/ Life Advice

Death & Future-Self Thinking

This post originally appeared as part of my weekly email newsletter. Click here to check out the previous issues and maybe subscribe :)

Hey friends,

You know that feeling when you have a reasonably fixed opinion on a topic that you haven’t really thought about extensively? And then when that opinion gets shattered and it makes you think a lot about it?

I had that this week after watching 2 videos by CGP Gray. If you’re interested, you should watch them in this order - first this one (Why Die) and then this one (The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant).

These videos (and then this one about curing ageing) have really made me acutely appreciate the importance of maximising our time in good health. I’ve since started looking into the evidence behind plant-based diets and their association with longevity (ie: increased risk life expectancy) and reduced cardiovascular disease, diabetes etc etc.

I’ve never really cared much about what I eat, as I’ve always felt that the amount of exercise I do nullifies it and keeps me at a decent weight. However, in other areas of my life, I like to act in service of my future self. Ie: I want to be able to look back in n years time and think I’m glad I spent my time doing x, y, z. I think I’m pretty good at following this advice in most domains (in fact, it’s one of my main ‘secrets’ for being productive / getting stuff done), but when it comes to food, I’ve been neglecting this advice. So starting from today, I’m changing that. I still haven’t decided if that means going full-on vegan/vegetarian, but it certainly involves reducing my meat consumption, and thinking far more about what goes into my body. After all, there’s almost no circumstance I can imagine where I’ll look back on my university days and think it’s good that you ordered Zis Piri Piri takeaway twice a week.

Moving away slightly from that self-centred paragraph, I think this is good general advice for everyone - act in service to your future self. While trying to find a citation for this, I came across this article on The Simple Dollar (pretty good personal finance blog btw) that goes into more depth about 'Future Self thinking’. Worth a read if you’re into this sort of stuff - I think a key takeaway (hehe) is that this does not mean you have to be miserable in the present, which is the standard objection to advice like this. It means you just think a little bit more about whether that short-term hedonistic impulse is actually going to make you or your future self happier. Almost ties in with hedonic adaptation that we talked about in the email from 2 weeks ago - here’s a link if you missed it.

I think that’ll do for now. A bit more in the Personal Stuff section at the bottom of this email, as people seemed to enjoy that in the last issue.

Have a lovely week!

  1. First watch this - Why Die?
  2. Then watch this - The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant -
  3. How to cure ageing during your lifetime
  4. Taking a Hard Look at Your Future Self - The Simple Dollar

Personal Update

2 exams down, 1 to go (on Monday 30th April, which might well be tomorrow if you’re reading this on the 29th). They went alright - in the first, we spoke to various ‘patients’ (read: actors) who came into hospital with various problems and we had to work out what might be going on. This history-taking section was alright, but I found the follow-up questions from the examiners quite tough. After the exam I briefly kicked myself at missing a load of things I knew but mind-blanked on in the pressure of the exam, so a takeaway from that is to actively practice answering these sorts of questions out loud, which was something I neglected in preparation for these exams.

Thankfully, after tomorrow’s exam we’ve basically got no more exams until we start thinking about specialities in 2 years’ time, which is quite nice. Although having said that, I do quite enjoy taking exams - the only issue is that when I have an exam coming up, everything else I want to do (eg: youtube, writing, making revision merchandise) takes a back seat and I feel semi-guilty at doing anything that isn’t exam related. Ah well. Nearly there.

Also, big thanks to everyone who replied to last week’s email. Option B was the clear winner by a mile, and a lot of you gave encouraging advice that went along the lines of be authentic, screw what other people think, so thanks for that much needed reminder :)

Take care!

Ali Abdaal

6th year medic, YouTuber, web designer, aspiring musician. Trying out this blogging thing.

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