A few weeks ago, I bought a box of Pop-Tarts on a whim.

This was a poor decision.

Reader, you know I don’t do well with impulse control and refined carbohydrates. The Pop-Tarts were gone before . . . well, let’s just say they didn’t stick around long enough to get to know the family.

As a rule, I don’t buy sugary treats at the grocery store because I just can’t handle them. I’ve followed this rule for years. So why did I break it?

I fell victim to a cognitive bias called restraint bias: the tendency to overestimate one’s ability to control one’s impulses. I saw those Pop-Tarts and thought, “I could really go for a Pop-Tart right now, and I’ve been eating pretty healthily lately. I’m sure I can spread these out over a week.” This was a silly thing for me to think.

As I’ve argued in the past, seeing Future You as more virtuous than Present You is unwise and unfair to your future self. Yes, you’ll gradually become better at life as you hone your priorities and discover new strategies for creating the life you want. But seeing Future You as an idealized version of Present You is a fool’s errand, and it sets up Future You for failure.

It’s a bit of a paradox that both of these statements can be true:

  1. You are the captain of your fate and can change direction at any time.
  2. The best indicator of future performance is past performance.

Count on some improvement, but work with your current strengths and weaknesses, not against them. Future You will be an improved version of Present you, but likely not a brand new person.