Why You Can't Plan for Retirement by Doug Short on The Motley Fool presents some interesting research by the Stanford Institute for Longevity which discovered that when "people are asked to imagine themselves in retirement, the parts of their brains that usually 'light up' when they think about themselves don't light up at all. It's as if they were thinking about a stranger." However, in an experiment where people interacted with a digitally aged picture of themselves, twice as much money was allocated to retirement after being given $1,000 to spend or invest.
For me, this appears to be a good scientific explanation for how "envisioning a future state" benefits an individual. While envisioning doesn't guarantee success, it appears to create a psychological incentive to take action to help oneself. The secret apparently is to be able to see oneself in the future.
Looking back at my experience, I have had several episodes where seeing myself in the future did help. Here are a couple examples:
In both these cases, I saw myself in a different future than the present, which provided motivation to do what was needed. Based on the study results from the Stanford Institute for Longevity, I understand better why envisioning myself in the future can help. While I will continue to use it in financially related areas, I think I will also apply it in other areas to envision the future I want to create :-)
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Photo Credit: morgueFile.com, Bianca Meyer geb. Bollmeier
This is not financial advice. Please consult a professional advisor.