A Stitch in Time
Updated: Sep 3, 2020
One of my favourite recent British films is 'About Time'. For those of you who haven't seen it, the premise revolves around a family with a rather unique secret: the men in the family have the ability to travel through time.
And so when our somewhat inept but rather charming young protagonist meets the girl of his dreams, and predictably bungles their first encounter, he is happily able to go back and try again.
Unfortunately for me, as far as I know I am not blessed with similar temporal abilities, and so I'm pretty much stuck with my past. What's done is done, set in stone, and all that.
But I do have a personal trait which I sometimes use as a little life hack when thinking of my goals: I imagine a Future Me.
I try to put myself in my own shoes in some undefined future time, looking back at everything I've lived and all the decisions I've made to get there. And I ask myself what Future Me would wish the me of today had done.
And while I realise that that might sound pretty self-limiting to today's instant-gratification I-could-get-hit-by-a-bus-tomorrow crowd, it nevertheless suits my risk mitigating personality.
It is a strategy which I try to apply across a range of things, from my own health, to interpersonal relationships, and certainly to my finances.
This also ties in nicely with another of my favourite topics: the Power of Small Changes. The behavioural science idea that making enough marginal gains over a long enough time can have outsized results. I once read somewhere that the British Cycling team each have their own pillow, tested for optimum comfort, which they travel with everywhere. This, amongst a whole host of small changes which the team have implemented, has transformed the sport. The British team have gone from being "also-rans" in the early-2000's, to the dominating force in world cycling today.
Possibly nowhere is this idea of making small changes more powerful than in saving for the future. It's not for nothing that compound interest was reportedly Einstein's 8th Wonder of the World!
And for a former pensions actuarial analyst, it is a message dear to my heart - the future will not take care of itself unless you take care of the present. Start early, save a little more, invest regularly. Maintain the habit, and some day soon that little money tree will have grown into a towering giant bearing beautiful financial fruit.
There are reams of research suggesting that those individuals better at delayed gratification generally score better across a range of life measures (remember that famous experiment of the kids with the marshmallows?^). Success comes from choosing the discipline of delaying what feels good in the moment in order to reap the eventual future rewards.
So put down that doughnut and go for the salad. Walk the escalators. Hold your partner's hand and give them a peck on the cheek every damn chance you get.
And please, put some money aside for retirement. Because Future You will soon enough just be: You.