“I suspect the truth is that we are waiting, all of us, against insurmountable odds, for something extraordinary to happen to us.”
Unless you have been living in a cave, chances are you’ve succumbed to this trap. This enticing promise to get your life together. To erase all your insecurities and flaws. To finally start life anew…you know what I’m trying to say.
New Year Resolutions.
Come on, you know you’ve made them too. Hitting the gym everyday, sticking to a crazy fad diet, maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, reading more self-help books, decreasing your screen time, cutting down on social media… endless commitments you make to get your life on track.
Of course, from 1st January. And we all know how that pans out.
You make a resolution. Let’s say, to follow a rigorous diet. You renounce snacking, give up desserts, and of course, cheese is a big no-no.
But then comes the challenge. A colleague’s farewell, or a friend’s birthday bash. And there’s a cake. Glazed with rich chocolate sauce, soft enough to melt in your mouth, it’s calling out to you. What do you do?
Eat if, of course. What are abs to a tempting slab of chocolate cake, anyway? Whose stupid idea was it to cut off these delicious drops of heaven from your life?
Now, this isn’t an article bashing New Year resolutions. (It’s not not bashing them, either) Neither does it promote unhealthy eating habits. So I’ll cut to the chase.
Why do we set unrealistic goals for our future selves? Goals, which in the present, we have no energy or intentions of accomplishing?
Think about your future self, right now. Seriously.
How do they look, what are their habits, what have they achieved in life… the usual questions.
You probably thought of them in third person, right? The perfect body, a big fat salary, and a luxurious home to live in. If not that, something along the lines of it, at least. Chances are that the person you just thought of, might not even resemble your current features. Let alone your habits.
Research suggests that we think of our future selves the way we think of others in the present. And when we think of our future selves in third person, we strip them of their humanness and emotions.
To break it down: You care about your future as much as you care about your mailman in the present. And that’s something to worry about.
So when you set a resolution to follow a strict diet, you aren’t thinking of all the tempting sweetmeats you’ll have to pass. You’re thinking of the slim, hourglass figure that you’ll end up with.
The hard work, however, will be done by a stranger, for whom procrastination and midnight cravings are akin to divinity in the sky.
Technically, this proves that the sacrifices that you are willing to make for others today, are the sacrifices you’ll make for your future self. This theory also explains most of our thoughtless actions—especially why we procrastinate. We continuously choose instant gratification, while our future rots on the horizon.
No wonder we’re left with heaps of assignments just one day before the due date. We’re waiting for an epiphany, a sudden transformation that’ll motivate us to achieve whatever it is that we want.
Might as well wait for the elves to come and write our thesis.
Now we have the information. We know why that diet never goes successful and why we end up writing that article in the last hour. Why the books that are so interesting in stores look boring and endless when you actually sit to read them. Why we sign ourselves up for that event we never really had time for.
For those of you interested, this article is inspired by a study which can be found here. Would you like a follow-up for this blog, explaining ways to bridge the gap between your current and future self? Let us know in the comments below! And while you're at it, please drop a like and share this post!