New Rules for Work Labs

Balancing Your Present and Future in the Workplace with Hal Hershfield

January 12, 2024 Hal Hershfield Season 1 Episode 5
New Rules for Work Labs
Balancing Your Present and Future in the Workplace with Hal Hershfield
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode, we're joined by Hal Hershfield, Professor of Marketing, Behavioral Decision Making, and Psychology at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, and author of  Your Future Self: How to Make Tomorrow Better Than Today. 

This episode dives deep into understanding our future selves and how we relate to them, especially in professional contexts. We discuss how goal setting and future planning play a major role and how time travel plays into it. The conversation delves into present bias and procrastination, distinguishing between superficial planning and deep future planning. Hal shares how we get the concept of future selves wrong and also brings up external influences and affective forecasting. We also touch on balancing utility over time and the importance of giving focus to our present selves too. Finally, we discuss practical techniques to enhance our vision of our future selves and also highlight a few researchers in the field.

To learn more about Hal and his work:

Hal's website: https://www.halhershfield.com/
Hal's book: https://www.halhershfield.com/yourfutureself

Episode Resources


Producer: Podrick Sonicson

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David:

Welcome to the new Rules for Work labs, where we're rewriting the rules of work. In our lab, we glean insights from the world's foremost minds, exploring leadership, team dynamics, creativity, artificial intelligence, and more. Join us as we dissect, analyze, and incubate ideas shaping the future workplace. Stick around to learn how we turn these insights into practical activities. Get ready for a journey into the future of work. This is the new Rules for Work Labs, where insights meet action.

David Mastronardi:

foundational to your work that this concept of the future self, what is our relationship with the way we think about ourselves to time, it seems to be pretty superficial.

Hal Hershfield:

Yeah, it's an interesting point. We do engage in a lot of goal setting. We do engage in a lot of, what psychologists would call mental time travel, thinking ahead to the future, or thinking back on the past. My contention is that we don't always do so with a very deep understanding of the person who will benefit or suffer from The decisions that we're making right now. In other words, that person being us a version of us at some point in the future. I think if you were to ask somebody have you ever thought about five years from now? Yes, the answer most likely would be yes. Actually the data suggests that there is about a quarter of people who say that they rarely do that, but nonetheless. It's something we can do. But what you're asking is a slightly different question, which is not only can we think about Ourselves over time. But how deeply do we engage in that? How deeply do we actually do that? And I think to some extent, if it was something we did, with a great deal of depth. Then, the as I like to say, that, gyms would be full and donut shops would've shorter lines and people wouldn't be searching for diets and figuring out ways to save. These are symptoms of at times, there's always other reasons, but these are symptoms of not thinking deeply about our future selves.

Elise Keith:

So you got you got super interested in this in the past. This relationship with our future self. What is it? We get wrong most of the time when we are Thinking about who that person. is. How do we conceive of it in ways that don't make sense?

Hal Hershfield:

Yeah, so sometimes the thing we get wrong is that simply we don't think about it that much. We, the psychologists and economists talk about something called present bias, which is when we are so overly focused on the present that we sometimes miss out on opportunities to do something for the future. There's other ways in which we get it wrong too. For instance, we it's quite nefarious. We actually tell ourself that we're thinking about the future. But we're doing so in a superficial way. Procrastination is a great example of this. Like when I procrastinate, I am saying to myself that I will do this thing next week or in two weeks or whatever it is, but if I really thought deeply about it, if I don't want to take care of. Paying my property tax bills today, why am I gonna wanna take care of it or have the time to do it next week or in two weeks, right? So I think that's a version of not thinking that deeply about the future. And then the, the, a final sort of mistake or, what we get wrong is taking our feelings in the present and projecting them onto our future selves in a way that's unfair to our future selves. The analogy would be getting a gift for your partner that's representative of something you want. Like I could tell myself, I can come up with all sorts of stories of why I think my wife would love a new espresso machine and really that's a gift for me. And I could, something similar may happen at times when we plan for the future, but overly anchor on our present feelings and project them on to our future selves.

Elise Keith:

So you've completely caught me out. I cannot tell you the number of fabulous puzzles and and adventures. My, my husband who is not so interested in fabulous puzzles and adventures is received But I think I was thinking about that and from a group context is that similar to the the end of history illusion where the group does future planning assuming that they in the future will be largely like they are today. Basically like change happened, but then change has with who we.

Hal Hershfield:

That's right. And that's a really good summary of the end of history illusion, which of course has been investigated on the individual level. And the gist is that we recognize that we've changed from the past to the present, but fail to see that we'll continue to change as much moving from the present to the future. We think that, history has stopped and you raise a really interesting possibility, which is whether or not that same Mistake or illusion occurs at the group level as well. That is this sort of recognition that, our culture has changed, our interests have changed from the past to the present, but somehow we've now arrived more or less fully baked or, we're as close to as baked as possible and things won't continue to change when in fact. Most likely they will. I would say that it would be a really interesting question to investigate because my guess is that the rate of progress actually is not so uniform over time and that there probably are periods, historians would speak to this better than me, but there probably are periods of great change in others with less but I don't know psychologically where groups fit on that spectrum and how they see moving forward.

David Mastronardi:

So when we said we don't think about this deeply enough or sophisticated enough, and with this, I buy gifts for myself even though it's in the name of somebody else. We're not imagining how we might be different in the future.

Hal Hershfield:

Yes.

David Mastronardi:

And the reason we get this wrong so often'cause we're really bad at It's hard to, for us to imagine what might be like and oh, maybe I won't like chocolate, maybe I won't cappuccino

Hal Hershfield:

first off, I think you hit the nail on the head that we're really bad at this. There's a lot of research on what's called affective forecasting. Demonstrating the many ways in which we fail to accurately forecast our emotions in the future. We think a positive thing will make us happier than it actually will and will continue to make us happy. We think that a negative thing, losing our job. Breaking up. Et cetera will make us much sadder than it actually will and will continue to make us sad over time and when in fact, the data suggests that, n neither is the case. There's all sorts of other ways, by the way, that we fail to accurately predict our emotions in the future, some of which has to do with the fact that we often think about the initial future experience and fail to consider like a, an entire experience. But you bring up this question of why does this, why does, why do we have this hard time relating? And I think you're absolutely right. It comes back to this sense that we have a very difficult time simulating the future and also taking into account the ways that external forces will eventually impact us.

Elise Keith:

This bit where we envision and we can imagine the initial onset of a situation, but not the progression of the situation. Isn't that a basic survival of the species at mechanism? Like who has children when you realize you have to spend time with them through all of the things you have to like, they're wonderful and oh my gosh, sometimes they're 12.

Hal Hershfield:

That's a, I'm sorry. That's a really funny observation. You know what I, I have this distinct memory that When we when we found out my wife was pregnant with our first kid, she found out that one of her very best friends was pregnant at the exact same time. And I remember this friend called us and said, oh, how amazing is it that we're gonna get to raise kids together? And I had this sort of moment of freezing and I was like, I have to tell you, all I thought about was the fact that we're gonna have babies at the same time. And this idea of raising kids was, that's the entirety of the experience or the first part of it. And. I'm someone who studies this stuff and I just fail to see that there's something that's self-protective about that too.

Elise Keith:

So you've done all of this, talking about things you've experimented with that actually work to help nudge us towards making better decisions on behalf of our future self. Some of.

Hal Hershfield:

Sure. I think one of the things before we talk about strategies, I think it's important to recognize that our future selves can be thought of as if there are other people and there are other people whose lives we can impact. And the reason I mention that is because I think it can help shed some light on some of the strategies that we might wanna put into place. So one of, one of them is more or less directly derived from the great work that charities do to try to get people to donate to charity recipients. They make the charity recipients vivid and they make them emotional. They don't tell you statistics. They give you lengthy paragraphs. They show you a picture or they tell you a story, or they let you know how each dollar that you contribute is going to actually have an impact and what that impact will be. happening there is that they're increasing the salience and the vividness of the charity recipients. That creates stronger emotions that creates action, right? So one of the strategies we can employ in trying to connect more to our own future selves is to try to make those future selves more vivid. One thing that we've experimented with is Literally trying to see what, a future self might look like. We've used age progression technology. I laugh at this because it's a little bit cheesy though. The reality is that the technology now is far advanced beyond where it was when I first started working on this years and years ago. Anybody who's been on social media and seen These face aging filters on TikTok and Snapchat and, some of which have been posted Instagram and whatnot. Do a pretty good job of showing you a representation of what you'd look like when you're older. I don't mean to say that, logging into TikTok and running that sort of age filter is gonna suddenly make you go to the gym and stop spending money frivolously. What I, what we have found is that when age progression techniques are partnered with an opportunity to actually make a change and done so in a realistic way and in a deep way. It can have an impact, so we've recently published a paper, my colleagues in Iowa, where we found that when consumers were given the opportunity to see an older version of themselves coupled with messages discussing the importance of saving for retirement. They were about 16% more likely to make a contribution to their retirement account compared to people who didn't get those images. That's not the only way that we can increase vividness though. Another exercise that I really like is to write a letter, two one's future self, and then write a letter back as if you're stepping into the shoes of your future self.

Elise Keith:

Do you do that like back to back, like right at the same time or are you does it matter?

Hal Hershfield:

That's a really good question. From a research perspective, I don't know, because we haven't necessarily tested whether it works better or worse. If you were to put, a week or a day in between. You could make an argument for either way, like I could imagine actually giving some space could be better to like really internalize. I could also imagine that maybe you need to be in the same setting. So that's another good research question to ask. I don't have the answer to it. I've recently started playing around with this not in, I've been, haven't tested this, but in teaching I've had people first write a letter to their past selves. And then I have them go through the exercise of writing letter two, and then from their future selves, what I've found is that letter writing through a past self really greases the wheels makes it easier to get into this, quote unquote time travel machine, if you will. But again, I want to emphasize part of what's happening there is that exercise is making the future self more graspable, more like somebody I can now see, oh, I'm, I am maybe More similar to them or more emotionally involved with them than I had previously thought about, and then take that from there to make a impact on behavior.

Elise Keith:

So both of those strategies, when I think about them from a group. Context or group perspective are akin to some of the movements we see in strategy work of letting go of here's my mission, vision, values, bullet points that that all make us feel nice when we put them on the PowerPoint, but then we ignore into vivid narrative.

Hal Hershfield:

Yes.

Elise Keith:

As being the way, and it sounds you talked about age progression as somebody who is not super motivated by the idea of doing a lot of age progression at the moment, I'm gonna hit that part of my lifespan where, I'm not thinking that's gonna show me anything I'm interested in working towards I could imagine applying it to also things like rather than age progression, just what might I look like if cookies weren't so delicious. And those kinds of different storytelling aspects, is that really just the key, whether you're a group or a person or wherever you are, is

Hal Hershfield:

You said it painting a picture. IMG the bank in Europe, they recently deployed this really interesting I think it was more for marketing, but perhaps that had an impact on behavior technique where they asked people to describe an ideal day in retirement. And then they basically use the AI tools to show that people upload a photo. This woman says I see myself running through a field of poppies with my three dogs and like this, she's uploaded a photo and then, press a button and then there's this beautiful picture. I've seen it, it's amazing of this woman running through a field of poppies with her one dog in front, two dogs behind her. There's actually other work that's looked at this in a group setting using this is community planners in Japan, where they've had like a group of, they split the team in two and then one half Is meant to represent future citizens. They come back wearing this sort of garb. This is extreme.

Elise Keith:

It sounds fun. Sounds like a cool role playing. Yeah.

Hal Hershfield:

I mean it's a very, it,

Elise Keith:

visioning.

Hal Hershfield:

and it's that Now the planners have to have a conversation with the, essentially the descendants, the people who are gonna be impacted by this. And it's, There's something funny about it, but what it's doing is it's making the future. People who are impacted by present decisions more vivid. It's giving them a voice at the table rather than just, let me just imagine how this will impact them, and we still doing that, but It's a much deeper imagination exercise.

David Mastronardi:

it's making it more real. But I think as we think about ourselves, if there, it's also important to really create this separation and this understanding. I love our future selves are other people than who now in, in realizing that, and then these other techniques are really to make that separation clear between who I am now and who future self might be. actually thought you were gonna say that with the charities example, that one of the activities you can do make yourself the charity recipient, right?

hal-hershfield_1_11-30-2023_120802:

Ah, yeah. That's great.

David Mastronardi:

But seeing yourself as other and, it sounds like that's the, that's that, back to that, do we do so poorly is because of ourselves in the now as always.

Hal Hershfield:

And I'll just add something there. It's the, and there's, this is an analogy that we think of our future selves as another because there's all sorts of nuance there and we turn into that other and so forth. But it's not so much that we see that separation or that we see our future selves as another, but rather what sort of relationship we have with that other. The viewpoint that I've taken is that it's actually okay to see our future selves as if they're others. But what matters, what truly matters is the sense of emotional connection that we have to that other right. My, my kid is another, my wife is another, my best friend is another person. But my relationships with them are close enough that I want to do things for their benefit their survival, their happiness. And to the same extent you could make the argument that, a charity recipient there's a, there's many differences there, right? Because now you've entered in possibly pity and empathy and various other aspects, and yet there's still a sense of, responsibility or duty and wanting to help. And I think we have to be careful about the charity analogy because I don't know that pity would necessarily be the best emotion to dial up for future selves. I could worry that there'd be some backfire effect that I don't even now want to think about that future self. I'm just gonna live for today or future group even. But I think your point, Dave, is like a really good one that, The charity recipient deserves our attention in the same way that I think our future selves deserve our attention.

David Mastronardi:

yeah, that, got me thinking There's the, thing you wanna be, right? There's but then there's all these other ways of the ways of thinking about not just what we want to be, but I would, I've experienced avoidance as a way that I shape my future self. Like I don't want to be that. Kind of what you're saying about pity and empathy. There's certain people where going towards the thing that I suppose it would be healthier and I want to be, I see things and I say, I don't want to And maybe not the best way. I, don't know. Is that helpful? I don't want to be that. Is that the best way to think about the future selves avoidance versus pursuit?

Hal Hershfield:

Yeah, it's a really interesting question,'cause, in marketing we talk about Assimilation and affiliation and, distancing dissimilation where I'm basically saying I'm I don't want to be like a given group. And both, by the way, both techniques are used in marketing communications, right? Anytime we see a celebrity or some. Person who looks like they have an ideal life next to some product. Implicitly what's happening is the company is saying, Hey, if you want to be like this person, perhaps you could buy this car or cologne. But we see the flip of it, right? If many public service announcements trying to get you to not do something, not drink, not do certain, drugs or whatnot, is showing you A version of what could happen if you were to do it, and having you try to say, I don't want to be that. Applying that lens to future selves is a, it's again, you guys are coming up with some really interesting questions. It's another really interesting question. And I, I don't have I would love to say I have the answer to that. I don't have the answer to that. I have some suspicions, but I suspect that the positive framing, the assimilation is probably more motivating. We often, there's a optimism bias where if you tell me things might work out poorly, I'll say, I know that's a possibility, but I don't think it's going to really bear out with me.

Elise Keith:

I think it's interesting, but I have to say, when I read your book and started thinking about this relationship with our future selves as being this relationship with another person I shared that with some relatives in my family here, and I started to hear some of their language shift. They would say things like, Oh, Thank you past self, when the dishes were done, first thing in the morning and at work we would say, oh, gotta write some notes for my future self so I know what this was about. Like some of those kinds of things

Hal Hershfield:

That's great. That's great.

Elise Keith:

It was super cool. Super cool. Especially for the little ones that are.

Hal Hershfield:

Yeah, totally.

Elise Keith:

But what I found is that there were some folks at all of those age ranges who have historically been unable to plan their way out of a bag and they were unable to embrace any of these things. Do you see or effective differences in folks' ability to empathize with their future self?

Hal Hershfield:

Yeah, it exists on a spectrum just like everything else does. You think about personality generally speaking, and there are spectrums that need to be acknowledged, The idea that you're either an extrovert or an introvert is a dated one, right? You're, most people are ambient. Most people are in between, and there's people at either end, but they're far fewer. And the same, I think, can be said for the sense of connection and similarity that we experience with our future selves. My own research has found that there is a spectrum there. Now what I don't know is, what what determines why somebody might be out here versus out I suspect it's a combination of just what we're born with and what we see modeled to us. The classic sort of nurture and nature. Argument. Your observation that there's some people who can't how did you say it, play on their way out of a bag, right? I think it's probably a good one. Now, one thing I wanna add to that is that it's important to pay attention to domain specificity. And what I mean by that's a fancy term for saying that we exist in many different arenas in our lives. I am Really good at planning out our budget for next year. I am really terrible at communicating clearly about like work trip plans, and it's these are both elements of and it's like one of them I find annoying. The other one I like to get into. And sometimes on the outside it may seem, oh, this person is either A or B. But there's a lot of color in between and I think it's important to pay attention to the arenas in which we excel and the ones that we don't.

Elise Keith:

I that that is so true, right? We all contain multitudes. I remember finding in one of my children's rooms when they were in trouble, a binder that said, parents don't look, and it was full of business plans. An illegal operation, but I was like, oh my gosh, he can in fact write a business plan I'm amazed.

Hal Hershfield:

That's

Elise Keith:

So you just never know. You just never know.

Hal Hershfield:

That's

Elise Keith:

Yeah, it was it was a wonderful moment. this is illegal, but how cool.

Hal Hershfield:

How cool. That's very funny. Walter Michelle, the psychologist who's famous for the marshmallow test and the sort of, and famous for the understanding that personality Interacts with situations. He famously pointed out that, bill Clinton was able to exhibit a massive amount of self-control in the space of international negotiations. And not so much in, I'll just say in

Elise Keith:

other arenas.

Hal Hershfield:

Other arenas. And and I think that's just such an important point to, to recognize.

David Mastronardi:

I wanted to get back to the things we can, do,

Hal Hershfield:

Yeah. Great.

David Mastronardi:

we started to get down that road with it's important to imagine yourself as different people We do a lot of work organizations and teams, leaders. What, so there's the personal aspect of this. How personal self, maybe as a leader, what am I doing five years from now? What's, what are things people can be doing, It seems like we're in an era of unprecedented rate of change. It seems like imagining the future is really important. Imagining lots future. That's probably actually the wrong way to think about, but

Hal Hershfield:

Yeah. Futures.

David Mastronardi:

What are techniques practices that leaders can do with on, on their their teams? To help bring about more useful versions of their future selves or organizations.

Hal Hershfield:

Yeah, so you're asking great questions, like you said, let's get back to the practical here. So there's a couple things. So one is on a leadership level there has been some research finding that the a, a version of the letter writing exercise is actually quite helpful. So this is more on the sort of individual level to take a leader and have them. I actually think that what that research did was ask them to imagine that they were on a, in a time machine and traveled ahead and write about what the organization looks like in five 10 years. And what they found is that, that exercise then deepens the communications that leaders have back to their teams about planning and gets them to be a little bit less present. Bias, in this sort of short termist type of way. But again we're still talking about letters there. Another, another exercise that I really like that I think gives some appreciation of the fact that there's different selves or even different, organizational selves over time is an exercise of or two exercises. One is backward planning. And

hal-hershfield_1_11-30-2023_120802:

backward planning essentially is let's start from where the.the goal completion has occurred and work backwards. And it can, that exercise can help illuminate some of the steps along the way that we might have forgotten about or might have other overlooked. It can also help illuminate where things could go awry where, and it's very easy in the forward planning mindset to be optimistic, overly optimistic about the sort of qualities of our future selves to get things done, when in fact that's like another way of being unfair to them. Another exercise that I really like in the organizational space is to conduct a pre-mortem. And, the pre-mortem, of course, is to say let's imagine things got blown up. What happened? What's the worst? Like, how did they go awry? Why did they go awry? And then what sort of fail safes can we put into place to, to prevent those things from happening? So I think those are, those can be effective exercises there. There's other solutions, strategies that I, I adhere to again, on the personal level, but we can talk about how these expand outward, one of which is. Recognizing that the sacrifices made for future selves benefits often are undertaken by the present self, right? And that's the version who has to do the thing that doesn't seem all that appealing. And one way to counteract that tension is to try to figure out ways in which we can really make those sacrifices less painful. Could we highlight the benefits of them right now? Could we add in positives to the sort of negative? I think anytime an organization offers, a financial incentive for a worker to go through a training that benefits them in the future, part of what they're doing there is making that present sacrifice of taking time away from work.

David Mastronardi:

Yeah.

Hal Hershfield:

More positive, right? And I wanna be clear, it's not like people aren't doing this, but I think using the framework of, or rather, u using the lens of separate selves, separate organizations, and how do I dial down the pain of the present organization, the present self? I think that may open up new possibilities, that could be idiosyncratic for whatever organization someone's in. But I think that overall strategy of dialing the pain down can be particularly helpful.

Elise Keith:

That idea of how the current self sacrifices for future self creates real challenges, right? Like basically, you're asking me to make better decisions to, on behalf of a person who, will they actually have a better belly because I skipped that beer. I don't know. Who else knows what's gonna happen. But as I was thinking about it so first of all, I think maybe your shift chain thinking might have shifted a little bit on, on the how much we should be sacrificing our current selves wellbeing for future selves wellbeing. And just last part of this in the work context. It feels to me like in the US we have somewhat of the reverse problem sometimes where we get employees, workers who are overworking themselves today with this expectation that somehow that's gonna pay off

Hal Hershfield:

Yeah.

Elise Keith:

later.

Hal Hershfield:

No,

Elise Keith:

How is your shifting thoughts about that?

Hal Hershfield:

I think this is a really important question and perspective. So it's funny because when I first started this research, I really was focused on, how can we do things now for our future selves? And I was very much focused on myopia. myopia. being, when we are so focused on the present that we miss the future. There's this other time travel mistake called hyperopia where we're so focused on future that we miss the present. That's exactly what you're talking about. I'm working so hard because I've convinced myself this is good. This is good for now. It's good for later. And I look up and I've missed, I've missed the present. We've heard the classic my I am longtime friends with a financial planner on the East coast, and he told me a story about he, he had a client who overworked, but also rose up through the ranks. I believe he was a partner in a law firm. His wife always wanted to travel, and he said no, we'll do that in retirement. He retires. And you think you know where the story is going, right? He dies and they don't get to travel. The reality is she died. And he's left saying, oh, now I have this money to travel. To go on these trips that she wanted to take while I was working. And I don't mean to be sad or dark about it, but I think that to me is like a perfect version of convincing ourselves that we're doing something, we're putting things off for the future in a way that will, will benefit. We now I'll have the money to go on a really incredible trip when ironically hyperopia that over focus on the future. Ironically, can actually harm the future self, right? Because it can create a future, it can create a future self that doesn't have the memories and experiences to look back on and get utility from. And and what's I think particularly interesting about this is that there is a world in which Doing things for the present self will not only benefit the present self, but also the future self. The example you talked about in the workplace is a, is I think a perfect example where, the, my mind goes to, perhaps it's cliche, but my mind goes to the, not taking vacation time,

Elise Keith:

And not a cliche, massive statistic. It's just, that is what do.

Hal Hershfield:

that is what people do. And it's gonna harm me in the, if I don't, if I take the vacation day, it's gonna make life harder in the present. And and it'll, and I think on some level I say, oh, it'll be great to have the days later on, or whatever The reality is, taking those days not only benefits my future self because they're the ones who, they get to take the vacation, they get to look back on the vacations. or just the time off. They also benefit my present self because now I get to take my foot off the gas a little bit and be refreshed and recharge and all the sort of things that come with taking time off. So I do think, if there's bigger takeaway here I am, I'm definitely not in the camp that we should all be doing more today for tomorrow. I'm much more in the camp that we should all be thinking more about spreading utility out over time and trying to if you will balance or harmonize between today and tomorrow and so forth so that it's not so lumpy, but rather, we can get utility like spread out across time.

Elise Keith:

I would be so curious about any research. I don't even know how you would study such a thing, but like how do you find that Right relationship between chunking out, Small current sacrifices and. And future optimizations versus, the moment of time, especially in a world that's changing so quickly. So if we're writing letters to our future self, should we aim like maybe three months out? Because

Hal Hershfield:

Who knows?

Elise Keith:

That's keeping that future present in balance a little bit more realistically or.

Hal Hershfield:

Totally. I think one of the recommendations that comes about when you think about this thorny problem is something that I've heard referred to as the big why. Coming back to the big Things that motivate me. It's really easy to fall prey to the, almost be taken on the current of time and you just do the things that come up here, you do this thing, you do that thing, and so forth. But when we try to say, okay this question of chunking and what makes sense now versus later, if we pull back and say, how will this activity now, how will this endeavor? relate back to the things that matter most to me. And that's not an easy question because you have think about it but I think part of doing that exercise can help us decide when it does make sense to really, go full throttle at work versus when it makes sense to pull back. Because of the career period that I'm in. I'm going through this a lot, and this fall, it was like, I knew October was gonna be a time when I had a lot of things on my plate. And all of them they really felt like they all linked back to overarching goals and they could help with literally financially with our, family. But also they could help with my career and whatnot. But then I'm looking ahead and I'm saying, okay, there's time in December where. The kids are off. But I'm not technically, and you know what? I'm gonna take that time and be with them. And it's, and that is a mindset that I didn't use to have because it was like if I have the time to work and I could, I should do it. And that's, I'm seeing that's the time where I'm gonna pull away from the work part and go more sort of the home part, which is those are just two versions of a self. And there's of course many other ones to think about as well.

Elise Keith:

What a gift you've given yourself though, right? Come on. It's no, it's so great.'cause you're in the middle of that massive ramp. Your book's out, you're doing the circuit. You've done great research. It would be really easy skip Christmas. So good job.

Hal Hershfield:

Yeah. I don't know. I appreciate that. It's interesting'cause I think. If there's anything, I've paid a lot attention to this, end of history illusion, because it's even in doing this, I started saying this is how things are now. And I have to keep pulling back and saying, oh, and this is how I'll always do things. And I have to keep pulling back and saying this is how they are now. And they may change and I'll have to reevaluate.

David Mastronardi:

But it's really comforting to know that you you can always, this is how I'm always gonna do it'cause it's been successful at this point. So why wouldn't it always be successful going forward? very comforting. Then I don't have to to start beginning. it's just me.

Hal Hershfield:

Yeah, that's right.

David Mastronardi:

how could we play a little bit of a game?

Hal Hershfield:

Yeah, let's do it.

David Mastronardi:

right. Could we play, would you rather.

Hal Hershfield:

yeah, let's do that. Okay.

David Mastronardi:

And they have all the, either all happened or I have been currently asked about them, within the last little bit. We'll start small. where we go. Okay. You find yourself at a crucial client dinner where sealing the deal for a big contract hinges on making the client happy. The stakes are high, and the client suggests ordering a specialty cocktail as a celebratory gesture. Would you rather join in rapport and potentially securing the contract even if it means straying from your usual no alcohol stance? Would you rather stick to your principles declining the drink, but risking the perception that you're not fully committed to the celebratory atmosphere?

Hal Hershfield:

Oh wow. That's a funny one. Also, I don't have the principle of not drinking a client dinner, harder to

Elise Keith:

like whatever.

David Mastronardi:

whatever,

Hal Hershfield:

Wait, and Dave, have I had cocktails? I have so many questions. Have I had cocktails already? Is it a triple martini from Mastros? Are we talking, can I wink at the waiter and say just put a half a shot

David Mastronardi:

Right? water, make it wa

Elise Keith:

Do they do mocktails? Come on. But.

Hal Hershfield:

yeah, exactly. That's a, oh my God, that's such a tough question. That's so funny. But the fact that I'm having a hard time answering that probably tells you Where I would land on it. You know what I am, I'm a one of my motivation. I'm like problematically, a people pleaser. And so I would imagine if I'm being honest, I would order the drink. And, but I don't know that I would finish it. Like I would probably get it and I would like, toast them or whatever, and I might, find a way to either not drink it all the way or I, I do remember, I have this memory from 25 years ago when I, my uncle loves Bourbon, and the, I do now, but then I was like I don't know. And he gave me a glass and he wanted to try it with me. And I took a sip and I was like, this is awful. But I really felt bad. I didn't wanna say that. And I like We were outside. And I he turned and I like quickly dumped it over my shoulder. Yeah. And of course he was like, oh, do you want another, it's oh no, I'm good. But yeah. So there's my answer. Sorry if that was too much explanation.

David Mastronardi:

no.

Elise Keith:

So this is so great because I think from a future self perspective what you just talked about is your strategy for dealing with something you don't wanna have happen. And it's something we do with kids, right? Hey. Imagine you and your friends are out and they offer you a cigarette. Let's action play what we do. And here you've got the I'm gonna do the spy move where I pretend to drink, but actually you're drinking because it's poison. Haha

Hal Hershfield:

yes.

David Mastronardi:

Yeah.

Elise Keith:

So there's your strategy. Cool.

David Mastronardi:

How, This one I want to get to, This actually, is something I was last two weeks. Here we go. You're a student in the us your visa is expiring and facing the choice of a transactional marriage with a US citizen for practicality's sake, you're stuck at the intersection of paperwork and personal ties. Would you rather hitch the bureaucratic ride ensuring you stay and studies even if it turns your relationship into a sitcom plot? Or would you rather flip the script pursuing alternative, even if it means facing the music back in your home country?

Hal Hershfield:

What's my home country?

David Mastronardi:

it's a place I'm not gonna say, but it's a place that you really don't want to go back to

Hal Hershfield:

Yeah. YI, I gotta say, I think on that one. And, but by the way, all of these dilemmas are so interesting because they're done in this sort of cold place. I'm sitting in my living room answering these questions. And then what we know from the research is that people act very differently when actually, and I can tell you about one of my favorite studies there, but let me answer your question right now. What I would tell you is, let's go with the visa getting marriage, and the reason I say that is because I think that would ultimately be better for my present and future selves, even if, I have to endure like the sitcom like situation or whatnot. I was a research assistant on a study, this is from 25 years ago now, that couldn't be done now. But this was two like gender studies, psychology professors at Yale or Gretchen and professor who asked women how they would respond if they were sexually harassed in a job interview. And to a t Every one of them said, I would walk out, I would state what was the matter with this. I would basically raise hell and get outta there.

Elise Keith:

Which is not what happens at all.

Hal Hershfield:

Actually set up these job interviews, ostensible job interviews, which were conducted by a research confederate. You understand why you can't do this now? And the job interviewer video, the job interviews were videotaped and in half of them the job interviewer, like they had a script of questions. A, a male interviewer, female interviewee the, he would ask sexually explicit, sexually harassing questions. and I want to say two to 3% of the women actually said something. They all express deep discomfort as measured by nonverbal cues, but not, very few said something and I bring that up to say. It's fine and well to say this is the thing I would do for my future self, for my present self, but what will I actually do when push comes a shove? It's hard to make those predictions and it's a good reason why, to, to your point, Elise, of role playing, why that's actually beneficial, because it can at least give some flavor of what that might feel like. Sorry to go off on a tangent. I know these are just funny

Elise Keith:

No,

Hal Hershfield:

questions and that's a serious conversation, but yeah.

Elise Keith:

and it's so great because I think tying it all back together, if we were to bring some of these things into group and team formation, a letter to our future selves, some visioning both from role playing, who we are then and then backward planning and pre-mortems to really flesh that out. And then getting to encounter the hard things. Okay let's just pretend that actually happened. What, would you say? That's those are some really useful tactics. And even if it's, I know in some of those studies it was like a 16% shift. If you think about those curves, 16 percent's a lot of shift. If you're trying to make change happen that's a big deal.

Hal Hershfield:

Yeah. So I should be clear is, 16% increase. So it's not percentage points, but it's in some spaces that's small, in others, like if it's a financial Donate contribution if it's voting

Elise Keith:

That's huge, huge shifts.

Hal Hershfield:

that can change the, direction of a company, a direction of a country. So sometimes with behavior change a small effect still has powerful impact on outcomes.

Elise Keith:

Beautiful.

Hal Hershfield:

Yeah.

David Mastronardi:

I'd love to keep going. We're at time. Hell, and I know you've got a hard stop If People wanna follow you. They wanna learn more about how to learn more about their future self. Where should we send them?

Hal Hershfield:

so my website, hal hirschfield.com, has links to everything including my book that just came out, which really digs into a lot of this, which is called Your Future Self. And and then they can also find me on LinkedIn and, and my email address is, pretty easy to find on the internet.

David Mastronardi:

great.

Elise Keith:

I can attest to that. You're huntable

Hal Hershfield:

Yes. That's

David Mastronardi:

Is we got here?

Elise Keith:

Yeah

Hal Hershfield:

yes, exactly.

David Mastronardi:

It

Hal Hershfield:

is great. Thank you guys so much.

Elise Keith:

thank you so much. I really appreciate you trusting us with your time and your material.

Hal Hershfield:

Super fun conversation. You guys were very.

David Mastronardi:

Good.

Hal Hershfield:

Really like engaging and deep questions, so I appreciate it.

David:

Thank you for joining us in the lab. We appreciate our guests for contributing to the thoughtful discussions on the future of work. A quick nod to Padraic, our behind the scenes maestro, for making each episode possible. If you've enjoyed the ideas we've explored today and want to put them into action, check out our companion newsletter at labs. newrulesforwork. com for the practical activities and additional resources. Don't forget to subscribe, rate, and leave a review on your favorite podcast platform. Your feedback is the catalyst for our ongoing journey into the future of work. Thank you once again for joining us. We'll see you next time in the lab.

Understanding our relationship with time
The impact of superficial future thinking
Common mistakes in thinking about our future self
The end of history illusion in group context
The difficulty in imagining our future selves
The challenge of simulating the future
Strategies to Make Better Decisions for Our Future Self
The Role of Age Progression Techniques in Visualizing Our Future Selves
The Impact of Letter Writing Exercise on Our Future Selves
Understanding Our Future Selves as Other People
The Importance of Emotional Connection with Our Future Selves
Practical Techniques for Leaders to Visualize Their Future Selves
Balancing Sacrifices for Future Benefits
The Dilemma of Current Self vs Future Self
The Importance of Taking Time Off
Balancing Utility Over Time
Balancing Work and Home Life
Our game: 'Would You Rather?'
The Impact of Role Playing on Decision Making
The Power of Small Behavior Changes
How to Connect with Hal Hershfield

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