Note — May 16, 2021

Think About the Future’s Past

Seen in → No.173

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Another (softer) mind bender, this one by Christopher Butler who reflects on systematic vs emotional future thinking. The first is the structured practice, the second how we project ourselves in the future, what we might be doing, might have missed, might regret. All of which helps us to have a perspective which spans our past, present, and future selves. Or actually, one self stretched along the timeline of our life. That’s the much simplified gist of it but Butler structures this with a few books, papers, and theories. Excellent.

Thinking about the future is something we all do. Most of the time, our prospection is emotional. We think about things we desire and imagine having them. We think about things we fear, and imagine suffering them, evading them, vanquishing them. We run scenarios in our mind so that we can process present feelings by imagining we are feeling future ones. […]

A good futurist is no more psychic than Sherlock Holmes, but just as hypervigilant of patterns and deft at weaving the finest threads of cause and effect. […]

[W]hen people anticipate future temptations, they have a measurably higher chance of resisting it than do those who confront temptations without any preparation. Again, imagining the future emotionally, and exploring further how we might feel later about choices we make now, can actually change the choices we make. […]

We can create things with the purpose of serving as future beacons of the past, and we can use them now to imagine how we will feel then, and we can use that experience to shape what we do next.