Beware Of Your Future Self
January 3, 2021
“I am taking it easy on both my food and exercising. With Christmas and the New Year approaching, it’s too tempting to avoid the cakes and sweets. Also, lots of late-night gatherings with you all going into the new year. So I’ll get back to my disciplined routine starting the New Year.” This is what I told my friends about a week back.
It’s two days into the New Year, and the promise I made to myself that I would get back to my disciplined ways is still pending !! Yesterday the excuse was that I was up very late on the eve of the new year, and today the reason was that I overslept, and I then had to drive my son for a cricket nets practice with his friends.
Last week, I imagined my future self to be that wonderfully disciplined version of myself who will not procrastinate and activate self-control on demand without any problem.
I realize now that the future self I imagined earlier continues to be in the future. In the present, today, right now, I am not exactly the wonderfully disciplined person I imagined myself to be.
Time distorts the perception we have of ourselves. “Whatever be the flaws I have today, I will be better tomorrow, one week, one month, or six months later.”
We are very good at pushing our present intentions into the future, particularly when there is no consequence involved.
This same issue plays out in our lives on multiple other occasions.
- I may be hitting average scores in my academics, but I have this conviction that I will study 8 hours a day over the next six months and get a top score in the final exam, six months away.
- The deadline to complete the proposal for the manuscript was ten days back. I missed the deadline. Yet, I tell the publisher I will be finishing it in the next two weeks.
- I may have made zero sales today but I feel that I will grow my sales pipeline and magically achieve a 200% growth in the next 30 days to hit my targets.
When it comes to self-control and discipline, the farther the timeline, the more confident and convinced I am about my self-control and self-discipline.
The challenge that we all have is this. We tend to act only when there is some substantial enough positive or negative consequence associated with doing something. We will not procrastinate right now if the cost of procrastination is significantly greater than the cost of action. And, we will not be lazy today if the negative consequence of our laziness is greater than the effort of exercising every day.
The more immediate, tangible, and concrete the consequence of not doing what is required, the more disciplined I will be in the present. The more delayed, intangible, vague the consequence, the less disciplined I am likely to be.
Coming back to my predicament. What is the consequence of not working out for two days? Nothing really from the standpoint of physical health. BUT from the perspective of my self-image, it is a big deal. How can I say I am improving if I can’t even muster the necessary discipline to stick to a good habit of working out in the morning. Why will I succeed at bigger goals if I can’t achieve a small goal like working out daily?
The good news is that after penning the previous paragraph, I took a break and completed the interrupted workout that did not happen yesterday and this morning.
It’s human to falter. But the great news is that we also have the faculty of our self-awareness that will keep us honest if and when we falter.
Under the spotlight of our self-awareness, we have no choice but to improve.