Many of us have said our own version of St Augustine's famous prayer, "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet." We vow to start dieting and exercising (next month). We promise to begin saving money (later). Soon, we will call to make that long-overdue dental appointment (maybe).
Philosophers and social scientists have been keenly interested in learning exactly why some people fail to give a lot of weight to their own futures, even when that failure produces real hardship. Perhaps those who start to smoke don't even identify with their future selves, who may be seriously harmed as a result.
Behavioural economists have explored the phenomenon of "present bias", which leads some of us to make decisions that produce short-term rewards but long-term headaches. Of course it makes sense to prefer a dollar today to a dollar tomorrow. But does it make sense to prefer a dollar today to $10 in two months? With respect to health and finances, some people seem to think about their future selves in the same way that they think about strangers.
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