Hal Hershfield, a professor at UCLA, conducted a study on brain scans and learned something important: when you think about your present self vs. a stranger, the scans look very different. But when you think about your future self and a stranger, the scans look the same.

What does this mean?

According to Chris Bailey author of The Productivity Project, this means that the more you view your future self as a stranger, the more likely you are to treat yourself as a stranger. In other words, you’ll assume this person is less tired, more disciplined, and more focused than you currently are at this time. Your future self loves to exercise, always eats healthy, can work fifteen hour days with high intensity, is a loving a caring family member (who NEVER is grumpy) and overall a really great gal.

Since this is how you view your future self, you’ll:

  • Put off making decisions until the future – assuming you’ll be able to “think it through better later.”
  • Write twenty items on your to-do list for tomorrow – because your future self will be able to accomplish all twenty things, even though your present self was only able to accomplish four.
  • Say “yes” to stuff you really don’t want to do – because it feels like six months down the road will never get here, and when it does your future self will be OK with the decision.
  • Save less money for retirement – because your future self won’t really need retirement money since they’ve already made millions before they retire.

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How do you start to align your present self with your future self?

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You need to turn your future self into a friend, not a stranger! Here are some of Bailey’s suggestions on how to do this:

  • One way is to use the Rule of Three. By fast-forwarding to the end of the day, you start to envision what you can accomplish.
  • Another is use an app to do an aging progression of your face. You can create an image of what you will look like at retirement age and place a picture of your future self on your desk. This will help you “get to know” your future self, and help you make productive long-term choices.
  • Send a letter (or email) to yourself in the future. It will immediately put into perspective what’s a realistic expectation of your future self, and what is just magical thinking!

Now, please don’t think I don’t believe our present selves can improve into better versions for our future selves. I totally do – or else I wouldn’t be a coach! However, these changes happen over time, with consistent effort.

When you view your future self as a stranger, you will assume the change magically happens overnight. Make friends with that distant vision of yourself now, and bring those expectations into your present reality.

Are you curious about how to accomplish this? Do you want a life has more money, more fun, more time for volunteering, more time for relaxation NOW – while working less and feeling less stress? If so, I invite you to apply for a complimentary Productivity Breakthrough session.

Here we’ll talk about your current life and the life you want – and we’ll discuss some strategies to help you see your next steps.

  • Discover what’s blocking you from creating consistently productive and stress-free days.
  • Determine what steps you can take so you can stop working nights and weekends (and early mornings!!!) trying to catch up.
  • Identify the one simple step you can take to immediately get into action today.

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(image by hlucky)