Getting to Yes, And

Hal Hershfield: Your Future Self


Hal Hershfield

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Kelly connects with UCLA professor Hal Hershfield to talk about his new book "Your Future Self: How To Make Tomorrow Better Today."

You write about how we all change but that flies in the face of what’s become a kind of cultural trope as Americans – that we need to be unwavering and always stick to our guns.

“It feels so liberating and so freeing to allow for the possibility of change and to allow for the possibility of transformation. But, you're right, and I never put my finger on it like the way that you said it: It's somewhat of a cultural trope to value and put the idea of permanence up on a pedestal. And now I think to some degree that that stems from our inability to deal with thinking about our own impermanence. Right? We don't want to think about that; And we'd also don't want to think about it in terms of our relationships. It's somewhat confronting to think about my wife changing over time or my best friends changing over time. And yet we do.”

And you truly can’t know your future self.

"I can say I want to become a parent. I can say, I want to move cities or I want to change careers. And I won't really fully know what that's like until I do it. And then, once I do it, my preferences may change in ways that I can't anticipate, and it's that's scary. It's a little bit problematic to not know the ways in which we'll change. But then, if you sort of lean into that and have some compassion for yourself, you say, ‘Well, at the end of the day, that that's the best I can do.’ The best I can do is to hope and ask people for advice about how their lives are after they've made these changes, and then maybe jump in myself.”

You write about this amazing story of a guy on his deathbed who decides to write letters to his entire family to be delivered after he’s gone – letters that go on for years – and this felt so life affirming in the face of death.

“You know, I'm a researcher, first and foremost, and I would love to do a well-controlled study where you get people to write these letters to their offspring and loved ones, you know, far beyond their own lifetime. I'm so curious what it would actually do. And I think your insights are spot on. I think it would have to be sort of legacy boosting. I think it might provide some clarity for values, but it also might make you feel a little bit more relaxed about eventually leaving the leaving the world.”

Photo Credit: Benjamin B. Morris

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