What do retirement savings and your bulging biceps have in common? They both elude you for the same reason: There’s a mental disconnect between you today and you tomorrow.
Money Magazine says humans are hardwired to sabotage their own financial wellbeing. People buy stuff they don’t need, overestimate how long their money will last, and when it’s time to put money in savings, they’re shocked at their empty checking accounts.
Funny. That sounds a lot like my fitness regimen.
Overvalue calories burned.
Underestimate junk food intake.
And gasp into the mirror wondering why, despite “regular exercise,” I look the same as I did last month.
But, says Money, there’s a way around being our own worst enemy at the bank (or the gym). One of the secrets to reaching that $1 million retirement mark is actually quite simple, they say. Just spend a little one-on-one time with your future self.
How? Through visualization.
And because imagining being in our future skin is kind of weird, researchers have invented some tech-y platforms to help us do it.
So, Really, How Do You See Yourself in 6 Months?
According to the Money Mag research, the best-laid fitness plan hinges on this: Being able to clearly visualize your toned arms, sculpted back, gladiator abs and perfectly-dented quads.
Notice I said your.
No, friends, this is not an exercise in flipping through magazines and picturing your face on celebrity bodies. That’s not visualization. In fact, the ritual may actually increase the divide between “flabby you” and “toned you.”
The key, when fast-forwarding to an image of you after 6 months of diligent exercise, is to make sure you’re connecting with the real you.
Now you’re probably wondering what I was wondering. What does that even mean?
It means that it’s not enough to have a vague idea of how you’ll look down the road—you still haven’t reconciled the fact that it will actually be you. “Studies show that the present-day you doesn’t really identify with this future person,” the Money article explains. Neurologically, your brain responds to that mental picture of “you” the same way it would when looking at a stranger.
Therein lies the reason your vision of being in shape isn’t enough to keep you at the gym (and why Suze has yet to convince you to sign a prenup or buy life insurance).
So, because it’s hard not to be estranged from our future selves, researchers have tried to solve the money problem: they’ve built simulation tools that “age-morph” people into their 70s. People are shown happy- and sad-looking pictures of their aged selves (depending on whether they made hypothetical good or bad financial choices).
This palpable connection to today’s spending habits? It was enough to make most participants seriously ratchet up their nest eggs.
Imagine how easy it would be for us to reach fitness goals with the same kind of visualization tool. We could become the Warren Buffets of fitness. And it would be more fun, since we’d be imagining ourselves hot instead of old. (Hey, exercise is age-defying, right?)
But until they build that tool, you’ll just have to muster up the most realistic mental picture you can. Think of how you’ll look and feel after you commit to exercise—and alternately, how you’ll look and feel if you don’t.
If you happen to know someone with excellent Photoshop skills, even better.
Whatever your visualization method, please, make today the day that you befriend your future self.
Come bikini season, you’ll thank you.
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