Science finds our future self is not a motivator for change

Are we then destined to live out our greatest perils?

If we can clearly see we’re on a destructive path, if we can see that our future is full of pain and misery —and knowing these facts does nothing to change us…

Are we doomed to live out this suffering?
Do we actually have control over our lives?
Where did the negative path begin?

Studies show when we imagine ourselves in the future, 10–20 years away, our brain interprets this like it’s an entirely different person — not as you, but someone you might know but don’t care about.

I don’t think this would come as a surprise to anyone, as we clearly do a considerably awful job at planning for the future. Politicians, our health, our job, our earth, our retirement…

So even if we can see a future where we obviously become overweight, in pain, no friends, no job, polluted planet, still renting…This is not a motivator to take action.

To me, this makes sense if we consider the duality of mind. Our imagination is part of our conscious mind and is separate from our unconscious mind. It is in the unconscious that our beliefs are formed which in turn cause our behaviors.

Simply thinking about an outcome is not enough to change our behavior.

So our imagination, although very cool, is not going to be the driving force for life changing the experience. So don’t sweat it if dying young of diabetes isn’t giving you the energy to start training for a marathon. If being without a house isn’t a motivator to work hard to get a better job.

It’s just not how we’re hard wired…

Our thoughts can confirm and strengthen our beliefs, or can provide short-term change through willpower — But not change us long term.

Beliefs are physical neural pathways, laid down by our experiences that shape our behaviours through our emotions.


Beliefs are formed through experiences, to fulfill our needs so we always take action on the most important things first — the need to survive, connect, have meaning and so on. These beliefs are through our experiences, shaped by our values and emotional state at the time. By design, we can’t think our way out of beliefs, habits, reactions or anything else in the unconscious mind, despite how illogical they are.

Future pain is not a motivator for change, so how do we use this knowledge of future to change our behavior for the better?

We’ve used our rational conscious mind to predict the future — this is exactly what it’s for, this is what it is best at. We understand that we’re heading in a bad direction, but still we can’t seem to take any action and we’re not motivated to change anything to help ourselves…

To take real action, we need to engage our unconscious mind, experience the problem and use it to re-shape our beliefs in a way that lead us towards the goals we choose. If we do not take this step, we simply won’t follow through.

Beliefs are not rational, they can be very self-destructive and can exist completely unknown to you.

Just because knowledge isn’t the catalyst for change, doesn’t mean we don’t need knowledge in order too change.

The great thing about the unconscious is it never lies. We connect with our unconscious via emotions caused by neural transmitters, those transmitters can’t rationalise, they can’t interpret or invent stories like your conscious brain can. So if you can become aware of and connect with your emotions, they will always be 100% honest.

It may not necessarily lead you in the most advantageous direction, but you’re basically at their mercy long term anyway so you’ll be happy. Because if you go against your emotional decisions, it’s very energy demanding and you’ll end up exhausted and sad — even if it’s the best logical choice!!!

We are emotional before we are logical and we’re ultimately at the complete command of our emotions and beliefs.


To be happy, we need to follow our intuition. So ‘logically’ it would be great to be able to choose how we feel about things right?

Well we can ?

Earlier we mentioned that beliefs were formed to fulfill a need. Shaped by an experience, within the context of our values and emotional state at the time.

It’s like a soup of ideas coming together and forming a rule for living…

I almost got eaten by that tiger I was trying to kill. I need to eat to survive, but I can’t get myself killed so “It’s best I eat smaller animals”.

But given the same circumstance, current beliefs and emotional state can change the beliefs we create.
I’m the greatest warrior, I’m angry at the tiger “I will get that tiger if it kills me”.

Beliefs are short stories we tell ourselves to automate our behaviour.

Many moving parts go into creating a belief. But we can break it down into parts and start creating beliefs that create momentum and take us forward towards the things we want.

Here’s how you can use your unconscious to shape your behavior

  1. Change your story
    Create reasons that align with your needs and values.
    “I walk every morning because I can get more work done when I have exercised”
  2. Reconnect your mind and body
    It’s not enough to create reasons that align with our values and needs. We need to open the door and let them in. We do this by using our body! Exercise, breathing, body awareness meditation, yoga… When we regularly move our body, we become emotionally aware and connected.
  3. Recognise your emotional state
    I’m angry, this is anger I’m feeling. Does this make me happy?
  4. Know what you want
    Knowing what you want is being aware of your needs and values. This way you can be more aware of your intuitive responses to experience and reframe meaning around your goals.
  5. Ask better questions
    Challenge yourself. “How do I want to feel?”. “Who has control over what I feel”.
  6. Bring awareness to the subversive beliefs holding you back
    Most often, inaction isn’t a lack of belief, it’s the presence of a belief preventing action.
    “I can’t do …xyz”
    “I always do …123”
    “I would do…abc but it’s hard”
    These all need to go please.

So questions lead to reasons — In a positive emotional state, these reasons bring us new perspectives that begin to shape new beliefs in a positive way. When we’re more open to change, aware of and connected to our emotions we can more readily access our unconscious and make the changes in our psychology that will lead to positive action in our day-to-day life.

Wrap up

If we want something and we’re not taking action on it, it’s a an unconscious belief holding us back.

We can flip this stubbornness and instead we can harness it to get the results we want.

Strong beliefs lead to motivation…

If you believe something strong enough, nothing can stop you — the opposite is also true.

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