When does the future begin? A popular theory says “right now” is three seconds long. So does it start in four seconds or next year? Studies by Hal Hershfield at UCLA and Sam Maglio at the University of Toronto conclude the answer depends on you and how connected you are to your future self. Individual perceptions of when the present ends varied from “right now” to a year from now. Those perceived time frames influenced current choices and, by extension, held a significant impact on their futures. While individual perceived timeframes tend to remain stable, external factors can change them.
The research suggests that the closer we imagine the future to begin, the more compelled we are to act. Counting time in days versus months or years changes your context. Ninety days feel closer than three months or the first quarter. The future events importance, a wedding, graduation, saving for retirement, planning a trip, do not matter as much as how we interpret the time-matrix. People who thought of their retirement beginning in 10,950 days instead of 30 years started saving four times sooner. Thinking of an event in days made the future feel closer and connected to today.
The more future self-continuity you feel, the more likely you will decide to take action today to affect your future self. By now, most New Year Resolutions have disappeared in the mist. I wonder if we would experience improved results if our resolutions lasted for a month or a day?
How connected are you to your future?
Keep on writing.
Jo Hawk The Writer