Podcast Episodes

What is behavioral economics? Why does it matter to you?

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Podcast Episodes

What is behavioral economics? Why does it matter to you?

329. From Present Bias to Future Focus: Emotionally Connecting with Your Future Self, with Hal Hershfield

In this episode of The Brainy Business podcast, host Melina Palmer is joined by Hal Hershfield to discuss the concept of the future self and its impact on decision-making, featuring insights from his new book, Your Future Self. Hershfield explains that humans often prioritize their present desires over their future goals, leading to short-term thinking and procrastination. 

He highlights the importance of considering future outcomes when making choices and provides strategies for aligning present actions with future desires. This episode is relevant for individuals seeking to overcome present bias and improve their decision-making skills. By understanding the principles of what Hal calls “mental time travel” and applying the techniques discussed in the episode, listeners can increase their long-term goal prioritization and make more informed choices that lead to long-term success.

In this episode:

  • Discover the intriguing concept of the future self and how it shapes our perceptions.
  • Uncover the power of your future self for superior decision-making.
  • Establish an emotional bond with your future self, fostering personal growth.
  • Understand the application of mental time travel in business to strengthen your strategies.
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00:00:00 – Introduction,
In this episode, Melina Palmer interviews Dr. Hal Hershfield, author of Your Future Self. They discuss the concept of time discounting and the ways in which our present and future selves are connected.

00:02:08 – Understanding the Self,
Hal explains that the self is a bundle of associations, emotions, thoughts, and ideals that have some stability over time. He explores the idea of how we define ourselves and how our perception of our future selves affects our decision-making.

00:06:00 – Similarity with Future Self,
Hal highlights the importance of feeling a sense of connection and emotional overlap with our future selves. The more we see ourselves as similar to our future selves, the more likely we are to make decisions that benefit them.

00:11:42 – The “We” Aspect,
The concept of the “we” relationship, similar to how we view our relationships with others, can also apply to our relationship with our future selves. Thinking of our future self as part of our collective identity can help us make decisions that benefit both our present and future selves.

00:13:23 – Reframing Future-oriented Decisions,
Hal discusses the importance of reframing future-oriented decisions to provide immediate benefits and satisfaction. By finding pleasure in doing something good for our future selves, we can increase motivation and make better long-term decisions.

00:14:44 – Making Decisions with the Future Self in Mind,
Hal emphasizes the importance of considering how we will look back on our decisions instead of focusing solely on our immediate feelings. By stepping into the shoes of our future selves, we can reassess our choices and consider the value of relief in completing tasks versus the regret of procrastinating.

00:15:11 – The Hidden Zero Effect,
Dr. Hershfield introduces the concept of the “hidden zero effect” in decision-making. By considering both the immediate benefits and long-term consequences of our choices, we can make more informed decisions. This approach helps us avoid neglecting the potential negative outcomes or overlooking the relief we may feel in completing tasks.

00:16:34 – Mistakes in Mental Time Travel,
Hal discusses three common mistakes in mental time travel: missing your flight, poor trip planning, and packing the wrong clothes. These mistakes, which are all featured in his book, Your Future Self, highlight how we can become too focused on the present moment and fail to consider the future implications of our actions. By avoiding these mistakes, we can make better decisions for our future selves.

00:19:24 – Short-Term vs. Long-Term Focus in the Workplace,
In the context of work, it is important to balance short-term and long-term focus. Hal suggests considering whether we prioritize urgent tasks over important ones and how we can shift our mindset to focus on long-term goals. This applies to both individual employees and collective organizations.

00:28:28 – Learning from Individuals,
The conversation discusses the importance of learning from individuals within an organization and how their actions can be used to overcome challenges.

00:29:23 – Exciting Future Research,
Dr. Hershfield shares his excitement about two areas of future research. The first is a deeper exploration of commitment devices and understanding the predictors of their adoption. The second is focusing on collective decisions, environmental decisions, and end-of-life planning, including the use of letter-writing exercises.

00:32:35 – Balancing the Present and Future,
Hal discusses the concept of balancing the present and future. He shares a personal story about realizing that there will be a day when his children no longer want to spend time with him, highlighting the importance of living in the present while also considering future goals and values.

00:34:46 – Behavioral Change Intervention,
Hal and his colleague are working on a project using the idea of balancing the present and future as a behavioral change intervention. They aim to apply this concept to various areas, including parent-child relationships, to help individuals make choices aligned with their long-term values.

00:38:42 – Intentional Mental Time Travel,
The conversation emphasizes the importance of intentional mental time travel. Instead of reactive thinking, individuals should make deliberate choices about when to live in the moment and when to consider the impact of their actions on the future.

00:43:07 – Conclusion,
Melina’s top insights from the conversation. What stuck with you while listening to the episode? What are you going to try? Come share it with Melina on social media — you’ll find her as @thebrainybiz everywhere and as Melina Palmer on LinkedIn.

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