Future Me has One Problem

Jul 09, 2021


Unravel the tension between our current habits and our future interests by future proofing, addressing rebellion, and leveraging commitment.

Future Me is successful, inspiring, and joyful! Unfortunately, Future Me has one BIG problem-- Present Me! Behavioral scientist Katy Milkman explains the conflict between Future Me and Present Me in the Hidden Brain podcast, called You, But Better.  Future Me wants a big savings account and an active lifestyle for a better tomorrow. Present Me wants to splurge on vacations and skip the gym for a better right now! Guess what? Present Me also has a problem: Present Bias. Present Bias addresses the basic instinct to fulfill a desire with a smaller, yet immediate reward over a larger, more distant reward. 

Jerry Seinfeld’s comedy routine about Nighttime Guy, Morning Guy, and Daytime Guy demonstrates this friction perfectly. Nighttime Guy stays up late making it hard for Morning Guy to get up early. Morning Guy has no retaliation but to oversleep so many times that Daytime Guy loses his job, preventing Nighttime Guy from having enough money to stay out late.

Here are a few of Milkman’s tips for resolving Future Me’s problem:

  1. Get Future Proof: We future proof by setting ourselves up for success and forcing the best default. It’s better to circumvent laziness and decision fatigue by creating an easy, obvious path, like, listing tomorrow’s first tasks before leaving for the day.
  2. Address Rebellion: Don’t ignore the rebelliousness concealed in all of us. When we start negotiating with ourselves, it’s a sure sign of protest. When we feel deserving, like leaving work a bit too early, we are more inclined to think like Present Me.
  3. Create Accountability: Commitment devices leverage tools and systems to assure you hold firm to your goals. StikK, for example, offers an online structure for verifying your activity reports and tracking (what are usually monetary) penalties for breaking a pledge.

StikK claims “a referee [or accountability partner] increases your chances of success by up to 2x” and “financial stakes increase your chances of success by up to 3x.”

Katy Milkman suggests it’s normal to have tension between short-term indulgence and long-term investment. She encourages us to think strategically in order to become more successful. How can you Future Proof your most impactful habits? How will you rein in your rebellious side? What is your best method of accountability? Your Future Me is really hoping your Present Me cuts out the shortsighted sabotage. …And, Morning Guy would appreciate Nighttime Guy going to bed on time!

Sources: 1 Hidden Brain: You, But Better (Podcast: 54m 05s); 2 Jerry Seinfeld: Nighttime Guy (YouTube: 35s); 3 Hidden Brain: You, But Better (Podcast: 54m 05s); 4, 5 StikK.com: Know Yourself; How to Change, by Katy Milkman.

by Michelle Sugerman • Leading Synergies, LLC • © All Rights Reserved

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