Is future you getting a raw deal?

Ever heard of past, present and future you? I read a Reddit thread once concerning self-discipline and self-regulation that introduced this concept. There were many valuable insights offered, but this was the one that stood out the most for me. I’ve always thought of myself as one person, so, if you’re anything like I was, you may wonder how there can be three of you. No, it’s not an undiagnosed case of multiple personality disorder. 

car side-view mirror
Live your life like your driving, know where you’re coming from (past you), where you are (present you) and where you’re going (future you)

Every person has three you’s. There is the past you, the present you, and the future you. Most people live their lives while considering the first two you’s while the future you gets neglected. So this blog is going to make a case for the third you. The underdog that shouldn’t be an underdog. 

P/S the Johari Window is a great evaluation tool you can use to understand yourself better, especially your past and present self. Read about it here.

The past you

The past you has gone through, experienced, and endured so much. This version of you shoulders any past pains, failures, and events. And every day, you continue to add more to this version’s story. 

Past you deserves a lot of respect and appreciation for enduring the past and getting you where you are today. It also deserves a lot of forgiveness for all the things it did that may not have served you. You do better when you know better and the best assumption to make is that past you didn’t know any better. Additionally, past you deserves a lot of compassion. 

However, past you loves to take the center stage position. They love attention and often keep you in victim mode. Sure, a lot of things may have happened to you in the past and while you should be compassionate and forgiving, you should not let past you paralyze you and keep you from moving forward. 

There’s a story that’s told of two sons of an alcoholic father. One became an alcoholic like the father, while the other did not. When the alcoholic son was asked why he became an alcoholic, he responded, ‘Because my father was an alcoholic.’. The funniest thing is that when the non-alcoholic son was asked why he became a non-alcoholic, he gave the same answer verbatim. 

This implies that you can either let your experiences paralyze you or teach you. The choice is entirely up to you. 

Future you

This is the you that is yet to be. You place all your hopes, dreams, and aspirations on this version of you. However, many times, the future you gets a raw deal. Many people already know what they can and should do to move their lives forward. Yet many times, they chose not to do it. 

The overweight person knows they should cut out unhealthy meals and exercise more but they pass this responsibility on to their future self. The student knows that they should start their homework now, yet they chose to leave it for their future self. I know I should do those dishes in the sink, yet I leave it for tomorrow morning’s version of myself. 

Future you and procrastination

There are many arguments for procrastination. One assumes you do not have the resources (energy, time, etc) to fulfill the task now. Another assumes that you do not have the courage to start now. All arguments assume future you will have all these things you lack now. 

There are valid reasons to procrastinate (sometimes). However, my argument is that many times, we forget to account for the fact that we are saddling the future version of us with present you’s responsibilities even though they will most likely have their own responsibilities. 

Present you

Present you is the intermediary. They are also the current version of us at all times. In all situations, they have to make a choice. Should I behave and react in accordance with past me or future me? Most times, past me, wins the battle. After all, you have come to learn that many times, even when you procrastinate, future you always gets things done so they must have the capabilities. What’s more, we expect the past to repeat itself so much, we rarely expect that things could change. 

An alternative way of living

In the Reddit thread, the contributor suggested that you should do the following

Appreciate and forgive past you. Be compassionate and empathetic

person holding Thanks card
Past you did future you favors. Say thank you.

This means that if in the past things have not worked out in your favor, you should acknowledge this but not let it hold you back. This also means that if in the past you made a choice that is hurting present you, forgive yourself but learn from that mistake. 

For example, if you took a loan and now present you has to pay it, forgive past you. Sure they made a mistake but you cannot go back and change it. You can, however, chose to learn from this mistake and not make it again. Here, the past mistake becomes a stepping stone to better financial decisions in the future. 

Additionally, you should always acknowledge all the things past you did that have helped you get to where you are today. You are only in the job you are now because past you applied for the job, went for the interview, and have worked hard enough to keep the job. It may not be as hard as you would have wanted, but you have still survived and that warrants some form of appreciation

Honor present you.

Sometimes you will be genuinely tired or lack the resources to do what you are needed to do now. However, there are times when you will not feel like doing what you are supposed to do even though you can do it. Evaluate the excuse you are giving yourself. If it is genuine, honor that feeling and push the task for later. 

For example, if you have laundry that you should fold but it’s getting late, sometimes, it will make more sense to move it to the chairdrobe, get your 8 hours then fold it the next day. However, if your reason for not folding is that you want to watch the next episode of Big Bang Theory, maybe you should bring the laundry in front of the telly and do both tasks at the same time.

Do future you favors. 

brown gift box on white surface
Give future you gifts

This was the most revolutionary idea for me. Every day, strive to get present you to do future you favors. For example, let’s say you have 1000/- debt. However, on your way home, you see a cute pair of shoes for 500/-. You have two choices, buy the shoes and let future you deal with the debt. Or, put 400/- into the debt repayment, buy yourself your favorite Cadbury chocolate for 100/- to placate yourself. You will only have 600/- debt left in the future which is a step forward from 1000/-. 

The latter option may be the harder option but it is the better choice in the long run. 

How to make it a habit

Most habits are learned through repetition and reinforcement. For example, if every time you exercise you feel good, you will want to keep exercising to get the same feeling. In most cases, however, human beings respond better to rewards than punishments

To put this concept into practice, you should always make a point to appreciate past you for the things they did for you. Say thank you, give yourself a pat on the back, or maybe even reward yourself. This will make present you look forward to doing future you favors. 


Any time you procrastinate, you may be honoring present you but at the expense of your future self. You should aim to do your future self more favors. This may mean that present you will have to endure a little more discomfort but future you will thank you for it. When faced with hard decisions, it may be best to ask yourself one question. Who am I putting first in this moment? 

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