Right thinking today. Someday, your future-self will thank you!

A Note To My Future Self

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Back to the Future logoToday is the start a short series of posts that I intend to tie together with some concrete steps that will help parents help their children build sound money habits that will equip them well for the future, and potentially even future generations.

My wife and I enjoy watching movies, and we get particular enjoyment from those that involve time-travel.  We differ, however, in the degree of complexity that we are able to sustain before passing out.  While my wife enjoys deep levels of plot development and twists, I’ve been known to be caught studying the insides of my eyelids if the plot goes beyond the workings of Dr. Emmett Brown’s ‘flux capacitor’.

Fans of the Back to the Future trilogy will know exactly what I’m talking about.  Marty, played by Michael J. Fox, gets the thrill of travelling back and forth through time in Dr. Brown’s souped up Delorean DMC-12.  BTW, you probably missed the opportunity to own one of the 8 cars used in the movie as one is hit the auction block in December 2011…I’m not sure what it went for, but it was expected to fetch somewhere in the neighbourhood of $400-$600,000!  But I digress…

A recent discussion in our household brought this all back to mind.  We were reviewing with our 16-year-old son the benefits of  ramping up his long-term savings as opposed to dipping into his savings to pay for a March Break trip that was being promoted by his school.  The cost being charged by this private travel firm bordered on extortion when compared with what other companies would offer (another evidence of the exploitive nature of youth marketing) so it was not a question of whether he should go, but about the concept of taking a Caribbean trip at this stage of life.  Our conversation led us to an interesting concept that rekindled our thoughts of time-travel, and with it I came to recognize that we are in constant conflict with our three “selves”.

Our first self – let’s refer to him/her as S1 (Self 1) – is our current-self.  Our current self is living life day-by-day, making decisions that for the most part impact our next 7-14 days, and dealing with how to make the best of our current situation in light of our hopes and dreams for the future.  However, to be candid, we aren’t spending a bunch of time looking beyond the next 14-day window.  Common decisions we mull over are such everyday topics as how to squeeze all the demands on our time into the few hours available to us, how to navigate past the most recent relationship strain with our spouse or children, or how to nurse yesterday’s paycheque to the end of this pay cycle.

While we live out life as S1, many of our decisions and motivations are driven by our other selves, our future-self (S2) and our past-self (S3).  To make this more personal, substitute “future-self” or S2 with “future-_________ – enter your name in the blank; I found it helpful thinking of it in terms of “future-Rick” and “past-Rick”.

For too many of us, our current- and future-selves are constrained by our past-selves.

We struck a chord during our conversation with our son where we were able to remind Garrett that as the countdown to college approaches, future-Garrett will be very thankful for every penny that current-Garrett decides to pay ahead.  It begs the question: when current-Rick is contemplating his next 14-day window, does he take the time to think to where he wants future-Rick to be, and the lifestyle that he wants to be living?  This need not apply only to financial decision-making, but relationships, health and wellness, skills and contributions, and the list goes on.  In fact, the greatest motivator behind the decision I made to attend more closely to my general fitness level was the thought that, as much as was in my control, I wanted to be around to see my sons graduate, start careers, marry and give us grandchildren.  From there, current-Rick has dedicated money and carved time out of each week for visits to the gym so that future-Rick has better likelihood of being around to experience those much-anticipated events.

Many of our current-self successes and accomplishments find their origins in a right-thinking past-self.  In like manner, for too many of us, our current- and future-selves are weighed down and constrained by our past-selves.  Poor health, strained relationships, stalled careers and financial difficulties can in many instances be traced back to decisions made, actions taken (or not taken) or sacrifices not endured by our S3.  The decision to forego college and keep working in a career that eventually stalled or disappeared.  That significant expenditure, the cost of which you put on credit and are still paying with interest.  The immortality that you felt in your younger years when you should have been taking better care of yourself physically.  Any of these past-self decisions may continue to haunt your current-self and jeopardize the vision of your future-self.

What to do?  Far be it from me to claim to have all the answers but as I have been contemplating the questions, some ideas come to mind.

  1. Don’t despair your current situation.  Your past does not have to dictate your future.  Recognize that failure is seldom fatal just as success is seldom final.  You can do something about improving your current- and future-self;
  2. Acknowledge and celebrate the successes of your past-self; the origin of much of what brings you joy and satisfaction today – and hope for tomorrow – can be found in your past, and these same strengths and abilities can continue to serve your future-self;
  3. Where needed, close the box on your past-self.  This may take some time, so be patient.  Itemize the life-decisions that your past-self has made that are holding you down, picturing each one being put in a box and labeled.  Then, resolve to close each box as you are able, signifying that you will no longer let that decision or pattern dictate your future.  If it’s poor eating habits, resolve making a change by making better decisions one day at a time.  If you’re crippled by too much debt from past lifestyle decisions, inventory the loans and resolve to no longer add to the debt, and then knock down the debt bit-by-bit.  Start with any debt you owe to those closest to you (friends, relatives), then tackle the highest interest loan.  Remember, be patient.
  4. Finally, share your goal with someone.  The likelihood of success improves exponentially when you tell a supportive someone your goal and plan for change.  Don’t fly this journey solo.

Normally, I post items of interest around finances, so if you’ve read this and can’t see the financial connection, look again.  Your future-self will thank you!

  • Wally Klassen
    Feb 21 2012

    Hi Rick
    Have checked out your blog a couple of times recently. Great job, good content!
    All the best as you’ve ventured out on your own.

    • Rick
      Feb 21 2012

      Thanks, Wally. Great to hear from you!