as many distractions as possible. I also set aside time each day for mindfulness meditation, which I consider to be “bicep curls” for my ability to focus on the moment and the task at hand.

Define your “future self”

So what do you look like in the future?

In fact, this is a difficult task, because many people are naturally optimistic about the future. People tend to think that, overall, everything will be fine. They tend to think that the good things in their lives will continue and that at least some of the bad things will get better.

A realistic view of your future can be painful, and people usually don’t like it. Nobody wants to see a not very bright future for themselves.

The purpose of this is not to imagine an apocalyptic scenario. The goal is to imagine exactly what will happen to you if you continue to stick to your current habits and routines.

Is your net worth growing from year to year? How much has it increased or decreased in the past year? If you predict this change over 10 years, what would it look like? Don’t try to make “exceptions” for something “special” this year, because in most years there will be something “special”. This type of exercise is more reflective of your day-to-day money choices.

How are you doing in your career? Are you actively promoting projects? Are you developing skills that will help you get a promotion or pay rise? Or do you just hold in place because you can? Is there a risk that your work will be automated in the next 10 or 20 years? What are you doing with it? If you don’t change what you do in terms of building a career, where are you likely to be in 10 years?

How are things going in your main relationship? Do you have a basic set of friends that you are happy with? If not, what are you doing to find these friends? If you don’t do much, you are not going to create a social circle for yourself. Do you have a strong marriage? What do you do every day to stay strong? Do you have children? How is your relationship with them? What do you do every day (or a little less often if they are older) to maintain this relationship?

How is your health? Are you gaining weight? Stable? Are you of normal weight? Are you moving enough? Remember that over the next 10 years, almost all of your health factors are going to move in a slightly bad direction, and if you don’t make positive health choices to counteract, you will slowly decline.

Likewise, you can evaluate your spiritual life, your mental health, and all other key areas of your life. If the situation in these areas remains stable, are you satisfied with the stability? Will your life be in good shape 10 years from now if you just stand firm in this area?

Almost always, when you look realistically at your future, you will find that you do not like some aspects of this picture. Maybe you are unhappy with your health, career, or relationships. Maybe there are many things that don’t suit you.

This is good. You must be dissatisfied with something. This means that you want a better life for yourself, and this is the surest way to start improving.

Improving yourself in the future

So how exactly do you do this? How can you take this realistic view of your future and use it to create something better?

It’s simple. You simply take the areas that worry you the most about your future and focus on improving them, making long-term choices in your daily life consistently in those areas, as described earlier.

If you are concerned about your future health, start making long-term health choices every day. Choose the best diet. Do some more exercise. You don’t need to make drastic changes. Just make some changes that will persist. Just start thinking about yourself in the future when you are sedentary or when you are about to put food on your plate at dinner. Remember that if you set yourself the pace to lose about a pound a month, which literally means you just eat 100 fewer calories a day, you will lose significant weight over the next 10 years, slowly but surely. This is not a radical change at all.

If you are concerned about the finances of your future self, start making long-term spending choices each day. Stop wasting money on the frivolous elements of your spending. Find a reasonable substitute for your usual expenses. Buy durable goods in bulk. Whenever you are about to spend money, pay attention to the long term.

If you’re worried about your long-term career, start making choices at work with a long-term perspective rather than just getting through the day. See what you can improve in terms of productivity. Anytime you find yourself sitting around or doing nothing, see if there is a better way to use that time to improve your long-term job prospects. Consider if education can help you here, and then take on the challenge of getting that education.

Whichever area it is – financial, professional, social, physical, mental, spiritual, family – look at the choices you make today and then ask yourself what is the best long-term version of that choice.

What you will find is that once you start doing this, it will no longer feel “miserable.” You begin to see how your life will be better because of these choices, plus you begin to realize that you also have little to lose in the short term.

Final thoughts

The last point with which I want to remind you is this: the ideal is the enemy of the good. The purpose of thinking “I of the future” is not to switch to some kind of perfect being, always oriented towards an optimal life. Not only will this never happen, it’s not particularly cool. Sometimes the short-term choice is indeed the best choice overall.

The idea here is simply to remember your future self. Think about him or her regularly. I think about my future several times a day. I want the life of this future self to be wonderful , and this motivates me to make the best choices in life. It motivates me to set ambitious goals, and it motivates me to stick to those goals or look for ways to make something like this work if the goal is difficult.

I don’t always make perfect long-term choices, but I don’t berate myself about it. Instead, I just think about the best options when I go home to drop the kids for soccer practice, or when I’m in the shower, or when I go to bed, or when I wait for the doctor’s office. … I spend some time in my diary every day, and then I usually think about my future. The goal is to make the best long-term choice gradually normal, the one I choose as the default because it seems like the best choice.

I’ll never be perfect, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to get better at it, and all I have to do is improve it a little bit to have a huge impact on the quality of life of my future self. This is a really great goal.

Stare at Your Future | Simple dollar

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