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In regards to the concept of caring about your future self, a simple example being not staying up late drinking so in the morning you don't/your future self doesn't feel awful for work. Is there some phrase that handily captures or illustrates this? Especially if its something that somehow emphasizes the building of the habit and return over time (the more you don't stay up late, the more consistent/reliable for work you are).

The closest I could think of was someone I once heard using "cast your bread upon the waters" and describing how the waves bring it back. Presumably you could consistently cast bread and so receive consistent bread returns at opportune moments but who wants soggy bread (or maybe I don't appreciate this phrase well enough).

To be clear I'm not thinking in terms of literal investment, or at least basic savings/interest idioms don't seem to suit. "A penny saved is a penny earned" for example doesn't quite seem to fit, but if there's something relatively broad that's similar I'm open to it.

This is also not a one time thing like What is it called when you do something once and benefit from it for a long time or forever

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    reap the seeds you sow? Jan 9, 2020 at 8:49
  • Ah, or "you reap what you sow", it's maybe the closest so far.
    – nighliber
    Jan 9, 2020 at 16:07
  • You reap what you sow, is not used in the sense of investment. It is usually heard as an admonishment to someone who has done something that has 'come back to bite them in the ass'. US
    – Oldbag
    Jan 9, 2020 at 16:58
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    I agree, but the basic language expresses the logic of what I'm trying to say. "Reap the seeds you sow" maybe puts a bit more positive spin on it but it's not as snappy.
    – nighliber
    Jan 9, 2020 at 18:11

3 Answers 3

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Here is something that seems to fit (also mentioned by @Jalene in comments) -

Reap what you sow

If someone reaps what they sow, they suffer or benefit as a result of their own actions. Note: To reap a crop such as corn means to cut and gather it. "Parents who neglect their children will reap what they sow." "It seems to me that if we neglect these people in our society, we should expect to reap what we sow." Note: People sometimes use the more formal expressions "as you sow, so shall you reap" or "as we sow, so shall we reap". "Our future lies in our own hands. Let us ensure that it is ethical and spiritual, for without doubt as we sow so shall we reap!" Note: This is based on a quotation from the Bible: `Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.' (Galatians 6:7)

(The Free Dictionary)

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  • Yeah from a pure logical standpoint I agree that this is closest so far (also pretty snappy). Only issue with it is that it's typically used in a negative manner, per the two examples you cited.
    – nighliber
    Jan 9, 2020 at 18:20
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A common metaphor would be to say that you are eating your vegetables -- doing something that is not what you prefer in the moment because it will have a good effect in the future.

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  • Is that an English phrase (vs US)? I looked it up and the implication is similar I'll grant, but I was hoping for more emphasis on the returns, like "you reap what you sow".
    – nighliber
    Jan 9, 2020 at 16:15
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    @nighliber I'm an American English speaker. I suspect the phrase exists in both American and British dialects. Though "You reap what you sow" could definitely logically mean "sow good seed, get a good crop", in my experience it almost always is used more negatively, like "what goes around, comes around" and "karma is a bitch". If you wanted to use a farming metaphor, "planting seeds for tomorrow" seems to fit better. Jan 9, 2020 at 16:41
  • Is it pay your dues? Jan 9, 2020 at 16:47
  • @MikeGraham yeah I agree that "reap what you sow" is typically negative, just pointing out the logic of the language more than anything. Also American English, hadn't come across "eat your vegetables" before in the context you meant, no big deal though. "Planting seeds for tomorrow" is better.
    – nighliber
    Jan 9, 2020 at 18:17
  • @YosefBaskin "Pay your dues" seems similar to "eat your vegetables", the emphasis is on the work and doesn't reference the returns. It's in the right direction but not quite what I'm looking for.
    – nighliber
    Jan 9, 2020 at 18:17
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Storing nuts for the winter is the closest idiom that comes to mind. For some reason, the phrase "putting up (as in 'canning') peaches" popped into my head. Looked around for a literary reference - but, unsuccessfully. Anyone ever heard of this used as a metaphor in this sense?

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  • Not bad, in a similar vein to "casting bread upon the waters" only without the sogginess.
    – nighliber
    Jan 9, 2020 at 18:25

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