I recently laid eyes on an interesting article that gives a great example of how not thinking about the future is foolish. These mistakes are constantly made, and not just in physically changing one’s body. The student who overreacts and cusses out a teacher may feel great for the time being, but it can easily be seen that this will have major negative consequences. This shows the importance of reasoning when it comes to our actions, and whether or not we value the present or future more. If you reason, you should make the right choice. But that does not mean you do. I know it occurs somewhat often that I reason and make a choice that might affect me down the line. For example, did I really want that extra slice of pizza? Before eating it, I thought to myself, “a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips,” which typically defers me from eating, as I would like to make my future better. However, at that exact moment, I did not care. I just wanted to eat, as I wanted pizza to make myself feel better at the time. This demonstrates the point that I believe the value people place on the present or the future bridges from something that can be taught to something innate.
The importance you place on the future or present can be taught to you, however your motivation to uphold that ideal is most likely innate. Nearly everyone is capable of using their System 2 to reason for or against doing something that might affect them in the future, but it truly depends on the person as to how often System 2 beats out System 1 by making the choice that does not necessarily pay off immediately. As a result, I believe that it is safe to say that how much emphasis people put on either the present or the future is both learned and innate, which combines the views of the two articles referenced in my previous blog post. What is different depending on the person is the extent to which one is innately interested in making one’s future better by making sacrifices in the present.
An intriguing article on finding meaning in life discusses that those who contemplate about past or future events may not be happier, but it gives their lives more meaning. This leads to them being more satisfied with their lives. On the other side of this, those who live simply for the present may be happier for the time being, however their lives may not be as meaningful. This ties in well with the aspect of present versus future because when we make choices that will benefit us in the future, initially it does not make us as happy as it would have if we had made the choice that would help us in the present. However, it gives us more to live for, knowing that we have set aside future benefit for ourselves. If we are able to get past our initial perception as to the choice that would be right for us to make, and actually reason about it, we are not contemplating something trivial. We give our lives more meaning.