A Short Reflection on Future-Self

I recently came across an interesting article posted by BBC in the Worklife section that tackles the topic of the future, explaining ‘the importance of thinking about your future’ (Click here to view). The article highlights the significance of reflecting on ‘whom we’ll be in the future’, and the potential positive consequences of developing this reflection as a habit.

To be honest, this caught me a bit ‘off-guard’ as it is something I rarely think about deeply.

I almost never ask myself (apart from interview preparations) questions such as:

  • How do I see myself in 5 years?
  • How close is that “future me” from “present me”?

As I found the subject quite absorbing, I started to do a sort of research brief. Here it goes.

The article states (backed by various psychological studies) that people that habitually practice this type of reflection – whether they do it naturally or not, I guess -, ‘tend to be more responsible with their money and more ethical in their treatment of others; they are keen to act in a way that will make life easier in the years ahead’. Other people, the article says, are less identified with their future self and thus they are less concerned about the outcome of their actions.

There appears to be a correlation between these variables:

↑Reflection on Future Self = ↑­Responsible Financially ↑­Ethical…

I don’t think the correlation applies in the opposite direction so let’s just leave it like that.

At first, this may seem like a paradox for people that – like myself – practice meditation and other techniques to be more aware in the present moment, paying attention, constantly trying to awaken from thoughts that drive us either to the past or the future. Also, for other people whose motto is the popular Latin expression ‘carpe diem’, which means something like: ‘life is short, you might as well enjoy NOW.

From my own perspective, being mindful in the present is completely congruent with planning for the future. In my case, it has also proven to be compatible with learning from different past experiences by analyzing them and thinking constructively instead of getting lost in negative mind wandering.

Digging deeper into this issue, I ended up reading about Dr. Jordan Peterson’s view on sacrifice as ‘giving up something of value in the present to improve the future’. Dr. Peterson is a renowned clinical psychologist with a wide public presence. His work includes talks about the Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories, with Genesis as the center of attention.

The story of Cain and Abel tackles profoundly the importance of sacrifice. Cain and Abel had offered the fruits of their labor in sacrifice to God, but God ‘rejected’ Cain’s offering. There are various interpretations which (from my understanding) infer that: Abel’s sacrifice was greater as he gave the firstborn of his flock while Cain gave ‘some’ fruit of the ground. And so God favored Abel’s sacrifice and Cain ended up murdering Abel out of jealousy.

As Dr. Peterson explains, the idea of sacrifice is closely linked to discipline. Discipline, in the sense of letting go of that to which you are attached the most or you love the most. The attachment can be a habit or something you truly desire. It can be tangible (e.g., money) or intangible (e.g., time).

Linking this to the topic of this blog: the fact that Peterson and many others try to state is that, in theory, you are carving a better future for yourself while making these sacrifices. For instance, if you give money away altruistically, apart from helping people in need, you will most likely feel better about yourself, more at peace. If you wake up at an earlier time to exercise, your mood and health will most likely (unless you try free solo climbing a 500-meter wall with no experience) improve.

If you have reached this point, you might be thinking: what on earth is this guy trying to say? Well, sorry, but there is no specific conclusion to this dissertation apart from what you want to take from it.

My take is that, by combining the following:

1. Habitually reflecting on your ‘future self’ in a way that allows you to find room for improvement in the present.

2. After that analysis, making relevant sacrifices in the present that can help you become a better future version of yourself.

You can maximize your potential and hopefully have a more positive impact in this world, even if it makes the smallest difference.

I hope you enjoyed reading this, thank you for taking the time. I will be very happy to answer any questions or comments you may have.

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