Why is it easy to get psyched-up for starting a diet tomorrow but not right now? Why does an exercise regiment seem so easy to imagine, but hard to follow? We can picture ourselves running miles, exercising every other day, and feeling great, but when it’s time to go to the gym, a myriad of excuses tell us we should put it off. After all, is this one workout really going to make a difference?
When we project ourselves into the future we use the rational long-term planning parts of our brains. The result our projected future-self will see the merits of our long-term goals, and resist the short-term temptations of the moment. It turns out that our future-self acts pretty much the same way our now-self does. Mostly because when our future-self is actually having to decide on the right course of action, he’ll be our now-self, feeling all the same things we feel right now. The result is that if it doesn’t seem worth doing now, it may never seem worth doing.
How can we change this? First, we have to recognize the fallacy that our future-self will be more rational than our now-self. Our future self is not going to be some Übermensch whose willpower is formidable. Knowing this provides ammunition against the excuse that we’ll do better in the future. Instead we should fight against the fear and excuses that plague our emotions now and just do it (or stop doing it, as the case may be). If we don’t decide to do something now, how could we possibly expect our future self to do it. Second, we can empathize with our future-self and set the stage so he is more motivated to make the right course of action. For example, making an appointment to workout with someone else tomorrow.
Popping the delusion of our incredible future-self can help us take action today. What are we waiting for?
Well, this is probably the most important question to resolve if we want to do anything we don’t already do, but keep wanting to do. Willpower, as it turns out, is usually not enough, and in most cases, very limited. Motivation is not the end all be all, either. I’m thinking a lot about the idea of “tiny habits” because I still think most answers are still found in small steps.
Nice post. Now, where can I get those chocolate chip cookies?
Great post Matt! Nice use of the word Ubermensch.