The Past/Future Principle

The blogger, Mr. Money Moustache, first brought this principle to my attention a few years ago. He wrote how he was installing radiant heaters under his flooring in the house he was building for himself. He said, “My January self, that will be enjoying a cozy warm house, will thank my October self, that was willing to crawl under the floor boards to install radiant heating.”

Our son was brought home from Mexico City with all the other “non-native” missionaries last Sunday night because of the coronavirus worry. Yesterday as we were talking I said, “What did you do in 2018 that you can thank yourself for now?

He thought and said, “Well I am glad I chose to be a missionary!” I said,”Yes!” And we had a great discussion on why it was such an amazing decision that will affect the rest of his life. Then I said, “What else did you do in 2018 that your 2020 self can be thankful for?”

He paused, and gave me a blank look. I said, “What about the job you didn’t like that you made yourself go to? And your smart choice of socking away that money from that job? You have a good chunk in your bank account to help with your expenses in 2020. Doesn’t that feel AMAZING?” This pleased and happy look came over his face, like, “Oh, yes– I had forgotten about all of that!”

I actually taught him this principle now to propel him to use his time wisely this month until he waits for his reassignment to finish out his mission. I said, ” You will thank your April of 2020 self for getting some online classes done. Your future self will be so glad you made yourself buckle down and get a class done.”

This is the why, the powerful tool that we can teach our children with. Why get jobs, why go to school, why brush our teeth regularly? Our future selves will thank our past selves profusely. We are the ones that benefit most from our very own efforts.

My Grandma Adams was so good at this. She always voiced gratitude out loud for present blessings because of past choices she made. My mother told me she would say, “Oh! I am so glad I paid my tithing! Look at this free stove I can use in my (rental) apartments! The windows of heaven have opened up for me!” My mother said that her mother made it sound so necessary and fun and important to her happiness, that my mother wanted to sacrifice as well, for future blessings.

There is not much we can do to change our pasts. But if we see the present as a gift, a way to make some progress in our lives, our future selves will be so glad we forced ourselves to do the hard thing today. It’s easy in this time of limbo and fear to binge watch Netflix, to feel overwhelmed and out of control. Resist! Even when so many things seem out of our hands, there is so much in our power that we can do. Let’s share our struggle with our children to give them a map that they can do it too. Use this time at home to bless you the rest of 2020, May through December!

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