If You Avoid Thinking About the Future, You Get Better at Everything….


Consider the tenses past, present, and future. The difference between the sentences “Bob is at the store buying nachos” and “Bob will go to the store to buy nachos” has explicit implications about how far we are from eating nachos. 


That is need-to-know information. But it may be surprising that some languages don’t have a future tense, or it’s not obligatory. 

In Mandarin, for example, it’s fine to say something like “Bob store buy nachos,” and nobody will make fun of your caveman speech or slap you in the mouth because you didn’t immediately specify the time frame of nacho delivery.


In Mandarin, they always keep spare nachos.

One might think that speakers of such languages would just be wandering around confused, utterly unmoored from time as we know it, hurtling obliviously through chronology with no anchors to tether them, screaming into the void as history whips pas-

No? They’re totally fine?

Huh. It turns out that speakers of these tenseless languages actually make far better decisions than tense-language speakers, about virtually everything.

Because they’re less tense.

For example, a study by Keith Chen of Yale Business School analyzed data from 76 countries, focusing on things like saving money, smoking and exercise habits, and general health. The surprising result was that cultures in which most people speak languages without a future tense make better health and financial decisions overall. In fact, it found that speaking a tensed language, like English, made people 30 percent less likely to save money. It is thought that speakers of such languages, whom we shall call Untensers, see their lives as less of a timeline and more of a whole. Therefore they are automatically more mindful of how their decisions will affect their futures than we savage, primitive Tensers. Strangely, it seems that thinking of “the future” as being some far-off place, removed from the realities of our daily lives, makes us more likely to buy that second Xbox just because the first looked lonely.

Untensers consistently accumulate more wealth, hold onto it for longer periods of time, are healthier, and live longer than Tensers, for whom the past is something we’ve left behind, and the future is like a distant planet where consequences live that we don’t fully intend to visit.


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