Half full or half empty?
Do you believe you will be more or less satisfied with your life in the future? A recent study is determined to find out how satisfied will you be with your life in the future and then determine whether or not you were right. The study posed the question “How satisfied will you be with your life in the future” to 3,793 American adults ages 27 to 74, then asked them again roughly a decade later. 48 percent of participants overestimated their life satisfaction, while 22 percent underestimated it. According to one of the survey authors, the findings are consistent with a larger truth about future forecasting, one that comes up in study after study: We’re terrible at predicting how our decisions will make us feel.
Psychics, palm readers and Magic 8 Balls are proof that we long to know what the future holds. For some reason we have a desire to know and not find out but it appears we’re not very good at forecasting and we tend to have a bias towards how the future will make us feel depending upon how we feel at the moment the question is asked.
Our inability to predict the future and our tendency to let our current state affect or perception of what the future holds tends to cause us to make bad decisions and that tendency is called impact bias. Impact bias is at work when you anticipate that a doctor’s appointment or bad score on a test will make you feel worse than it actually does, and for longer than you predict. Impact bias also plays a role in over-predicting a positive feeling—such as how good you imagine that second piece of pie will make you feel, when in fact it might make you sick.
Researchers suggest this bias stems from the human desire to anticipate that the future will bring happiness, despite any evidence to the contrary. Overestimating positive feelings can bring trouble, inspiring people to jump too quickly into situations they later regret—such as a hasty big-ticket purchase or an exotic vacation they can’t really afford. Yet anyone who’s ever feared a face-off with an authority figure knows that overestimating negative feelings is problematic, too, sometimes leading to sweaty-palmed, stomach-quaking anxiety that’s much more uncomfortable than the confrontation itself.
So here’s what we know, none of us can predict the future and our current state of mind tends to bias our perception of the future. For me, I tend to be an optimist and I tend to have a “cup half full” mentality so I tend to think every successive day will be better than the last. It doesn’t always work out that way but I’m safe either way. If tomorrow was better than today then I have fulfilled my prediction. If tomorrow is a bad day then I like to think the next will be better and sooner or later I’m bound to be right.
So how you feel today affects how you think you’ll feel tomorrow. How you’ll feel tomorrow has nothing to do with how you thought you’d feel today when you thought about it yesterday. Make sense? If not, wait until tomorrow to think about it and then let me know if you feel the same way today as you did yesterday – or was that tomorrow…