On Saturday morning I was woken up by my husband in the throes of some alcohol-related illness after a night out on the town. My first reaction was to think “What an idiot! He’s wasted a load of money and not only does he not benefit, but he now feels really bad”. But then I had to look down at my own abdomen, undergoing some major bloat after I threw caution to the wind for the Valentine’s weekend: takeaway pizza, takeaway Indian food with naan bread, tortilla chips, two different kinds of chocolate. I was forced to admit that making the right decision is always a lot harder to you than it looks like it ought to be to other people.
I read a lot of self-help books, and at least a couple have reported a study where people were asked to pick films to watch. Some would be watching the film that evening, and some would watch it a few days from now. When people would be watching a film at a later date, they went for more high-brow, worthy films such as Schindler’s List. But when it was a film for that day, they would pick something less intellectually taxing and more entertaining. This research was used to highlight our concept of “future-self”. Your “future-self” is the person who is going to eat the salad you buy, which later ends up in the bin, or who is going to go running on Saturday so that you can stay in and watch TV tonight. The problem is, our “future-self” tends to make the same decisions that our “current-self” makes, which is why we end up not eating the salad and not going running. How can you defeat this? Stop using your “future-self” as an excuse. If you need to do something, recognise that you won’t want to do it later either. That might force you to do things right now, and the more you do those things that are good for you, the more they’ll become habitual and the less effort they’ll take.