#2 The most important thing

Hello!

The most important thing you can do to improve how you engage with the future is to strengthen your connection with your future self.

A very warm welcome to The Makers, the email newsletter for curious, conscientious people who are looking to live better by looking to the future. And welcome to new subscribers joining us this week! You can read previous issues here

The aim of The Makers is to share thoughts and ideas to help you engage more positively and purposefully with the future.

This newsletter (loosely) accompanies the YouTube channel Ours For The Making.

Today I’m going to share with you three things:

  1. The most important thing you can do to start thinking longer term
  2. One idea to help you better engage with the future
  3. Three books about time

1. Connecting to your future self 😊😁

What is the most important thing you can do in order to start thinking longer term? Answer: Get connected with your future self.

Scientists have long been interested in the natural tension and unceasing conflict between the immediate wishes of our present self and long-term needs and wishes of our future selves. 

To decide to delay our reward to another time in the future (known as ‘intertemporal decision-making’) requires us to overcome our natural inclination for the present. 

But it isn’t easy. 

We just prefer immediate, smaller rewards over deferred, larger rewards.

Egonomics and how you treat your future-self 

Thomas Schelling, the Nobel Prize Winning Economist devoted an entire theory to it – ‘Egonomics⁠’. Shelling sought to explain how and why our present and future selves are “in a continual contest for control” when deciding between instant and delayed gratification. 

Schelling, along with others, suggests that we see the future self, not as a continuation of the present self, but as a separate person which we might treat like a stranger.

Evidence to support this theory came from a series of studies published in 2008 in which volunteers were asked to allocate an assortment of tasks to their present self, future self or to someone unknown to them. 

In one experiment, believing the scenario to be real, volunteers were asked to allocate a nasty liquid to be drunk. They gave their present self a certain amount, but chose to allocate substantially greater amounts to both their future self and the stranger – strikingly similar amounts, as it happens.

A further iteration of the experiment had participants allocating volunteering hours. The findings mirrored those of the earlier study. However, when it was pointed out to participants that both their present and future selves would have the same overall experience of the task, volunteers allocated hours more evenly between their selves. 

Get connected to your future self

The key take-away is this. In the ‘continual contest of control’ between the selves, whether you view your future self as a separate, other person, doesn’t necessarily determine whether you plump for jam today or jam tomorrow. (A helpful summary can be read here, see in particular, page 2.)

What does seem to matter, however, is how connected you feel to your other selves. There seem to be an number of important strands to this connection. For example, how vivid, relevant and plausible are your imagines of your future self? Empathy also appears to play a curious role as well.

I’ll, no doubt, return to this topic to discuss how one might go about establishing and strengthening that connection…

2. This week’s introduction 🤝

This section introduces an idea, concept or actionable tool to help you to engage with the future a little more positively and purposefully.

Here’s a short exercise that can help you bring to mind your future selves in a way that might, just might, influence how you make choices in the present. 

Take a look and see if it works for you.

3. Future jam today 😋

Books, articles and resources broadly on the subject of time and how we think about it…

People’s interest in the long term is, I think, visibly growing. The world of long term thinking, deep time thinking and how to think about plain old ‘time’, is getting broader, deeper and richer. 

To illustrate, here are just a few books I recently ordered via my local bookshop that you might find interesting. All are fairly recently or soon-to-be published:

Thanks 🙏

Thanks for reading, watching, subscribing and being a Maker! I really appreciate it. 

If you’ve enjoyed this edition of The Makers, you’d be doing me a kind and generous favour by sharing it with someone who might enjoy it also. If you’ve not already subscribed and would like to, you can do so here. I’ll also send you a (free) copy of my short ebook the 7 Fundamentals of a Future-Fit Person.

Until next time…

Best wishes,

James

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The ‘Makers is my short, (somewhat) weekly newsletter. It gathers together evidence-based, actionable ways to help you think and do long-term. 

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