Don’t Just Think it, Do it- Things Your Future Self Will Thank you For

Don’t Just Think it, Do it- Things Your Future Self Will Thank you For

There are many ways to think about motivation for healthy living: finding your “why,” leveraging small changes for big behavior changes and more. Here’s a new one that may help make smart choices easier: Doing things your future self will thank you for.

In a recent episode of the “Happier” podcast, Gretchen Rubin and her sister and co-host Liz Craft discussed this idea, which they got from a reader comment and this blog post by Wil Wheaton.

Here are some examples:

In the evening, set your coffeemaker to automatically start in the morning. Morning You will be happy to have fresh coffee.

Go for a run. You will be happy you took the time to move your body.

brunette_woman_smiling_after_workout_future_self_happy

Wheaton suggests some more actions, including:

  • Wash your dishes. Future You will be so glad that the sink isn’t full and dirty.
  • Take the stairs. Future You will feel awesome because you did something that wasn’t easy, when you didn’t have to.
  • Get that toxic person out of your life. Future You will be so grateful that she doesn’t have to deal with that jerk any more.
  • Turn off Twitter. Future You is going to be so happy that you didn’t waste time arguing with that person you don’t even know.
  • Make plans to do something fun with someone you care about. Future you will get to hang out with someone you like, and present you has something to look forward to!

Brilliant!

There’s even some recent related scientific research on this idea.

A study reported on in The New York Times found that when you order your food long before you eat it, you’re more likely to make healthful choices.

In the study, participants directed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University were asked to order lunches in advance. The farther out they ordered, the more likely they were to order lower-calorie/healthier options, and eat less during lunch itself.

Eric M. VanEpps, a post-doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics who led the research while at Carnegie Mellon told the Times he believes this is because of “a bias toward the present.”

“If a decision is going to be implemented immediately, we just care about the immediate consequences, and we discount the long-term costs and benefits,” he said. “In the case of food, we care about what’s happening right now – like how tasty it is – but discount the long-term costs of an unhealthy meal.”

On the other hand, when you order a meal in advance, “you’re more evenly weighing the short-term and the long-term costs and benefits,” he said. “You still care about the taste, but you’re more able to exert self control.” You’re better able to think about Future You.

So the next time you’re faced with a choice: yoga class or couch, dessert or not, etc., think: What would your future self want your present self to do?

What to Read Next:

Is Competition the Best Form of Motivation?

8 Social Psychology Hacks for Fitness Motivation

How 5 Hacks for Habit Setting Worked for Me

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