Why You Should Bet On Your Future Self Today
Here's how to play the long game.
Today marks exactly one year since Anthony and I got married in 2020. We did it in the midst of a global pandemic, a tropical storm, and a nationwide state of social unrest. We couldn't foresee those events — just like we won't be able to see what the next decade holds.
Even though I had been married for only one day at the time, I already understood that the long run would come with many surprises, both welcome and not-so-welcome. I wrote, "As someone who has been a newlywed for less than a day, I know there’s so much I have yet to learn and so many more times I’ll get blindsided by life."
When we were deciding whether to get married by ourselves or to keep postponing the wedding until it was safe to gather with family and friends, I had remembered that I once heard someone say, “Remember, your wedding is not your marriage.” A wedding can easily devolve into a celebration for everyone but the people standing at the altar, while a marriage is solely reserved for the two people in it.
When I think of a wedding, I picture several hours of celebration. When I think of a marriage, I picture navigating several decades of life events. So we just went and got married by ourselves. For us, marriage was the ultimate destination, and the path was one chosen by the two humans embarking on it.
It's no secret that we live in the age of the ephemeral. We've gotten used to the temporary, the fleeting, and the impermanent. We are so concerned about the short-term events that we forget about the long-term consequences.
It's easy to bet on the short-term, and it's much, much harder to invest in the long-term, but the long-term is where the real rewards lie. There's a bunch of rhetoric about betting on yourself, but I've been thinking about how few of us bet on our future self.
Ironically, the actions you take today determine what your future will look like. As James Clear says, habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money can multiply through compound interest, so can your good (or bad) habits.
Much of life is about the return on investment — your relationships, life, and career are reflective of what you consistently invest into them. You ultimately get what you put in. Of course, it's much easier said than done.
Morgan Housel writes:
"Saying you have a 10-year time horizon doesn’t exempt you from all the nonsense that happens during the next 10 years. Everyone has to experience the recessions, the bear markets, the meltdowns, the surprises and the memes at the same time. So rather than assuming long-term thinkers don’t have to deal with nonsense, the question becomes how can you endure a never-ending parade of nonsense."
People often assume the future is brighter than the present. They don't realize that they'll have to stomach the short-term volatility in order to reap the long-term rewards. The hard thing about long-term thinking is that it's nearly impossible to see the fruits of your labor on a day-to-day basis.
Charlie Munger says that the investors who adopt a long-term focus, stay patient, and avoid taking action impulsively are those who ultimately succeed. He says. “You need patience and discipline and an ability to take losses and adversity without going crazy. You need an ability to not be driven crazy by extreme success."
But it's not only about having a stomach for extreme volatility or extreme success. It's also about not giving up when things are boring and uneventful. In his post "How to Pick Your Life Partner," Tim Urban writes that a happy marriage is built not out of anything romantic or poetic, but out of 20,000 mundane Wednesdays.
"Marriage isn’t the honeymoon in Thailand—it’s day four of vacation #56 that you take together. Marriage is not celebrating the closing of the deal on the first house—it’s having dinner in that house for the 4,386th time. And it’s certainly not Valentine’s Day. Marriage is Forgettable Wednesday. Together."
That's precisely the crazy thing about any relationship: It’s the mundane moments that determine its health and longevity. The long game often appears boring, but the longer that you play it, the more profound the effects. And it's a double-edged sword — repeat the negative and you'll get more negative, repeat the positive and you'll get more positive.
After asking Profile readers to share their best marriage advice, the idea of compounding became crystal clear: If you stop investing in yourself, your bad habits and poor communication will chip away at your relationship — whether you’re married or not.
“If you do nothing to make things get better in your marriage but do not do anything wrong, the marriage will still tend to get worse over time,” psychologist John Gottman says. “To maintain a balanced emotional ecology, you need to make an effort—think about your spouse during the day, think about how to make a good thing even better, and act.”
If there's one thing I've learned, it's that pretty much everything in life is a skill. (Yes, even the sacred, mushy, intangible thing we call "love"). Something I noticed after speaking to couples who have been married for 5, 15, or 30 years is that they never thought they were done learning how to be a better partner. In other words, they understood that a loving partnership is a constant work in progress, and there’s always room for improvement.
The beauty of this mindset is that you can take action the second you finish reading this article. You may not be perfect, but you can improve. You may not always get it right, but you can practice until you do.
Play the long game by focusing on the current process and betting on the future outcome. Your future self will thank you.
As Eleanor Roosevelt said: "In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility."