The more I considered these initial questions, the more I realised just how much I was concerned with what the future holds. A very informal survey of my wife and a few friends suggests I may not be alone in this tendency.
But reflecting on it further, I realised that the most powerful questions would be ones that helped me make better choices today. With that as the goal, I might generate several queries meant to kick off a dialogue between my two selves, such as:
● What have you been most proud of and why?
● In what ways – both positive and negative – have you changed over time?
● What’s something that you miss most from earlier in your life?
● What actions have you regretted?
● What actions did you not take that you regret?
● What’s a time period you’d most want to repeat?
● What things should I be paying more attention to now?
● Which things should I stress about a little less?
Imagine if you were to put these eight questions to your future self. What might you find out that would modify how you live now? It’d probably be the most important conversation of your life.
However, the truth is, you don’t need to wait for time travel or advanced AI for answers that you can act on. Through my research as a psychologist, I’ve learnt that simply taking a bit of time to picture this meeting can help you make better choices now, closing the emotional gap between who you are today and who you’ll be tomorrow. All you need is a little imagination, and the willingness to put yourself in the shoes of a person you currently treat as a stranger.
*Hal Hershfield is a professor of marketing, behavioural decision making, and psychology at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, and the author of Your Future Self: How to Make Tomorrow Better Today, which was published in June.
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