Your past self is on your side. So do nice things for your future self.

Theatrical release poster of the film 'momento'
(Image from wikipedia, from a suggestion by this person on reddit)

My Google Calendar emails me. It’s incredibility good for the soul.

When I am ill with a cold, I put a event in my Google Calendar saying “Take a moment to really enjoy being able to breath though your nose”.  A couple of months later my email goes ‘ping’ and I do.  I really do take a moment to enjoy being able to breath though my nose, it’s wonderful – you should try it now.  These sort of emails pop up every so often.  “Enjoy being able to move your shoulder”,  “Isn’t it great not having a mouth ulcer?”.

It’s even better when you get into the habit, because the great thing about a trusted habit it that once you take the action, you forget about it.  I got an email recently saying “Do something nice for Sam”.  I have no idea why I put this in, or when I put this in, but I do know that I like Sam and so I sent him a present.

It’s an interesting thought experiment to consider your past self another person. Because there is a big difference between your past self as they were and the past self as you remember them.

If you were asked to think back to a particular year (pick one) and remember what you were like, you’d probably remember a bunch of embarrassing things you did and/or a bunch of really fun things: wild parties, holidays, jumping off cliffs.  Given those memories, it’s very natural to think of your past self as stupid, hedonistic, and irresponsible. But you should be aware of the filtering that memory does. *Everyone* remembers the embarrassing and fun events because that’s the kind of thing that is easy to remember.  You tend to bias yourself into remembering only the bad parts of your previous self, and that’s probably not good for you. You don’t remember you past self setting up saving accounts that you are keeping you out of debt, or forcing themselves to adopt the good eating habits that mean that you are 15kg lighter than you would be.

The thing with the calendar is the opposite. It puts you in mind of only the good thoughts of your past self.  I don’t ever get emails saying “Steve is a bad person, don’t send him a birthday card”, or “Sorry you can’t afford your rent, but I really needed this iPad”.

All I’m suggesting is that it’s an interesting thought experiment to consider your future self as another person (that you like), because then find yourself doing nice things for them… and shortly afterwards you find your past self is doing more and more nice things for you.


EDIT: Somewhat unusually – reddit really liked this:

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 11.13.51

It’s very strange when all of the reddit posts are positive – you feel like you’ve broken some sort of universal law… :s


…and a little while after I wrote it… the wonderful xkcd came up with this angle…XKCD cartoon.


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