November 02, 2012

Do Me a Favour

Mental health tip: Do your future self a favour.

In a prior post, I discussed how you can motivate yourself to keep your resolutions and to do things you don't feel like doing by connecting behaviour with values. Another way to motivate yourself to take care of annoying errands and tedious tasks is to view them as favours for your future self. For example, you might not feel like taking the clean sheets out of the dryer and making the bed right now, but when your tired future self retires to your bedroom at midnight, he or she will probably be pretty pleased that you did him or her that favour this afternoon. Another example: if you shlepped around shopping all afternoon, you probably don't really feel like making one more stop at the drugstore to buy shampoo. You might feel more motivated, though, when you consider the thanks you'll get from your tomorrow-morning self, who won't have to shampoo with body wash.

It can help to imagine the pleasure of your future self as he or she receives your favour, in the same way you might picture the face of a loved one opening a perfect gift. I used this trick today: It's Friday and I'm headed out of town for the weekend; my refrigerator is nearly empty, but I was strongly resistant to the idea of going out in the cold rain to get groceries. To motivate myself, I pictured the comfort and relief of my tired late-Sunday-night self, whom I know will be pleased to find provisions for Monday morning breakfast. Building on this kindness to my future self, I even convinced myself to wash all of the dishes before leaving (rather than leaving the skillet "to soak").

You can't always do favours for your future self, and different people will have different priorities. I have one friend who consistently practices what she calls Operation Integration: when she arrives home, she always puts her coat, keys, and bag where they belong, and unpacks any other items--rather than abandoning them in the entry way or only putting half her things away. She doesn't always feel like taking the time reintegrate her belongings, but her ten-minutes-later self is glad the apartment is tidy, and her next-morning self is glad she knows where to find her keys!

What favours do you do your future self?

NB: You can also do your future self a favour by not doing certain things. For example, you might be finishing a lovely meal out and really feel like having coffee with dessert--but it's 10pm. It could help to consider not having coffee as a favour to your midnight self, who would like a decent night's sleep.

1 comment:

  1. Opération intégration: so well integrated into this post!