Time travel does exist, but it’s purely on the emotional plane.
There’s no need step into a big machine and violate the laws of natural relativity by temporally displacing our physical selves. Quantum trickery need not apply.
Because in using our powers of reflection and introspection, we can actually communicate with our former and future selves in a way that’s useful to us.
Therapists have been using this technique for years. They’ll have clients write letters to, or have a conversation out loud with, younger versions of themselves. Perhaps as a child, teenager or young adult. It’s a creative, fun and powerful way to acknowledge things from their past and use them to make positive changes for the future.
Clemons psychologists recently conducted the first systematic study of the advice people would give to their younger selves. The majority of participants also said that following the advice would have brought their younger self closer to the kind of person they aspired to be, rather than making them more like their ought self, that is, the kind of person that other people or society said they should be.
That study is only preliminary research on an unexplored topic, but it’s the best evidence of temporary displacement we have so far.
When was the last time you consulted internally for advice you would offer to your younger self? Did it bring you more in line with the person that you would like to become?
This exercise is not only deeply therapeutic, but can also be highly profitable. You can emotionally time travel with the lens of innovation in order to uncover new economic value.
One inquiry that’s been useful for my own business is to ask:
What tool would have been so great to have back in the day to solve my problems? And what would it look like to productize that with the technology available today so others could benefit from its value?
This is where the concept for Prolific, my personal creativity management software, originated.
By traveling back in time and picturing what my struggling younger self really could have used during difficult periods of anxiety, stress, depression and loneliness, I accumulated enough innovation regret to spur me into action in the present.
God damn it, I’m going to build something that the twenty or thirty year old version of me would have absolutely loved.
Fast forward to six months later when my software as a service platform launched. Prolific was the exact thing that I missed in my past. And interestingly enough, the kind of product other people needed in their present.
That’s the economic value of emotional time travel. You don’t need a flux capacitor, you simply need to create enough tension to generate some structural pull.
That way, you become attuned to the path between where you were, where you are, and where you want to be.
Remember, if we can conceptualize our ideal self, then we’re one step closer to relating to it, and one step closer to realizing it.
Try some emotional time traveling. Go back and give the future something to respect.
What choice could you make today that would make you proud of the person you become ten years from now?
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