The Future of You

When people think of themselves in the future, it feels to them like they are seeing a different person entirely.

FACT: The way you think about yourself ten years from right now - is the same way you see a stranger passing you on the street today.

Scientists have proven that the way that you think of yourself in the future is surprisingly disconnected and often harmful.

Hey stranger?

“When people think of themselves in the future, it feels to them like they are seeing a different person entirely … like a stranger on the street,” said Hal Hershfield, a social psychologist at UCLA Anderson who is exploring how human behaviour can be modified by bringing people closer to their future selves.'

'He’s found that the emotional disconnect we have with the person we will become in 20 to 40 years could explain, for example, why many people don’t save enough for retirement; why they continue to indulge in unhealthy behaviours, accepting the risk of incurring terrible diseases in the future; and why they make bad ethical decisions despite knowing that they might suffer consequences down the road.' - via

Perhaps this is some kind of weird hangover from our rapid evolutionary progression thanks to remarkable advances in medical science?

If we were still living a hunter gatherer existence and just trying to stay alive for today, so that we could procreate and keep the species going; then having a mental bias towards survival in the present, as opposed to worrying too much about the future, makes perfect sense.

But on the index of longevity - modern, 21st-century humans are now successfully outliving our hunter gatherer ancestors by many, many decades - and a mindset that views our 'future selves' with concern, rather than apathetic neglect, is now preferable.

This is why thinking about the future is so difficult.

It's exactly why starting a project now, that will only bear fruit long into the future, falls so far down on our list of urgent priorities to do today.

Our brains are literally wired to discourage us from doing it, but ironically the future is where we are going to be spending the rest of our lives.

It's like we are pre-programmed to make our life in the future as challenging as possible by purposefully alienating any kind of personal connection to it in the present.

Humans are naturally inclined to self sabotage our ageing self.

Now that you are aware of this flaw in the human brain wiring - here's how you can trick yourself into fixing it.

Write a letter from your future self (you are sitting in the year 2030) back to your present self in 2021.

In your future self letter, vividly describe all of the things that you are grateful to your '2021 self' for.

What investment decisions are you grateful for?

What health decisions are you grateful for?

What life choices are you grateful for?

Don't be the victim of your involuntary evolutionary shortcomings.

You will most probably live for many, many years to come, but the only time you have to influence the quality of life you have in the future is right now. Miss it today and it's gone forever.

The stranger within: Connecting with our future selves
UCLA social psychologist studies the emotional disconnect between our present and future selves