From: The New York Times

Why It’s So Hard to Put ‘Future You’ Ahead of ‘Present You’

I have this awful, corny joke I trot out whenever I’m glossing over details for future plans with friends or brushing off something I don’t want to deal with: “That’s Future Tim’s problem. Let that chump deal with it.”

Poor, poor Future Tim. Constantly set up for failure by that jerk Past Tim.

As Present Tim — who, ahem, is always on top of things — I can say that Past Tim isn’t bad. He’s just wired that way. And I’m sure as you’re reading this, a few instances come to mind of when Past You has, quite inconsiderably, set up Future You for failure.

Why do we do this to ourselves? What makes us act against our own self-interest, even when we are acutely aware we’re doing so?

At work is present bias, our natural tendency to place our short-term needs and desires ahead of our long-term needs and desires. A lot of the time this comes in the form of procrastination, and there have also been many studies that suggest it’s a primary reason we’re bad at saving for retirement. (You might know that by another name, hyperbolic discounting: Most people would prefer $100 today instead of $110 tomorrow, for example.)

Like many cognitive biases, this is a counterproductive behavior that we’re programmed to engage in, and some studies have suggested that we do this because we perceive our future selves the same way we perceive total strangers.

Read the whole story: The New York Times

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