My daughter, a college senior, dropped me a text message the other day that said, “I don’t know what to do with my life. Why didn’t I major in business?” 

Just so you know, she’s majoring in psychology but has always said she has no interest in becoming a psychologist. Of course, being the good parent, I supported and reassured her that she’d still be able to find a job.

Then today, while reading Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, I came across a section that explained how she felt. Stumbling on Happiness explores the psychology behind the emotions of happiness.

In particular, chapter seven speaks to the impact of time on happiness. What struck me was what Gilbert said about how we predict our future feelings based on how we feel in the present. 

The concept is that our predictions of the future are influenced by the present. Gilbert says, “Because time is such a slippery concept, we tend to imagine the future as the present with a twist, thus our imagined tomorrows inevitably look like slightly twisted versions of today.”

In its physical form, it’s the equivalent of going grocery shopping on an empty stomach. We’re hungry so in planning for future meals, everything sounds good! Conversely, if someone asks us what we want for dinner tomorrow, just after we’ve eaten a full meal, we can’t imagine being hungry anytime soon and are hard-pressed to come up with a suggestion.

He also makes the point that our future selves won’t see the world the way we see it now, in addition to our present selves not seeing the future accurately. So, in my daughter’s case, she can’t accurately imagine a career in business that would draw on her psychology knowledge because she only sees the world with what she knows today.

Now, think about this in a business setting. Your business customer is always looking and working toward the future. Guess what? They’re doing so within the framework of what they know today. You, as a marketer or vendor, have a different and likely broader image of what the future can be with your product, and it’s your job to shape your customer’s view.

One of the best ways to do that is with case studies, sometimes called success stories. Pay particular attention to the “story” part. Stories have a way of shaping what we think and case studies are especially helpful in this way. They remove the boundaries of our limited imagination and show us what is actually possible. They can replace preconceived notions about how your customer thinks the future may be, with what it really can be.

By the way, if you want a really good book on writing case studies, and really the ONLY book on writing case studies, get yourself a copy of Casey Hibbard’s Stories That Sell: Turn Satisfied Customers into Your Most Powerful Sales & Marketing Asset.

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