One of the more fascinating discoveries of psychology is the relationship we have with our future selves. We tend to view them as different people. That’s one reason people take on obligations in the future that they wouldn’t take on now, and perhaps one of the reasons people find it difficult to save too. It’s not you who has to deal with the fall out. It’s someone else!
I like to think of myself as relatively future-focused. I was recently filling out a survey where you had to agree or disagree with various statements, and I had no trouble choosing “strongly disagree” for the statement “I live my life as if there is no tomorrow.” No one is guaranteed tomorrow, of course, but I think the odds are good, so I floss and eat my vegetables all the same.
That said, I still sometimes find it difficult to be in a good mental state about things done specifically for the future. I was thinking of that this past weekend when we took family photos.
I love having family photos. I love seeing how cute my kids were at different ages, and I know they change fast. We are now out of the baby stage. I snap candids with my iPhone, but then we aren’t all in them and the odds of the light or framing being good are small. So I hired Yana Shellman to come do family photos again this past weekend.
Yana is wonderful. My kids, on the other hand, can be a pain in the butt. The 2-year-old was running everywhere, pretty much refusing to sit still, which I suppose is understandable, but then the 7-year-old started being naughty about the photos too. He’d hide, or scowl, and generally cause trouble. We kept trying to get everyone together and looking at the camera, but when you get my kids in close physical proximity to each other, they’re highly likely to start fighting. Yana assured me this was all normal for family photography, and she took it in stride, but I was a bit of a stress case much of the time.
So, deep breaths. And then a thought: “Hey future you, this is your present. OK? Are you happy now? I am doing this for you.” As parents, we do things all the time that we wouldn’t particularly enjoy on our own (hello, sitting through a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s) because someone else is going to enjoy them. Rather than think of family photos as something I should be enjoying in the moment, I put them in the category of something I’m doing for someone else I’m fond of. As in, my future me.
And hey, we survived. Hopefully there are at least a few good ones in there! And, like dentist visits, I only need to do this once every 6-12 months.
Photo: Picture of the little guy from when he was really little. Still need to get this one framed!