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Hal Hershfield on Befriending Our Future Selves: PYP 191

Hal Hershfield is a UCLA psychology professor, and author of some really interesting studies on the connection between what we do now and how we think about the future.

Specifically, he's shown through brain scans that the more we think of our future selves as a person different from ourselves (and most of us do), the less we're willing to sacrifice today to help that future self.

In other words, if I think of my future self as a stranger, I'm likely to reason as follows when it's time to leap out of bed and pull on my running clothes.

“Why should I exercise today and make my present self (aka ME) tired and sore, when it will benefit some old guy named Howie in about 10 years? What has that old fart ever done for me?”

Whereas, if I'm able to identify (or even empathize with) my future self, I'm much more likely to do nice stuff for him, like say no to that chocolate cake.

I first discovered Hal's work through my friend and teacher Peter Bregman's Leadership Podcast, and wanted to continue the conversation that Peter began and relate it specifically to health and wellness domains.

We covered:

  • why Hal tried hard to avoid psychology as a profession, and how that turned out 😉
  • how he became fascinated with concepts of time
  • thinking about retirement as a 24-year-old
  • viewing self-control vs temptation as a negotiation of tradeoffs between now and later
  • why the present usually wins
  • the brain's “me vs not-me” detector
  • how different languages shape our view of time and possibility
  • the powerful ways language can support or undermine our goals (“I'm a healthy eater” vs “I eat healthy”)
  • can behavior be altered by changing our views of our future selves
  • the challenge of “blink of an eye” increase in human life expectancy from an evolutionary perspective
  • the magic of age-progressed images
  • how Dutch teens reduced delinquency when they befriended their future self on Facebook
  • do future images showing weight loss motivate or demotivate?
  • the power of combining positive and negative emotions in living a healthy and happy life
  • the ultimate future self: us on our deathbeds
  • how psychedelics can break down psychological barriers and allow us to step into the minds of our future selves
  • and much more…

Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.

Links

Hal Herschfield's academic web hub

Hal's TEDx Talk (Ironically, my pre-roll YouTube ad was a McDonald's commercial)

Seeing is believing: The effect of brain images on judgments of scientific reasoning, by McCabe and Castel

Lera Boroditsky's presentation on How Language Shapes Thought

Keith Chen's TED Talk: Could Your Language Affect Your Ability to Save Money?

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Music

The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.

It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.

You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website, WillRidenour.com.

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5 comments on “Hal Hershfield on Befriending Our Future Selves: PYP 191

  1. John Dettloff says:

    Dear Howard,

    Although the show notes are posted for PYP 191, the audio does not seem to be. It’s neither on the web page nor coming up in my podcatcher. Have I missed something or is this a genuine oversight?

    Thank you so much for all your outstanding work. I really look forward to listening to you and your guests each week (which is why I went and checked for the show when it didn’t appear on its usual day).

    Warmest wishes,
    John

    1. Howard says:

      Thanks for the heads-up, John! I forgot to attach the podcast audio to the post. Fixed now 🙂

  2. Christine Nielsen says:

    Hi Howard, Your Wellness Weekly email today really cracked me up. Thanks for that!

  3. Tricia Adams says:

    Hi – Really enjoyed this discussion with Hal Hershfield (which is probably the tenth of your podcasts I have listened to this week) To follow on the comments about “eating healthy” vs “being a healthy eater,” I have noticed on my recent journey to a Whole Foods/Plant Based lifestyle that people who Identify themselves as Vegan (for ethical reasons) have Zero problem being 100% adherent to their eating plan from Day 1 whereas we WFPB No SOS folks who changed after watching Forks Over Knives can have daily battles with food choices. We feel as if we are surrounded by temptation. The prsent day self and t he future self are closely connected for the ethical vegan – they don’t need to engage in cost-benefit analysis or look to willpower when faced with temptation. In fact, animal food products don’t even represent temptation any more since their identity as a vegan (present and future) is so secure. So it would seem wise to promote a close, empahetic (even symbiotic) relationship with Future Healthy Howie instead of Howie the Old Fart!

    1. Howard says:

      Yes, compliance becomes second nature when we assume an identity. The challenge that ethical vegans face is saying no to vegan junk food, because there’s nothing in their animal rights stance against soy meats and canola cupcakes.

      I think the ticket is to start a WFPB religion… 🙂

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