Your Future Self

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In Buddha’s Brain, Dr. Rick Hanson tells us:

It’s a general moral principle that the more power you have over someone, the greater your duty is to use that power benevolently. Well, who is the one person in the world you have the greatest power over? It’s your future self. You hold that life in your hands, and what it will be depends on how you care for it… Everyday, ordinary activities—as well as any personal growth or spiritual practices—contain dozens of opportunities to change your brain from the inside out. You really do have that power, which is a wonderful thing in a world full of forces beyond your control. A single raindrop doesn’t have much effect, but if you have enough raindrops and enough time, you can carve a Grand Canyon.”

In The Marshmallow Test, Dr. Walter Mischel tells us:

“Now imagine that you have agreed to let your brain activity be imaged while you are inside an fMRI machine. Your head is deep in the machine, and you are getting used to the confined space as the instructions come through the speaker: ‘Please think about yourself.’ When you do, a distinctive pattern of brain activity will become visible in the midfront area of your cerebral cortex, which we call the self pattern. Next, the instructions ask you to think about a stranger, and in the same area of your cerebral cortex, a distinctively different pattern becomes activated, the stranger pattern. Finally, you are asked to ‘please think about yourself ten years from now.’ When many people imagine their future self, they activate a pattern more similar to the STRANGER than like the pattern for the SELF… The same group of researchers also looked at financial decision making in adults (mean age of 54 years) living in the San Francisco Bay Area. The participants who perceived greater rather than less overlap between their present self and their future self not only had a stronger preference for delayed larger rewards rather than immediate smaller rewards, but also accumulated more real-world assets (net worth from all sources) over time.

Remember, we have the greatest power over our future self. We want to create a strong connection between our current and future self.

I will be kind to my future self when I go to bed on time tonight, when I don’t eat that ice cream, and when I invest 5% of my annual income.