Summary of When Does the Future Begin?

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How close do you feel to the future you? According to Daphna Oyserman, a social scientist at the University of Southern California, your answer might be critical to your motivation. While most animals focus on the present, early humans developed future-oriented thinking – a mode of consciousness that helps you defy hardship – as you make your way toward an imagined future. Balancing these two modes of thinking can be a struggle. getAbstract recommends this summary to people who want to understand how an orientation toward the future can influence their behavior in the here and now.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why students improve academic outcomes when they feel closer to their future selves,
  • Why thinking in days rather than years helps people save for retirement, and
  • How altering your view of the future can improve your behavior today.
 

About the Author

Daphna Oyserman teaches psychology, education and communication at the University of Southern California. Her book Pathways to Success Through Identity-Based Motivation was published in 2015.

 

Summary

Do you see your future self as relevant and firmly linked to the actions you’re currently engaged in? Or is future you a distant, amorphous concept? Your answers to those questions reveal your levels of “identity-based motivation.” Research suggests that improving identity-based motivation leads to higher grades for students, better attitudes toward hard work and even increased retirement savings in adults. Middle school students underwent a 12-week training program that included small group activities which encouraged them to integrate their their current approach to schoolwork with visions of their future selves. Post-training, these students willingly spent more time on homework and had better attendance. They ended up with better grades and higher test scores. They also experienced a shift in attitude and came to see obstacles as necessary rather than unbearable.


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