(Don’t) Always Live in the Moment

Whether you are on a hot date or in the middle of a yoga session, by all means, do your best to stay in the moment. But if you find yourself in the middle of a heated argument, research suggests the best strategy is to psychologically remove yourself from the present moment and to think about the future instead.

A recent study highlights the benefits of having a future orientation during a conflict with a significant other. According to the lead researcher:

When romantic partners argue over things like finances, jealousy, or other interpersonal issues, they tend to employ their current feelings as fuel for a heated argument. By envisioning their relationship in the future, people can shift the focus away from their current feelings and mitigate conflicts.

Participants in the study were asked to reflect on a recent argument with someone close to them. One group was asked to describe how they would feel about the conflict a year from now and the other group was asked to describe how they felt about the conflict in the present. Those who were asked to time travel into the future reported feeling more positively about their relationship and gained perspective.

They were able to show more forgiveness and reinterpret the event in a more reasoned and positive light.

Thinking about the future may be a beneficial strategy for many of the conflicts and hassles we experience on a daily basis. It helps defang the intensity of the moment and promotes reflection. I think of it as the emotional equivalent of pressing a pause button.

Related research shows that writing a letter to your 70-year-old self can help you make better decisions in the here and now about impulsive spending, drug use and engaging in unethical behavior.

Catching a glimpse of your future self may be an effective motivation strategy to change your behavior for the better. Resilience expert Dr. Robert Brooks suggests asking teachers to consider their future selves to improve their performance today.

If years from now someone asked your students about some of their best memories of their teachers, would they immediately recall experiences they had in your classroom?

Considering how their students will describe them years from now motivates them to create a more positive classroom in the present.

Sometimes the best way to make the most of a moment is transport oneself into the future.

I wish you all the best,

Dr. Samantha Boardman