It’s like one of those massive dishes in the desert somewhere, pointed towards space, listening for alien life forms. Way out there, in a galaxy far, far away … is your future.
Sometimes it’s hard to tune in.
Sure, we’ve tried to simplify planning for it – “set some goals, make a plan to get there” – and that should help up to a point.
But why exactly is planning so challenging? It’s because in our minds, the future is nowhere near as vivid as the here and now. Rewards that are decades away simply don’t have a chance compared with rewards that we can get immediately. There’s too much of a dopamine rush.
If you’ve ever heard the Ant and the Grasshopper fable, you’ll remember how the ant slowly and steadily put away stores for winter, while the grasshopper could not understand why until it was too late. In recent years there’s been ground-breaking research showing how our brains work in a similar way: more thoughtful like the ant sometimes, but most of the time like the grasshopper, leaping from moment to moment without slowing down to think.
So how can we bring the future forward, certainly not to rush things, but rather to see where your money will take you?
You know how some folks will put a beach photo on the fridge when they’re dieting? Or how if you’re saving for a holiday to Rio, you pin photos up of that city all over your cubicle at work? What we’re doing is tuning into the future by making it as specific and vivid as possible. And that helps.
You can also rename your funds to something visual, like “Ruby at uni” or “Whangamata bach time”. Or choose photos of your future as your screensaver.
And don’t forget to add a picturesque target date, like “When every day is the weekend, June 2042”.
We’re visual beings after all. The more images of what your money will do for you in your future that you can tune in to, the more you will be able to plan ahead.