THINKING ABOUT THE FUTURE?

Why do our brains stubbornly insist on projecting us into the future when there is so much stuff to think about today?

The most obvious answer is that thinking about the future can be pleasurable. We daydream about slamming the game-winning homer at the company picnic, posing with the lottery commissioner and the door-sized check, or making snappy patter with the attractive teller at the bank – not because we expect or even want these things to happen, but because merely imagining these possibilities is itself a source of joy. Studies confirm what you probably suspect: When people daydream about the future, they tend to imagine themselves achieving and succeeding rather than fumbling or failing.

Candle

Indeed thinking about the future can be so pleasurable that sometimes we’d rather think about it than get there.

In one study volunteers were told they had won a free dinner at a fabulous French restaurant and were asked when they would like to eat it. Now? Tonight? Tomorrow? Although the delights of the meal were obvious and tempting, most of the volunteers chose to put their restaurant visit off a bit; generally until the following week.

Wine glass

Why the self-imposed delay? Because by waiting a week, these people not only got to spend several hours slurping oysters and sipping Château Cheval Blanc’47, but they also got to look forward to all that slurping and sipping for a full seven days beforehand.

Forestalling pleasure is an inventive technique for getting double the juice from half the fruit.

Excerpt from p.17 of the book,Stumbling on Happiness by Harvard psychologist, Daniel Gilbert.


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