Temporal Discounting: The Value of the Future

The future has become very uncertain, which means you might be succumbing to acting on your impulses. You might have even subscribed to the old proverb: A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. However, patience is the key to attaining the quality of life that you seek. When we act on impulse or impatience, we place more value on the immediate rather than the bigger picture.

Instead of choosing the path of least resistance for yourself, try to forge a lengthy path that extends into the future and beyond the current situation. After all, this pandemic will not last forever. There are many ways that you can begin to adjust your mindset to focus on the value the future holds.

Temporal Discounting

The term “temporal discounting” sounds more complicated than it really is. Ultimately, temporal discounting is when you place value or lack of value on an event depending on how far ahead of you it is, or how far behind you it is.

With addiction, you might feel hopeless because there is no immediate answer. Therefore, the future seems harder to figure out. Likewise, you might have forgotten how damaging having a drink or using drugs is because enough time has passed to convince you that you can handle it. These perceptions can easily influence your behavior.

Given the current situation, you might be feeling like the fast answer is the best way to reward how you are feeling — and that is perfectly understandable. But take a moment to think about this rationally. An example often used to clarify this behavioral pattern is this: you are offered $50 now or $100 a year from now. Which do you take? Most choose the $50 because present rewards are weighted more heavily than future ones.

Your addiction might put you at a greater disadvantage to make careless decisions based on this “reward now vs. reward later” approach, especially if you are predisposed based on genetics or past behavior. The good news is that with some effort, you can correct this behavioral pattern.

Envision Your Future Self

The reason that you might be succumbing to this behavior is because you have not established a future self. When you set yourself up to make better choices now, you are setting yourself up to reap better benefits. If you believe that you have not changed and are destined to repeat the same choices, look back to the person you were a year ago.

Are you the same person today? If you have been maintaining sobriety, then the answer is a definite no. Think about the person you are today vs. the past and acknowledge all the differences. Next, try to imagine who you will be a year from today.

This version of yourself should be further evolved and making better choices. To create this person, you need to make a better choice today — such as reaching out to a friend or therapist in times of need rather than justifying drug or alcohol abuse.

Continue to Experience Life

Many fail to seize this opportunity because there is a common misconception that reaching a certain age means that you are fully evolved and therefore set in your ways. This simply isn’t true. There is always an opportunity to grow and learn at any age — and this philosophy is one of many important tools you should not ignore.

Never accept an undesirable situation just because you are a certain age, or you have made a mistake in the past. Look beyond this and see the opportunities you have. For example, the current situation places a lot of limitations on basic pursuits, such as finding a job, visiting friends, and attending recovery meetings.

However, it also offers plenty of alternative ways to experience these same things, including online meetings, text, Skype, FaceTime, multiplayer video games, and working from home. Take on new challenges rather than holding on to the habit of routines. While a good routine helps, it’s normal for our routines to evolve as we seek new hobbies and new experiences. This evolution will help create the future self that you seek.

Use Your Imagination

Albert Einstein once said Imagination is greater than knowledge. Ask yourself, who do you want to be next year or in five years? Begin to create a vision of this person. What are you doing for work? How are you spending time and interacting with friends? Where are you living? Are you in a healthy relationship with someone? Consistent visualization starts to create confidence — and this confidence becomes action, which ultimately becomes the truth.

In the sense of the day by day, give yourself something to look forward to each day or week to motivate you to achieve this self. This might be Skyping a friend, trying a new hobby, or watching a movie marathon on Saturday night — whatever the reward, the goal should transcend the now. No matter how difficult it may be, when you have a future to strive for you will be less likely to succumb to impulse. To further hold yourself accountable, share this future with friends, and keep a journal of your progress.

Value Yourself and Your Sobriety

Value is usually in the eye of the beholder. Understand that value is not an expensive pair of sneakers or the latest iPhone — these things lose their value over time. Value is greater than material things, or actions that provide temporary relief that builds nothing with any meaning.

Value is greater than all of this because the value is the quality of life — who you are, who your friends and family are, and how you look after yourself. Value is sobriety, and it exists right now. It will exist a year from now, it will exist when the pandemic resolves, and it will exist 100 years from now. It just takes persistence to never stop growing.

However hard, these times call for the best from everybody. Your actions and choices can have a big impact on how you will heal. Do not ever think that you do not have meaning or that you are destined to fail. Everybody is uncertain right now — but with a leap of faith and the right attitude, things will get better.

If you are finding it hard to stay motivated to work toward your future or you have already lost your way, it’s time to seek immediate help. True Recovery offers 24/7 care designed to meet your individual needs. We believe that anybody has what it takes to get better — and that includes you. To learn more, call us today at (866) 399-6528.