Boost Your Self-continuity
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
1 WRITE FUTURE YOU A LETTER
“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.
2 PUT EYEBALLS ON HIM
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.
3 SET RANGE GOALS
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.”
4 USE MENTAL CONTRASTING
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 woopmylife.org for the full questions and audio that’ll guide you through the technique.)
5 TAP A SURROGATE
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.