Boost Your Self-con­ti­nu­ity

Men's Health (Australia) - - Advantage+ -

Al­though self-con­ti­nu­ity tends to in­crease steadily and moder­ately with age, ac­cord­ing to Rutt, that doesn’t mean you have to wait un­til you’re 90 to con­nect with the Fu­ture You. Here are five easy ways to get closer now


“This forces you to re­ally con­sider him in a thought­ful, di­rected way,” says Her­sh­field. He coau­thored a re­cent study find­ing that univer­sity stu­dents who wrote a 200- to 300-word let­ter to their selves 20 years in the fu­ture were more likely to do stuc­tured ex­er­cise in the next ten days than those who wrote let­ters to their selves just three months for­ward. Your sim­ple di­rec­tions: “Think about who you will be 20 years from now, and write about the per­son you are now, which top­ics are im­por­tant and dear to you and how you see your life.”

While the study tracked only ex­er­cise, it’s likely a fair bet that the stu­dents also ate more health­fully and lived more fru­gally dur­ing the mon­i­tored time. Fo­cus­ing on your fu­ture can trig­ger a host of small be­hav­iour changes that can af­fect you pos­i­tively over time.


Snap a photo of your­self and use an app (e.g. Ag­ing booth) to dig­i­tally age your face sig­nif­i­cantly. Print the photo and stare at the Fu­ture You when­ever you’re mak­ing a life de­ci­sion or han­dling your fi­nances (in­clud­ing pay­ing monthly bills, mak­ing changes to your re­tire­ment plan or bud­get­ing how much to spend on craft beer. Her­sh­field’s re­search shows that peo­ple choose to save a third more for re­tire­ment when re­gard­ing dig­i­tally aged pho­tos of their fu­ture selves. It makes sense; try to look him in the eye and tell him he’s eat­ing cat food be­cause you al­ways need the new­est iphone. Just don’t leave the photo out per­pet­u­ally, says Her­sh­field, or it could lose its im­pact.


In­stead of telling the Fu­ture You, “I want you to have saved $100,000 in 10 years,” use wider-range tar­gets such as $80,000$110,000. By do­ing so, you’ll be less likely to quit. “The lower end of the goal makes it a bit more fea­si­ble to reach, so you stay in­volved,” ex­plains Her­sh­field. “But once you reach that lower goal, it’s eas­ier to re­main mo­ti­vated be­cause you can reach for the higher end.”


Gabriele Oet­tin­gen, a pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy at New York Univer­sity, cre­ated this well-re­searched tech­nique. It adds a crit­i­cal piece (your main ob­sta­cle) to the old-school im­agery ex­er­cise in which you vi­su­alise your­self achiev­ing a goal. Here’s how it works. Sit in a quiet place for about five min­utes and mull on these four fun­da­men­tal ques­tions:

1. What’s your most im­por­tant wish?

2. What would be the best out­come of ful­fill­ing it?

3. What in­ner ob­sta­cle is hold­ing you back?

4. What’s one ac­tion or thought that will help you over­come it?

Then im­ple­ment the plan. (Go to woop­ for the full ques­tions and au­dio that’ll guide you through the tech­nique.)


You’re not limited to en­vi­sion­ing an imag­i­nary Fu­ture You; seek out a real-life proxy. For ex­am­ple, if you want a glimpse of likely ca­reer paths, find peo­ple on Linkedin who had your cur­rent job (or its near­est equiv­a­lent) 10 years ago. Then see where are they now and how they got there. They’re not you, but sim­i­lar guys can show tra­jec­to­ries you can as­pire to. If you can’t find any such peo­ple, let’s hope they’re not in wit­ness pro­tec­tion.

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