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
- 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.
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.