I often hear people attempting to reframe their youth with the wisdom that comes with a bit of age and maturity by posing the question:
'What advice would you give your younger self?'
When thinking about that question, one is more than likely to offer some standard suggestions to yourself like; 'don't take yourself so seriously', 'enjoy being young and carefree', 'take the chances that are offered to you' etc etc.
But I have always found this exercise in reflection bloody frustrating and pointless.
No matter how much knowledge and forewarning I give my younger self - there really is nothing 'younger me' can do about it. It's a pointless exercise.
It feels a bit like giving myself a lecture for being myself and getting to where I am right now.
Night Guy vs Morning Guy
25 years ago, Jerry Seinfeld had a funny story about Night Guy & Morning Guy.
Night guy stays up all night watching TV, instead of doing the more reasonable thing of going to bed at a decent hour. Night Guy, in the moment of being Night Guy, just reckons that this is a problem Morning Guy will have to deal with in the future. Who cares about Morning Guy?
Night Guy clearly doesn't care about the problems or Morning Guy - what he wants now he gets. Morning Guy on the other hand is the poor sucker that needs to deal with the tiredness and crankiness the lack of sleep will inevitable create.
Our brains are wired to chase the satisfaction of the present often to the detriment of our position in the future, a bit like Seinfeld's Night Guy and Morning Guy.
Scientists have shown that the mental shadow that we cast into the future falls extremely close to us - in our daily lives we struggle to turn on a longer-term perspective into the future, which can be severely detrimental to our strategic long-term decision-making.
Thoughts from 80-year old you
In a simple exercise of purposefully having more of a futures consciousness you can actively seek advice from your 80-year old self.
Or if you are Jerry Seinfeld you can listen more carefully to Morning Guy.
When faced with a decision - think about how your choice unfolds into the future.
Will the choice have a positive outcome in 20, 30, 40 years from now? What does your 80-year old self think about what you are about to choose now? What does 'older you' advise?
If we all had to listen to our 80-year old selves more often, nobody would ever buy a BMW on higher purchase or through a lease plan, because you'll be very aware that this decision will put you in a far worse financial position in the future than to rather buy a cheaper, more sensible car.
We would have started to investment money in a global ETF way back in our twenties and probably would have been a bit more strategic with our career path.
The choices we make today affect our lives far into the future, so it's useful just to check-in to that future to see how it may play out for us.