In Drop Dead Healthy, A. J. Jacobs (author of The Year of Living Biblically) narrates his epic quest for health perfection. He begins with a body he likens to “a python that swallowed a goat” and fastidiously pursues “maximal health from head to toe.” He writes as a wellness wannabe, not as a nutritional-fitness guru, and his self-deprecating humor and light tone makes the book an easy introduction to various realms of wellness, such as sleeping better, avoiding dangerous germs, and preserving your hearing.
Part of his mission is to begin exercising more (as he puts it, “losing my gym virginity”), and one tactic he finds helpful comes from the field of “egonomics.”
Egonomics is a theory by a Nobel Prize-winning economist named Thomas Schelling. Schelling proposes that we essentially have two selves. Those two selves are often at odds. There’s the present self, that wants that frosted apple strudel Pop-Tart. And the future self, that regrets eating that frosted apple strudel Pop-Tart.
The key to making healthy decisions is to respect your future self. Honor him or her. Treat him or her like you would treat a friend or a loved one (p. 48).
This is easier said than done, right? We all have a general idea of what decisions in the present will make for a better life in the future: plenty of sleep, more spinach, less cage fighting, etc. But human nature gives us a penchant for preferring present gains over future losses. How do we value our future wellness, when that present donut looks so deliciously satisfying?
Jacobs solution was to use an iPhone app (HourFace) that digitally aged his photo. “My face sagged and became splotchy–I looked like I had some sort of biblical skin disease.” He printed out his elder self and taped it to his office wall. The result?
When I’m wavering about whether to lace up my running sneakers or not, I’ll catch sight of Old A.J. Respect your elder, as disturbing-looking as he may be. This workout is for him.
[My] future self needs to be around for my sons. They deserve to know him (pp. 48-50).
What strategies do you use to remember to respect your elder self?
image by flickr user djwtwo via creative commons