Future Focus

Well, y’all, it has been quite a spring and summer for me. I’ve counted up the days that I’ve been away from home, and since April of this year, I have been away from home 42 days.

That’s a lot, especially for a homebody like me.


And that doesn’t count all the exit and re-entry days–days when I’ve been prepping to leave all day, days that I have to do laundry and get all my ducks in a row after a trip, days of cleaning the camper or picking up/dropping off people from the airport or having guests in our own house.

So it’s been a little nuts for sure, but as we roll into fall, I’m taking stock and reorienting and getting my isht together as part of my never-ending quest to improve my habits, discipline, and grit.

But this time, I’m going in a slightly different direction… temporally, at least…



Ending on a High Note

This past weekend, I ended my insanely busy spring and summer with a full-on “Treat Yo Self” weekend with the bestie.


Her darling hubby treated us to a weekend at a resort, where we indulged in spa treatments, excellent food, and uninterrupted conversation. We wandered through delightful shops, sat on our balcony and read books, and took a brisk walk along the lakeshore pier. This trip was exactly what I needed to finish this busy season, and I came home far more refreshed and rejuvenated than I have from anything else I’ve done this year.

Don’t get me wrong–none of the other trips were bad or unwelcome or unpleasant. The worst thing that happened on any trip we took this year was a dog with diarrhea and an unplanned trip to the vet to get her issues sorted out. And we’ve been to new places and seen lots of friends and family and enjoyed a lot of new experiences. I don’t regret a single minute of a single trip.


This year has been challenging as far as getting any writing done or any goals met, to say the least.

So now that I have several weeks of relative quiet ahead of me (I hope), and since my brain is rapidly descending into full hermit mode, it seems like a good week to reassess how to accomplish at least a few of the things I set out to do this year.

And that will require some future thinking.

Night Amy and Morning Amy

For a while now, I’ve been rather frustrated with my own lack of discipline and willpower when it comes to pursuing goals. While it’s true that travel, houseguests, and the nature of the unexpected in life are all factors that can throw off the best laid plans, I have also become acutely aware of things I need to change.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve read several books about habit formation, goalsetting, change, and all those related things. For my non-fiction book club, I recently read Thinking in Bets, by Annie Duke, and over the weekend, I devoured Dopamine Nation, by Anna Lembke, MD. The two books sort of dovetailed in one interesting way: they both emphasized the need to engage in some level of future thinking.

Duke highlighted this quote from Jerry Seinfeld about why he doesn’t get enough sleep:

I stay up late at night because I’m Night Guy. Night Guy wants to stay up late. “What about getting up after five hours of sleep?” “That’s Morning Guy’s problem. That’s not my problem. I’m Night Guy. I stay up as late as I want.” So you get up in the morning: you’re exhausted, you’re groggy. “Oooh, I hate that Night Guy.” See, Night Guy always screws Morning Guy.

Duke says this quote is “a good example of how we struggle in the present to take care of our future-self.”

Annie Duke, why are you reading my mind??


Here’s the thing. I am okay at taking care of my future self when it comes to things I like or when I’ve learned the hard way how to make myself healthier or happier. I don’t have too much of a problem with “Night Amy,” because at this point in my life, “Morning Amy” is louder and more insistent about getting enough sleep–something that was not true many years ago.

But there are genuinely unpleasant tasks that I will put off until the last possible minute or even indefinitely because I’m not taking care of my future self. I absolutely hate cleaning the house, but I love having cleaned the house (for the twenty minutes that it stays clean). Even exercise falls into this category sometimes–that is, I can drag my feet about getting out to exercise until it’s impossible to put it off any longer, and yet I always–always–feel better having done it.

There are also a lot of areas where I know that I am engaging in behaviors that I will most likely regret later on–and this is where the second book, Dopamine Nation, comes in.

Benign Addictions

The older I get and the more I read and think about our screen issues in the Western world, the more disturbed I am by what we’re doing to our brains and bodies. My growing discomfort started several years ago, but it sort of cemented when I read The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr.

Of course, my discomfort with All Things Screen-Related has not had a significant impact on my use of my smartphone or my laptop, and that’s where Anna Lembke’s book comes in. Dopamine Nation is an exploration of our modern addictions and endless access to high-dopamine stimuli–and the consequences of our overindulgent age.


It would be easy to read Lembke’s book and think, “well, at least I’m not addicted to all those bad things, like drugs or alcohol or gambling.” But Lembke doesn’t really give any addiction a pass. She’s open about her own struggle with romance novels–how reading The Twilight Saga led her to read more romance novels, which led to compulsively downloading and consuming poorly written erotica just for the “high” of those… ahem… key moments in those kinds of stories.

Lembke’s openness about her struggle (eventually, she was able to break her addiction and rebalance herself) made me face my own benign addictions and how they interfere with my goals and future self. I definitely spend too much time playing games on my phone or computer, and I have become a little too dependent on my podcast feed to keep me entertained to the exclusion of more important activities. And I have less benign “addictions,” too; I overindulge in chips and simple carbs too often, and I do drink more alcohol than I would like. Those things might not meet the strict definition of an addiction, but they are overindulgent.

Those overindulgences are absolutely a result of a reward pathway that’s a little too dependent on the “simple sugars” of life–the easy route, the present-self thinking that ignores what’s best for the future-self.

Putting it All Together

So what does all of this have to do with goals and habits and the aftereffects of travel?

The point is…

I have not been thinking much about Future Amy and where she wants to be in six months, a year, ten years.


I’ve been living very much in the present for several months. I haven’t thought ahead to how to deal with work and travel, and I’ve allowed too many things to entirely hijack my time. Some of those things were good, but stressful, and I’ve used that stress as an excuse to overindulge in the things that do not take care of my future-self.

So with all of this in mind, and with several weeks ahead of relative quiet, I’m focusing on getting my isht together in my work and in my personal wellbeing.



I’m starting by limiting my access to and use of certain things that are too easy for me to overindulge in (Lembke calls this “self-binding”). For instance, I’m limiting my time playing phone or computer games to only those Pomodoro breaks or the dead moments in my day–standing in line, waiting for water to boil, etc.

I’m also promising myself that I’ll ask myself certain questions that are future-focused to help me think ahead about the consequences of an action or inaction. Here are a few I’m starting with:

  • How will future Amy feel if you skip (exercise, marketing, doing the dishes)?
  • What is the advantage of doing this task now rather than later?
  • How will this activity, task, substance help you meet your goals?
  • Are you approaching this mindfully or mindlessly (probably most helpful with overindulging in potato chips and word games on my phone)?
  • What are the consequences of doing/not doing this?
  • Can Future Amy live with the regret or disappointment of the action she’s contemplating right now?

This isn’t a full reset of everything, but it is a refocus, I think. I’ve been focused on the past and present for most of the last five or six years. It’s weird to say that when I’ve been pretty clear about having goals, but I think it’s been too easy for me to just elide over the time between today and the future day when those goals are met. I need to spend time connecting future me to past and present me.


This was super long, so if you’re still here, God bless you. I hope you found something useful herein. If you’re struggling with decision-making or breaking addictions or pursuing habits, I highly recommend any of the books I’ve mentioned in this post.

And since future Amy would probably regret going on any longer, I’ll just sign off. See you next week!


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