053: Become Your Future Self | Tanya Dalton Skip to the content
January 16, 2018   |   Episode #:

053: Become Your Future Self

In This Episode:

My goal for season 5 is for you to invest in YOU. Today’s episode is focused on why it’s so important to devote our time and energy on actively working towards bettering ourselves for the future. I’ll share how our brain perceives ourselves differently in the present versus the future and give you advice on how you can take real steps to implement change through small actions that lead to who you want to be.

Show Transcript:

The Big Idea

If something today doesn’t have a long-term benefit, it’s probably not worthwhile to do it.

Questions I Answer

  • How can I trust myself more?
  • What can I do to invest in my growth?
  • Why do I struggle with goals?
  • What steps can I take to set better goals?

Actions to Take

  • Please Note: Unfortunately, the download mentioned in this episode is no longer available.
  • Build up your self-trust through small wins and patterns of evidence for your brain. Find an action that’s doable and easy to adopt, then do it – no matter what.
  • Make it so that you enjoy the changes you’re making. Regularly evaluate your choices and don’t be afraid of making improvements.

Key Topics in the Show

  • Why it’s so important to invest in yourself and examples of what it means.

  • Research on how we perceive our futures selves as someone we don’t actually know.

  • How we place a higher value on immediate rewards, rather than future ones.

  • Actionable steps you can take to implement change for your future self.

Show Transcript

Welcome to Productivity Paradox from inkWELL Press, a podcast focused on finding  success and happiness through the power of productivity. Each season Tanya focuses  on specific strategies to help you discover your own priorities and purpose. Season  five is all about investing in you. You can also join Tanya for more interaction and  support in her free Facebook group at inkwellpress.com/group, and now, here’s  your host Tanya Dalton.  

 Hello, hello everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox, I’m your host Tanya  Dalton, owner of inkWELL Press, and this is episode 53. Today’s podcast episode is  brought to you by Audible, and I’ll be sharing later in the show how you can get a  free audiobook download, just by using my link. But first, I want to make sure, did you  notice something different at the beginning of the show? I have a brand new  introduction, which I love, because you may not realize it, but that voiceover is  actually my husband John. That’s his little way of being a part of this podcast. He’s  kind of a quieter guy, so that’s about the closest we’ll ever get to getting him to  actually come on the show. But I wanted to do a new introduction because today is  not just episode 53, it’s also the beginning of a brand new season, and if you’ve been  listening for any length of time, you know that every season we explore a different  topic throughout the course of the 13 episodes, and we dive deep into what these  topics mean.  

 This season we will be exploring the topic of investing in yourself, and the  reason I’m excited about this season is that I think it’s really important to understand  what that means to invest in yourself, and why you need to make it a part of your  regular routine, in order to be the most productive version of you. Let’s go ahead and  get started, because today I want to talk about becoming your future self. So, what  does that mean? What is your future self? Basically your future self is you at some  point in the future. It’s neither an optimistic, nor a pessimistic version of where you’re  headed, but instead should be as realistic as you can possibly make it. In other words,  what will you be like if you keep doing things the same way for the next year, the next  five years, the next ten years? And so on.  

 The key to understanding why it’s important to invest in you is knowing and  realizing that the choices you make today shape the life of your future self, and I think  it affects your life in many different ways. It affects your time, your time choices  today determine the life options your future self has. So, in other words, spending a  lot of time with your children today cultivates that relationship for the future, not  spending time with them makes your relationship with them a little bit weaker as they  get older. Your choices affect your finances. Your financial choices today determine  your financial options your future self will have. Spending money foolishly today  

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might feel fun, but it’s less money for you to have in the future, and if you’re selective  about the non-essentials you spend your money on now, you have more options later  on in life financially.  

 It also affects your health. Your health choices today determine your overall  health and energy of tomorrow and beyond. So the better you eat today and the  more you exercise today, the healthier you’ll be down the road. And then, of course, it  affects you professionally, your professional choices today determine the professional  options your future self will have. Wasting time, or even just doing nothing more than  your immediate tasks, means you’re not building any skills or the reputation you need  to move up in your career. So, investing in you is so important.  

 Here’s a bold statement for you; if something today doesn’t have a long term  benefit, it’s probably not worthwhile to do it. So, for example, instead of vegging out  at the end of your day with social media, which has no long term benefit, try  spending time on close relationships, going to a community event, learning  something new, or exercising, something that does have a long term benefit, and  affects your future self.  

 So why do we often just think about what we want in the now, instead of  looking at the long term? It’s really difficult for a lot of people, and philosopher  Joshua Knobe asks, “If the person you will be in 30 years, the person for whom you  plan your life now by working towards career goals and putting money aside in  retirement plans, is invariably different from the person you are today, what makes  that future person you? What makes them worthy of your present self-sacrifices and  considerations?” And I think that’s something that a lot of people struggle with.  

 In his Ted talk, The Psychology of Your Future Self, Daniel Gilbert says that “We  are tormented by a fundamental misconception about the power of time. This  misconception is known as ‘The End of History Illusion’,” and basically what this  means is that at any point in our life, we tend to believe that who we are in the  present is our final destination on becoming ourselves. Gilbert says, “Human beings  are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.” The person you are right  now is transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you’ve ever been, the  one constant in our lives is change.”  

 So why is that so difficult to really think about our future selves? Why is hard  to think about how we’re always evolving and changing? For a long time the  dominant idea in psychology, and in pop culture, is that part of our brain is rational  and good, and the other part is impulsive and bad. They struggle and argue about  what we choose to do until the rational part gets tired and finally gives in, but  recently studies have presented a very different look at this. The brain doesn’t have  two warring parts, but one unitary system that prioritizes immediately rewarding  options over those that pay off later.  

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 So the struggle we experience isn’t between good and bad, it’s between future  and present, and researchers have found that people who more strongly identify with  their future selves are better at self-control, and those people are better at realizing  both that the positive and the negative outcomes of their decisions affect who  they’re going to become. And here’s what’s really interesting; we think of our future  selves and other people in the exact same way: as strangers.  

 Hal Hershfield, a psychologist at UCLA has done a number of studies in this  area. In one, he used functional MRI to study brain activity changes when people  imagine their future, and they consider their present. And he looked at two different  parts of the brain; the medial prefrontal cortex, and the rostral anterior cingulate  cortex. These are the two areas of the brain that are more active when a subject  thinks about themselves, rather than when they think about someone else. What  researchers found though, was that these areas were more strongly activated when  subjects thought of themselves today, than when they thought about themselves in  the future. When subjects described themselves 10 years from now, their brain  activity was similar to when they described Matt Damon, or Natalie Portman. In other  words, the future self felt like someone else, like a stranger you kinda know, but not  really. Crazy, right? But this has been proven again and again.  

 Another researcher, Emily Pronin, who’s a Princeton University psychologist,  she led an experiment where she told participants she was studying people’s  reactions to a disgusting drink. It was a soy sauce and ketchup mixture people had to  drink, which sounds pretty gross. She and her research team let subjects decide how  much of the drink would be consumed, and they divided their subjects into three  groups. Group one was told to choose for themselves, group two were told to choose  for another person, and group three was told they’re choosing for themselves, but  they wouldn’t actually have to come in and consume the drink for two weeks.  

 So, the subjects in the first group, who had to choose the amount for  themselves to drink in that moment, they of course tended to choose the smallest  amount, which was about a teaspoon. Sounds about right, that’s what I think I would  choose. Group two, the people who were choosing for another person, chose a larger  amount, about a quarter cup, and why not? They don’t have to drink it, right? And the  third group, the ones who were choosing what they were going to drink two weeks  from now, they also chose the larger amount, even though they were the ones who  were going to consume it.  

 So they were looking at themselves as someone else, as a stranger. They chose  the same amount for themselves in the future as they would choose for someone  they didn’t know. Pronin says, “The idea is that in the present you’re very aware of  your feelings, but in the future it’s more abstract.” This is called temporal discounting,  or the tendency to place higher value on immediate rewards than future ones. So we  

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have to work with the misconception of believing that our future self is a different  person. We have to act as though this is another person you care about and you want  to treat well. In other words, self control and self accountability is essentially empathy  with your future self. We need to tap into that in order to implement change for our  future selves. And I want to talk about how we can implement a change for our future  selves in just a minute.  

 But first, I want to give a quick shout out to today’s sponsor, Audible. As you  know, I love using time wisely, and one of the things I find helpful is listening to  audiobooks. With over 180,000 titles to choose from, Audible is my go to resource  for keeping up with my reading. Right now I’m listening to Gretchen Reuben’s Four  Tendencies. Gretchen was a guest on Productivity Paradox a few seasons ago, and  she shared some major insights on how we respond to expectations, both internal  and external. Knowing your tendency allows you to make better decisions, it helps  you deal with less stress, and it can help you create a life you love. I can’t recommend  this book enough, and the good news is you can listen to it for free, thanks to  Audible. They’re offering a free audiobook download and a free 30 day trial for you.  Just go to inkwellpress.com/Audible to sign up today, and they’ll get you set up  with your free book.  

 Okay, let’s get back to talking about how to implement change for your future  self. How do you get rid of the fog of self doubt and develop confidence in this future  you? Well, the catch 22 is that studies shoe that to change our beliefs we have to  change our actions, but in order to change our actions, you need to trust yourself,  which you can’t do if you haven’t changed your actions. First, we need to build up  some self trust slowly to replace that downward spiral of self fulfilling prophecies.  Small wins build up and help you gain momentum for big victories in the future.  Establish a pattern of evidence for your brain to observe and to build that trust, find  an action that’s doable and easy to adopt, and focus on doing it, no matter what.  

 Here’s a few examples; if you want to learn Spanish, you might do one five  minute Duolingo lesson instead of scrolling Facebook during some down time; if you  want to keep a more organized home, maybe you hang up your clothes when you  take them off at night; if you want to get up early, start small, set your alarm for five  minutes earlier than you do now, not an hour earlier, five minutes. A small win. Small  wins, tiny wins, goals that are so small they don’t feel like much, they may even feel  useless, but the more you keep up with them, the more credibility and trust you build  in yourself, and then the bigger goals you can set. Want a real life example of what I  mean here? Okay.  

 Jerry Duffy was a 26 year old Irish man, who was heavier than he wanted to be  and had no success in losing weight. When he saw a photo of himself one day he was  mortified, and decided he wanted to get serious, so he started small, with a very tiny  

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win, taking a half hour walk after dinner each night. After a while, that walk extended  to an hour long walk, and he started to feel fit, which motivated him to eat better.  And then he started jogging, and as he became lean and strong he felt confident  enough to quit his job, and he started his own business. Now he’s one of the world’s  leading endurance athletes, and a winner of the UK Deco Iron Man challenge, which  involves completing a triathlon every day for 10 days straight. Today it takes him a lot  of effort not to exercise each days. I’m going to repeat what I said earlier; small wins  build up and help you gain momentum for big victories. I would say Jerry is an  example of a victory, wouldn’t you? And it all began with a half hour walk.  

 We think that change has to be hard, but change is just a series of small  adjustments that lead to bigger things. We can’t expect to implement life altering  changes in a week, we need to give ourselves the grace to give it the time it needs to  grow. But know this; doing something with long term benefits doesn’t mean you have  to be miserable today. You can figure out how to cut back on certain things while still  being happy, it’s not a trade off.  

 Let’s say, for example, you want to be better about saving money. Think about  a small win. Instead of spending money every morning going to the coffee shop, try  investing in a nice coffee maker for yourself, not a cheap $20 machine where it makes  coffee that tastes like it comes from a gas station, get yourself a nice machine. Trust  me, a $200 Nespresso machine feels like a big investment, but if you’re spending $5 a  day on coffee, that’s equivalent to less than two months worth of your current drink.  So you end up saving money, not to mention the time you’ve wasted driving to the  coffee shop, standing in line. Small win, leads to a bigger victory.  

 If your goal is to eat better, don’t cut out all the foods you like, that makes life  miserable and difficult. Instead, try mindfully eating so you actually enjoy the foods  more, and you’re paying more attention so that you stop before you’re full. Don’t  believe that’ll work? Well, I actually started this practice myself. I started really  focusing on mindful eating in the fall, I didn’t take away any of the foods I love, I just  started paying attention; taking smaller bites, taking my time, and actually enjoying  what I ate. I gave myself time and space to fully enjoy the process of eating, and  when you do that you find that you don’t need to eat as much, and through this and  only this, I’ve actually lost almost 20 pounds in the past three months. I didn’t do any  major adjustments to my workouts, and I didn’t cut out any food, I simply began  taking my time and enjoying what I was eating, and therefore I felt satisfied and I ate  less.  

 It’s shocking what a difference this can make to your body, but also to your  personal happiness. I’ve created a lifestyle, not a diet, for myself that I actually enjoy,  and my husband John, by the way, did this with me. He’s lost more than 20 pounds.  So it really can make a difference. Change doesn’t have to be difficult, doesn’t have to  

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be unpleasant, make it so that you enjoy these changes. If you’re doing something in  your spare time that doesn’t fulfill you, what value does it have? So you want to  regularly evaluate your choices, and don’t be afraid of changing courses for  improvement.  

 We’re all wired to be short term creature because our ancestors had to be for  survival. Today we don’t have to think in the short term, but that’s still how we’re  wired. So try to find a little quiet time to review your choices, especially your day to  day choices. Envision exactly what will happen to you if you continue with your  current lifestyle, the current choices you’re making, and your routines. Don’t make  any exceptions for something special this year, there’s always something special and  something different for every year.  

 Now, I have a free download for you to help you start defining your future self,  and to help you begin digging in to how you want to invest in yourself. If you’re on  my email list, you’ve already received that download because I send it out the day  this episode goes live. If you’re not on my email list though, all you have to do is go to  inkwellpress.com/podcast, click on episode 53, and the download will be send to  you automatically. I encourage you to take some time with this download and really  fill it out, taking a good look at your life, and the download is designed to look at  what I define as the three main areas of your life; work, home, and personal.  

 So let’s dive into those for a second, into these three different areas. Work is  the core of what you do each day, where you spend the majority of your time,  whether it’s an office or your home. You could be working for a corporation, creating  your own business, or be part of a small team. If you’re a stay at home parent, that’s  definitely work, as you’re the CEO of your home. I’m speaking from experience here,  as a former stay at home mom. That is definitely a career choice, and that falls under  the heading of work. In the download what we’ll do is we’ll touch on how you’re  doing with your career path, if you’re finding work fulfilling, and so on.  

 When I talk about the personal area of your life, that focuses on relationships,  with others as well as yourself. Your mental and physical health, and your personal  aspirations that are not work related, and in the download I want you to reflect on  your relationships. Do they feel fulfilling, or do you find they’re not as deep as what  you’d like? What are you doing for self care? And there’s a few other questions in  there for you as well.  

 And then the last section is home. Many people mix personal and home, but to  me they’re very different. Personal is the relational side of yourself, while home is  really the heart of your current living situation. So, in the download we’ll talk about  the way that you love, as well as your finances. In my opinion, home is the section of  most people’s lives that they tend to put on the back burner, but really it’s the  

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foundation for how you live. If your home life isn’t secure, it’s kind of like cooking  dinner while the kitchen burns down around you. So we’ll talk about is your home a  place that feels like a sanctuary, a place you want to come home to? How do you feel  about your finances? Can you handle money emergencies? And what I want you to  do with this download is I want you to really take a look at your current life situation,  and through this reflection you’ll probably find that you’re unhappy with something,  and that’s a good thing. It means you want to improve your life, and recognizing that  is the first step to doing so.  

 To improve your future self, just take those areas that are really bothering you  most, and focus on improving them with these small daily choices, like we talked  about earlier. I want you to begin to paint a picture of who you really want to be long  term. Who is the person that you want to be in five years? In ten years? And beyond.  Look at the choices you’re making today, and then ask yourself what the best long  term version of that choice is. Don’t think of changing into some sort of perfect being  that’s always focused on the optimal life, this is not a healthy choice. Just keep your  future self in mind. When you don’t think you’ve made the right choice, don’t beat  yourself up about it, just think of a better option or a better choice for next time.  

 My goal this season? I want you to start investing in you. We’ve got 12 more  episodes to get you there. Are you ready for this? Because I am really excited about  it. Next week I’ll be talking to you about pushing the boundaries of your comfort  zone, and I’ll be asking things like are you too comfortable? What would it be like to  expand yourself out of that comfort zone? Before we get to next week though, I do  want to remind you to grab that download at inkwellpress.com/podcast, and you’ll  find it under episode 53. Take some time, fill it out, and do a really solid reflection of  who you are today, and who it is you want to become in the future, okay?  

 I’d love for you to have that filled out before we move on to the next episode.  In the meantime, want to connect with me? I’m going to be honest, you can find me  on social media, but I don’t spend a lot of time there. Where I’d love to connect with  you is in my Facebook group, it’s a safe haven for people just like you, who want to  

live fulfilling, productive lives. Just go to inkwellpress.com/group to request to join.  I’m in there throughout the week encouraging you, reading your comments, having  conversations, but that’s not even the best part I don’t think. To me the best part is  the community. How all these people work together to help lift one another up, to  give encouragement, and tips, and advice. So I would love to see you in there. Alright,  until next time my friends, happy planning.  

Thanks for listening to Productivity Paradox from inkWELL Press.