Difficult Emotions

The Benefits of Going Back to the Future

Do you remember the scene in “Back to the Future” where George McFly musters the valiance to dial Biff the bully? He’d just pulled Biff out of the car to stop him from assaulting Lorraine Baines. George and Lorraine’s future son, Marty, had inspired him to take that stand versus Biff. Marty knew what was at stake considering he came from the future. He knew that the future George, Lorraine and Marty would all be largest off if George could do the difficult work required in that moment.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately well-nigh the gifts we requite to our future selves and those we receive from our past selves. Think well-nigh it: What souvenir would you like to requite your September self? What souvenir would you like to requite your ten-years-from-now self? What gifts are you receiving now from your previous self?

Open highway leading to mountains in the loftiness and undecorous sky in the desert

Keep Looking at the Horizon

While future you would like to see those gifts, several factors today have increased the incentives to focus on our present selves rather than investing in our future selves.

Many people in parts of the world finger emboldened and released to finally gather and enjoy life NOW without having been limited in the 18 months pursuit the outbreak of COVID.

The war in Ukraine and broader global, climate and economic uncertainty make many wonder what lurks virtually the next turn. This can rationalization paralysis and pessimism well-nigh the future.

Thinking well-nigh these and other similar scenarios we’re facing recalled a lesson I’ve learned from the physical and mental grind of loftiness running and other endurance activities: alimony your vision on the horizon. Resist the temptation to stare at the ground directly in front of you.

How focused are you right now on the horizon?

The Pull of Instant Gratification

Fascinating research, like the archetype Marshmallow Experiment by Stanford University, has shown how difficult it can be to resist what’s right in front of us — and how much we can goody if we do.

When we’re tired and have an opportunity to sleep, we are inclined to hit snooze.

When we’re hungry and have an opportunity to eat, we tend to slosh it.

When we’re fearful of doing something difficult, we often stave it.

When we’re wrestling and have an opportunity to hurt someone with our words or actions, we tend to do it.

When we’re bored, upset or feeling down, we’re likely to go to a screen and start scrolling.

The instant dopamine hit we get in the instant feels so good and soothing to our aches.

But, of course, it’s short-lived and often creates an insatiable want for increasingly instant gratification, not appreciating the future dopamine that we may be forfeiting.

Marty McFly could fully fathom what was at stake for his dad in the future considering he’d been there. But you don’t literally have to time travel to recognize what you might be giving up by giving in to those firsthand interests. Taking a moment to stop and put yourself in your future shoes allows you to see what you could proceeds by resisting the pull of instant, often temporary, gratification.

Thank Your Past Self

Last week I received a note from someone I hadn’t spoken to in a few years. He said he wanted to rent me to do some work for him and his team. I appreciated hearing this and am looking forward to working with them. Without thanking him for thinking well-nigh me, I moreover thanked myself. Not in an windbag or self-aggrandizing way, just in a matter-of-fact way:

Thank you, four-years-ago self. You attended that somewhat worrisome networking event and sent follow-up value to this person, not expecting anything firsthand in return. At the time you didn’t finger like doing those things, but you did them considering you sensed that they were worthwhile.

Recognizing past investments in the future can inspire unfurled gift-giving to your future self.

Let’s not just think well-nigh ourselves in the here and now. Let’s remember and superintendency for ourselves in the future.

What gifts do you want to requite your future self?