It’s common, as we move towards the start of a new year, to ask oneself questions about how we can improve/be different/more like the person we want to be. Your Future Self can be your best friend when it comes to making positive life changes. Here’s why.
“The future depends on what you do today.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi
There are plenty of things I can look back on in my life and wish I had done them differently. I’m not talking about big life stuff. I’m very happy in general with the way in which things have turned out so far. But there are a myriad little decisions which I made along the way which have built up over time into something large and seemingly insurmountable.
One relatively trivial example is that I used to be able to play the piano to a high standard. I didn’t keep it up though, and now it is hard for me to sit at my keyboard and plink-plonk away, knowing how much better I used to be. Of course I did not suddenly become a poor piano player. It happened over time, as a result of not playing one day, and then the next, and the next. I lost the habit of daily practice and have never (so far) been able to get it back.
Let’s look at something more substantive. I have suffered with a severe migraine problem for 30+ years. Over time, the nature of my triggers seems to have waxed and waned. Although there are some common, time-honoured culprits such as hormones, the impact of other (mainly food and drink related) triggers has changed. At the moment, my head is vulnerable whenever I eat anything sweet. So for the most part, I avoid sugary foods. It’s not exactly rocket science. But sometimes I sabotage myself and allow the need for emotional/comfort eating to take priority. I have a cake or biscuit and, guess what, feel rotten afterwards. With this come the inevitable burdens of guilt and shame – why on earth can’t I control myself? why can’t I seem to put my health first? etc, etc. The overriding problem is that Logic, despite all its clear thinking about what one should and should not do cannot withstand the enormous and insistent power of Emotion when it is in full flow.
So what’s the answer? One strategy which I find helpful is holding myself accountable to my Future Self. If Present Liz takes a moment to think about what Future Liz might want, it becomes easy to see that refusing the cake is the right option.
I first read about this concept in this post. As the author, Wil Wheaton says, “Future You is someone you love and care about. Future You is someone who you want to be happy, and you have endless opportunities to make that happen…..it’s a rhetorical trick, a way of fooling myself into taking the best care of myself that I can, but it doesn’t really matter if it’s a trick, because it works for me.”
The article closes with a helpful list of suggested actions to get you started. There are many ways to embrace this idea. In my two examples above, I can see that a Future Liz in, say, 2 years, will be over the moon that she can once again play her favourite Beethoven Sonata because Present Liz has today started devoting 10 minutes a day to playing the piano. And the Future Liz of tomorrow morning will be delighted to wake up with a clear head as a result of the positive food choices made by Present Liz today.
It is enjoyable to do things that please others. We usually think of this in terms of other people. But why not also factor in our Future Selves as other people too? I might not manage to make the ‘right’ decision 100% of the time, but as long as I am making good choices most of the time, that’s fine by me.
“How am I going to live today in order to create the tomorrow I’m committed to?” ~ Tony Robbins
I picked up Wil Wheaton’s article through Gretchen Ruben’s Happier Podcast #101 . This concept resonated with me – whether it’s an ADHD thing or just inherent – I am both impulsive and a procrastinator – two traits which can sometimes and inevitably result in regret as Dan Gilbert recognises – Check out our post here to watch his video.
So rather than trying to change retrospectively I simply ask – What would Future Rach say?… This can be anything from making a decision about washing up before bed or in the morning to more significant issues such as taking a job or spending money.
I have to remind myself about the concept of Future Rach. When I do remember – which is becoming more frequent – it brings great relief and a wonderful sense of smugness (especially when I come downstairs in the morning to find that I made the decision to tidy the kitchen before bed last night!).