I read a very interesting article about results of a study that appeared in the January 2010 issue of the journal Personality and Individual Differences. They looked at how a person’s perspective impacts their overall health. Specifically – they compared people who look at the “big picture” – in other words those who were “future-minded” and people who prefer to just deal with the short-term – or those who were “present-minded.”
While they concluded from their research that people who are future-minded and look at the big picture are most likely to practice healthy behavior, it wasn’t quite that simple. Those future-minded people who are willing to sacrifice immediate pleasure in order to achieve future health and well-being were found to have reported more consistently healthy behaviors.
Of course they could also look at it this way too, I suppose – “I have years before this behavior is likely to impact my health – so for the time being I’ll continue – overeating, not exercising, smoking, drinking – whatever the behavior is.” Clearly that’s not what the study found.
This knowledge could help someone who is trying to lose weight. First they determine whether they are future-minded or present-minded. Those future-minded people who don’t seem to have a problem with delaying gratification over a longer period of time and waiting to see the results of their efforts over the long haul seem to have an edge, according to this study anyway. They are able to commit to exercising 5-6 days a week for increasing periods and restructuring their diet and actually find satisfaction and excitement in working toward a 2 or 3 (or more) month goal of losing a certain amount of weight.
Those present-minded people are not left out in the cold. They could emphasize a minimal investment (replace one soda with water daily or exercise 20 minutes each day this week). The payoff could be losing a pound this week. Keeping the timeline short is going to work much better for people who prefer to deal with short-term goals.
The bottom line and takeaway from this study is that it is essential to honestly evaluate what motivates you – or the person you are working with – and structure the plan to fit their perspective.
So which one are you? A future-minded person or a present-minded one?