Being Kind to Future Donna

TL;DR

 

Problem:

 

You are continually choosing to do the easy thing instead of what you should be doing.

 

For example: You keep bingeing Netflix instead of doing the dishes, eating the doughnut instead of the veggie sticks untouched in the fridge, or participating in office gossip with the coworker instead of working on your report dur in 15 minutes.

 

Solution:

 

Think about yourself in the future, having to clean up the mess you are currently making.  For me, I call this “Being kind to future Donna.” 

 

Imagine your future self having to deal with two (or ten) days of dishes instead of the current pile. Imagine future you in the heart ICU wishing you had chosen carrot sticks for 40 years instead of doughnuts.  Imagine yourself 15 mins from now wishing you had 15 more minutes to finish the report. 

 

Full story:

 

Before this idea came to me, I struggled A LOT with how to “push myself” to do the thing I knew I should be doing, but I never could get past the “I don’t feel like it” excuse.  The consequence of doing the thing were always clear to me, but “I’ll feel like it later” was a quick justification for not doing it RIGHT THEN.  (Spoiler: You don’t feel like it later, either.)

 

One day I felt very upset at my past self for not making life easier on my current self, and I wished I could go back in time and tell that version of me to be kind to future Donna.  I have weird conversations like this with myself all the time. Yes, I probably should see someone about that.  The next time I was about to make a bad micro-choice, I stopped and thought, I need to do this to be kind to future Donna.  I vividly imagined my future self having to deal with the mess I created/left for myself to deal with later (in this case it was a literal mess, shredded paper towels all over the living room courtesy of the dogs).

 

That was really motivating for me.  Suddenly I started realizing all the things in my daily life are actually tasks to improve the life of Future Donna.  At night I prep the coffee maker so in the morning Future Donna can just hit one button in her sleepy stupor.  I brush my teeth and floss so Future Donna doesn’t need dentures.  I meal prep on Sundays so Future Donna doesn’t make bad food choices during the week.

 

I’ll be honest, it doesn’t always work.  But, coupled with the Five Second Rule by Mel Robbins, it is pretty freaking effective.

 

Come to find out, this is a known intervention.  In several of the books I read last year, including this one on willpower and this one on procrastination, if we can imagine our future selves vividly, and identify with that version of us more, we will make better choices consistent with our long term goals. Studies on retirement savings, for example, showed that if we imagine our future selves vividly, we make better savings decisions now.

 

So, I didn’t come up with anything new or earth-shattering…but merely stumbled on something researchers already knew!  Once I realized that, I made sure to employ this strategy ALL the time!

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