22 November 2022

Optimise for your future self not your current self

Recently I've heard/read about a mental framework called "Regret minimisation". With regret minimisation you ask yourself, "would my future self in x minutes/days/weeks/months/years regret doing this or regret not doing this?", and based on this you do what would be preferrable for your future self.

An short term example might be if you are considering eating a sugary snack, you ask yourself, "Would my future self in 15 minutes regret this?". If the answer is yes, then you do not eat it, if the answer is no, then you do eat it. Or if you are sitting on the sofa, and consider should you continue to scroll through various apps on your phone or should you get up and practise xyz. You ask yourself "Which option would my future self in 1 week prefer?" and go with that.

Typically, our current self is more likely to pick an option that is more comfortable in the moment,  implicitly delaying anything that is immediately uncomfortable to our future self. However, the option that would optimise happiness and comfort for your future self is typically the one that is more uncomfortable in the moment, and thus less appealing to your current self. Thus it is better to think through what your future self wants in any scenario and go with that.

I prefer to think of this as optimising for your self rather than minimising the regret of your future self.