Think Like a Futurist: Episodic Future Thinking

Happy New Year!

In light of celebrating the beginning of a new year, I thought I’d post an entry on how we can utilize Episodic Future Thinking (or EFT) to procure performance benefits–which includes: decision making, emotion regulation, prospective memory, and spatial navigation–to take this new year to the next level!

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Abraham Lincoln

What is Episodic Future Thinking?

It refers an individual’s ability to simulate and conjure scenarios and experiences that might occur in their future. There has been an increasing number of cognitive, neuropsychological, and neuroimaging research conducted to explore and substantiate the functions and benefits of Episodic Future Thinking (Schacter, Daniel L et al.).

What Are the Benefits of Episodic Future Thinking?

Better-informed Decision Making
When one can vividly visualize the larger reward awaiting for them at the end of their long-term goal, they are more likely going to succeed in delaying their gratification, which in turn helps with making better informed decisions.

Stronger Emotion Regulation
EFT strengthens an individual’s emotional regulation when we simulate vivid visualizations about the future. Specifically, vivid visualization allows individuals with heightened anxiety levels to safely enact scenarios and worrisome events in their mind, and subsequently re-appraise them. This exercise allows them to formulate possible solutions to help ameliorate the anxiety derived from complete unknown scenarios that may be otherwise anxiety-provoking.

Enhances Memory
Intentional visualization further reinforces one’s memory triggers, which subsequently enhances one’s memory. are both cognitive and neuroimaging evidence that stipulate a connection between episodic future thinking and divergent creative thinking!

Improves Spatial Navigation
Simulation makes an important functional contribution to planning routes and achieving navigational goals.

How Does One Practice Episodic Future Thinking?

There are many ways to accelerate at Episodic Future Thinking; however, in this entry, I will share the one that I read from Jane McGonigal’s book Imaginable that I found easily accessible. In the book, she summarized 3 dimensions (key factors) that noticeably improve one’s cognitive/mental ‘time travel’, which enhances one’s ability to think in the future. Here’s a simplified version of her method:

3 Dimensions of Cognitive/Mental Time Travel

  1. Vividness
    Write down what you picture, look for every detail; this has a powerful effect in your ability to plan.
  2. Immersiveness
    Be as absorbed as you possibly can in this future scene.
  3. Flexibility/Creativity
    Revisit the scene and change as many details as you can while still making it plausible.

Signal of Change

Another intriguing effect of EFT is what the business world refers to as Signal of Change, which KPMG defines as:

[A]n event or trend in the future that could disrupt or influence a market or a sector. Each signal of change will have varying degrees of likelihood, impact, and urgency – how fast it’s approaching (KPMG).

In more simplistic terms, Signal of Change is a measurable or observable indication that something has changed or is changing. This can refer to a variety of different things, such as changes in market conditions, economic indicators, or physical measurements. For example, a stock market might see a signal of change if there is a sudden increase in trading volume or a significant shift in the value of a particular stock. In physics, a signal of change could refer to a change in a physical measurement, such as a change in temperature or pressure. In general, a signal of change is something that alerts individuals or systems to the fact that a change has occurred or is occurring, which in turn solidifies our EFT, making our ideas more tangible and concrete than just figments we conjure in our own mind.

Engaging with cues that signal change can have beneficial effects on biology, one of which is that the brain releases dopamine when encountering the same cue again, increasing its salience or prominence.


Thank you for reading! I hope this entry has offered you some insight or ideas about how you can utilize EFT to help you achieve your goals!

Until next time.


Author: Andie Untamed✨

Just a sojourner of this great big world, humbled and awe-inspired by its effulgence

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