I heard once about a study in which people made decisions that were better for their future selves (at some expense to their current selves) when they were looking at a picture of them modified to represent what they might look like when they are older.
Presumably this is because we have difficulty taking care of our future selves because we have difficulty imagining that the day will come that we are older. Obviously we know that it’s likely there will be a future self, that doesn’t mean we can easily imagine it. I think we are also eager for immediate gratification, and we discount the reality of what delaying now can mean in the future. (For example, setting aside savings to compound over time so that future self can benefit. Or Exercising today even though we do not want to so that we will get in better shape later).
What is the balance that we want between our current self and future self? How do we decide? Did your past self do something that you are now reaping the benefits of? Are there decisions you wish you had made in the past so that your future self would be in a different position?
This is now easy feat, and I think our brains fight against us.
However, this may be something we can get better at. Writing down your thoughts about the question above may help you realize behaviors and decide how your current self wants to treat future self. You could also try one of the apps that supposedly allow you to look at pictures of how you might look later (let me know if you find something that might be vaguely realistic – I so far have not). With time, you may get better at interacting with past and future self. In this interview, Elizabeth Gilbert explained that when she researches her books, she thinks often that her hard work in the moment is for her future self when she sits down to write the book. Then, when writing, she thanks her past self for doing the hard work that now makes writing much, much easier. Cultivating this gratitude with yourself may allow you to more easily get into the habit of taking care of your future self.