Pfeiffer Beach California

Image and text by Gabrielle.

I feel like I age in spurts — like I look the same for years at a time, then suddenly, over a few weeks, I look several years older. For example, I’m quite sure I could have passed for 20 until I was 25, then overnight, I looked like I was 25 — that sort of thing. And from what I can tell, I think I’m in one of my aging spurts right this minute. When it ends, I’ll tell you how old I look. Hah!

Late last night, I was taking off my makeup and taking out my contacts and chatting with Ben Blair about my possible aging spurt, and I asked him how he pictured his adult life when he was a kid or a teenager. I was curious to know how far into the future he had imagined himself. We both discovered that we hadn’t thought past 25. We had vaguely assumed a stereotypical life of kids, house, pet — but we had never considered what we ourselves would be like in our 30’s or beyond. It made me wonder if that is a typical thing for a child (not being able to conceive of a future self), or if there are people that have thought ahead to every stage of their someday life.

Ben mentioned he’d read something about this topic, so I looked it up — it’s an NPR article. Turns out, people that envision their future self tend to make better decisions now. Which makes sense, of course! If you can picture yourself as an 85-year-old, an actual person who has a weekly tennis match and is learning to speak Chinese, I can imagine you’d be more likely to take better care of your body today.

One quote from the article that stuck with me is: “…when we think about ourselves in the future we actually use the same part of our brain that we use when we think about a stranger.” To me, that says we honestly can’t imagine that we ourselves will really, truly age — a stranger will age, but not us. That we truly think we’ll be young (or at least our current age) forever. Fascinating!

So my questions for you are: How often, if ever, do you picture your future self? And as a child, did you ever consider the idea that someday you would be 35, or 46, or 57, or 78…? I’d love to know!

P.S. — I imagine this is true for most people, but I don’t really look in a mirror except during my morning and evening routines (and sigh, sometimes I skip the evening routine). This means I’m fairly regularly surprised when I look in the mirror and wonder, “Did I look like that all day?” Or, “When did that lovely little blemish arrive?” Tell me I’m not the only one! Are you ever surprised when you look in the mirror?

P.P.S — Yesterday was packed full of Alt Summit meetings and I didn’t get a chance to respond to your excellent comments about zero tolerance. But I’m off to do so now! Also, watch for a second Design Mom post later today.