Whenever you are presented with a choice, ask yourself which option you would prefer to have taken in ten years. —Erik D. Kennedy
Self-discipline is largely dependent on your ability to look into the future and imagine yourself not having taken the difficult choice today. If you paint the mental picture with enough detail, you won’t be able to bear the thought of letting the situation remain the same or getting worse.
A simple exercise of asking yourself which option you would prefer to have taken in ten years can help you avoid succumbing to temptations. And let’s not fool ourselves — it probably won’t work every time, but even if it doesn’t work every time, at least it will make you pause sometimes.
Let’s imagine that you’re torn between buying a new piece of furniture you don’t really need but like a lot, or saving that money for your retirement. In ten years, would you rather have a crumbling piece of furniture you rarely use or — thanks to the power of compounding — twice the amount you’re now pondering on spending?
For this technique to work, you need to consider your failure to stick to your resolutions not as a once-off event, but a precedent that can ruin your long-term progress. Otherwise this technique won’t work.
For example, if you’re on a diet and are tempted to eat this awesome chocolate chip cookie, if you tell yourself that it’s simply this one time, obviously in a ten-year timeframe it means nothing.And it’s true — one cookie eaten today won’t ruin your diet for the next decade.
However, it’s not about eating this specific cookie. It’s about the precedent it sets and a possible pattern of cheating during a diet that might develop from making this decision. In ten years, would you prefer to have developed a habit of eating cookies while on a diet or established a habit of not eating cookies at all, or only on special occasions.