Most of us know what we have to do – it’s just we cannot or will not do it. To a greater or lesser extent, everyone knows there is stuff that they need to do but may put it off for another day.
Procrastination does not make any difficult task go away – it just means more stress as we worry about the things left undone.
And so, in financial terms, we fail to join or contribute to KiwiSaver, fail to save or only pay the bare minimum off the mortgage. In health terms, we know that we should exercise more, eat the right food and drink less. Even though we know what we need to do, we fail to do these things because we have so little regard for our future selves.
Procrastination means we inconsiderately favour our current selves to the detriment of our future selves.
An interesting way to think about this is to imagine your future self and think what this older person would want us to do now – perhaps eat better or pay off the mortgage faster (or any number of other things).
This means that if you are 40 years old, you imagine yourself at age 60 and try to work out what you might do that this 60-year-old would thank you for.
To stop procrastinating, try to envisage the 2037 version of you and be compassionate and loving towards that person – you should want what is best for your future self. Can you be sure that this person will have the wherewithal to look after himself or herself in 2037? If you love that future person enough you will do whatever is necessary to give him or her the best life possible. And do it now.
Of course, this exercise of imagination requires conscious effort: without some thought, few 40-year-olds have a clear picture of what they will be like and what they will need as a 60-year-old. In fact, at age 40, many people cannot believe that they will ever get to 60 – it seems impossibly far off.
Nevertheless, visualising yourself at a future age is a powerful antidote to procrastination. Empathising with this future you and asking that future person what would be helpful, can motivate you to do some of the things that you have been meaning to do but never actually done.
Of course, this older you will not look or sound the same as you do now but he or she needs the same care and regard as your current you. This future self may seem another person but the reality is that it is you and you are helping yourself.
It is not an easy message but we all need to stop favouring the present and pamper our future selves a little. Think about what this “stranger” from the future needs you to do so that life is better. And then, you can get on and do your future self a favour.
Martin Hawes is the Chair of the Summer KiwiSaver Investment Committee. He is an Authorised Financial Adviser and a disclosure statement is available on request and free of charge, or can be found at www.martinhawes.com.