In four studies, participants interacted with realistic computer renderings of their future selves using immersive virtual reality hardware and interactive decision aids. In all cases, those who interacted with virtual future selves exhibited an increased tendency to accept later monetary
rewards over immediate ones. —Hal E. Hershfield
Studies suggest that people who are aided with technology to imagine their future selves are more likely to delay gratification. In the case of the cited study, they’re more likely to save money for retirement.
This shows that your self-discipline is largely affected by your ability to feel empathy toward your future self. If the vision of you ten, twenty, or thirty years from now isn’t particularly vivid, you’ll have a hard time denying yourself pleasure today so that the stranger in the future can benefit.you’ll have a hard time denying yourself pleasure today so that the stranger in the future can benefit.
For this reason, consider occasionally meditating on your future self. Ask yourself if today you’re grateful for the choices you made several years ago, or if you wish that in the past you had been more concerned about your future. Are the choices you’re making today choices that are only benefiting the present “you,” but don’t contribute to — or worse, jeopardize — your well-being in the future?
The person you’ll become in ten years will most likely not be the same person you are today, but it will still be you — and it’s in your hands whether, ten years from now you’ll look back and feel glad you extended self-empathy well into the future, or find that you decided to be selfish and stealfrom your future for some fleeting pleasure today.