Why Self-Continuity Can Predict Your Future

Photo courtesy of Rich Brown

Photo courtesy of Rich Brown

Self-continuity could be the answer to overcoming disconnects, understanding our poor decisions, and determining our prosperity. 

A term that sounds complex is actually quite simple. 

Do we view ourselves as the same person today as we were yesterday, and as the same person tomorrow as we do today?

Do our answers to these questions influence who we will become?

According to numerous researchers, they do. 

So what exactly is self-continuity?

Well, it is our ability to identify ourselves over time. Future self-continuity is our ability to identify ourself in the future.

Research has shown that the more we can relate our current self to our future self, the greater our ability to make sacrifices,  overcome disconnects (times of death, uncertainty, pain..), and prosper in the later years of our life. 

Why then, do so many of us choose to satisfy today's desires in exchange for tomorrow's prosperity? 

Apparently, it’s because we refuse to recognize the future us… as well... being us. We see who we are tomorrow as someone entirely different, someone we can't relate to, someone we don't need a vision for.  

We don't consider that person's well-being or quality of life, which is an issue considering who that person will end up being. 

A prime example referenced in literature is modern America’s inability to prepare for retirement.  People are living longer and having more post-career years.  Something that should be considered good fortune is actually a highly stressful, resource-limited, time of life for many.  

Lack of vision and future self-continuity could be to blame. 

So how can you improve self-continuity and what benefits can it bring you?

You can start by perceiving your current self as living in tomorrow's world and by acknowledging the benefits this can provide you with.  

Simple things, such as taking the time to write a letter to your future self, recording goals, developing a long-term plan, meditating,  can all help you identify with who you want to be tomorrow. 

The benefits associated with this behavior is astounding. 

 

You Will Probably Have More Money.

Findings suggest that those who view their lives in self-continuity have had a greater response to reward and an increase in savings.  They are more adept to financially plan for themselves in the future.  Additionally, when surveyed, there was a strong correlation between those with strong feelings of self-continuity and their number of assets. 

They drew motivation to save and build by visioning themselves living in tomorrow's world. 

 

You Can Cope with Disconnects

How will you respond if you lose your job or lose a loved one?

Self-continuity can help.

Researchers found that those who can deal with disconnects (job loss, death, etc...) are able to respond more appropriately when experiencing self-continuity. They tend to recover from these experiences more than those who don't.

When experiencing job loss, those with high self-continuity show greater effort in coping with, and greater effort towards becoming, re-employed.  


You Will Make Better Daily Decisions

Those with a strong sense of future continuity also have a stronger sense of consequence. They tend to make decisions based on the long-term result rather than the current reward.

This leads to better decisions on a daily basis. For example, they might refrain from that cookie when they think about what how they will appear in the future. 

It also leads to ambition and productivity. When you think of yourself in the future, you tend to stop wasting time today. 

 

You Will Feel a Sense of Control

Perhaps one of the rewarding benefits is feeling like you can make a difference. By knowing where you are going and where you have come from gives a sense of confidence and capability. This type of personal "grounding" tends to influence a person's outlook and subsequent behavior. 

You feel like you can control your destiny when you know who you want to be. 


In conclusion, Future self-continuity is directly linked to motivation.  Therefore, it is then important to take time and gain a vision for you today living in tomorrow's world. Take time in determining who you are going to be and how you are going to get there.

Have a vision. 

It's this behavior that drives success. Therefore, the only person able to limit who you will be... is well you.  

I guess you could say that you have a chance to predict the future... at least predict how you can prepare for it. 



http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/faculty/hal.hershfield/resources/Research/Annals-of-the-New-York-Academy-of-Sciences-2011-Hershfield.pdf
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https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3764505/

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000187911100056X

http://journal.sjdm.org/9310/jdm9310.pdf