Asking Yourself This Simple Question Will Instantly Make You Happier

Updated 05/31/18
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It's not a stretch to say that 80% of the time, our present moment selves take precedence over our future selves. This is evidenced in our millisecond decision to take the escalator over the elevator, or scroll through social media rather than striking up a conversation with a co-worker in the elevator. We often give in to what we want in that exact moment, instead of considering what will make us happy down the line. 

That's according to Laura Vanderkam, a time-management expert and the author of Off the Clock, who tells Business Insider that scheduling your day according to what will make you happy looking back is the key to a full life. She argues that each individual has three "selves": anticipating, experiencing, and remembering. If we can successfully prioritize our anticipating (expecting) and remembering (future) selves over our experiencing (or present) selves, we will live a happier life.


"The key to managing your time well is to ask yourself: Did my anticipating self want to do this? If so, do it!" summarizes BI. "Your remembering self will be glad to have done it—and remembering lasts a whole lot longer than experiencing." For example, spending a weekend afternoon watching Netflix and scrolling through social media may feel great in the moment, but it will likely fail to garner any captivating memories, or any memories at all for that matter. "The goal is not to live in the present, or like there's no tomorrow … it's to live for tomorrow, and for the years after that, when you'll turn back to your memories as an indicator of what your life was like." 

While this mindset may be difficult to adapt, especially in the face of the fleeting experiencing self, it's well worth the effort. It can be applied to anything and everything: going to the gym, meal-prepping, going on that first date, applying for the job, booking the vacation, and so on. Head over to Business Insider for more, and shop books on happiness below.

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