3 Things Your Future Self Wants You to Know
As human beings, we have a tendency to be extremely hard on ourselves. To make matters even worse, we also have a tendency to live in one of two places continuously: the past or the future. The present just doesn’t seem to hold our attention in the same way. If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly thinking things like, “Am I doing the right thing?” or “Did I make the right decision?” and “Am I going to regret this?”. Rather than living in the moment and accepting each new day for the opportunities it brings, we are all caught up in our past actions or the mistakes we assume we’re going to make in the future.
In psychology, there are two concepts you may be familiar with: our “inner child” and our “future self”. While each of these concepts is meant to bolster our sense of self-love, sometimes (particularly in the case of the “future self”) these concepts can have unintended effects. Take me, for example. My therapist has tried to help me develop some sense of self-love by continuously asking me to imagine myself as my inner child. She asks me to remember the Renee that was 4 or 5 years old, to remember her dreams and aspirations. She reminds me that my inner child would likely be very proud of how far I’ve come. Sometimes, this helps. Other times, I feel like I’ve let her down, that I’m out of touch completely with the inner child within me.
Then there’s the concept of the “future self” and, man, do I struggle with her. I recently listened to Harvard psychologist Dr. Daniel Gilbert’s TED Talk entitled, “The Psychology of Your Future Self” and it really struck a chord with me. As Dr. Gilbert explained, many of us tend to think that the person we are today is the person we are destined to always be. While this may be a comforting thought to those with a refined sense of self, for others, like me, this is a terrifying thought. I’m not especially happy with the person I am today. I’m constantly wrapped up in my own perceived failures and limitations. I always feel like I should be doing more.
According to Dr. Gilbert, most people, when asked if they are the same person that they were 10 years ago, will say no. That being said, we tend to have a much harder time seeing the potential for change in the future. This is where the concepts of our “inner child” and “future self” tend to converge. We can accept ourselves for the inner child within us to some extent, but we have a much harder time showing the same compassion to our present selves. This is due to the perceived consequences of our current actions as they relate to who our future self will be. We seem to view all of our failings and shortcomings as direct influencing factors on the failure that we think we will be in the future. In our minds, there doesn’t seem to be much room for a positive change.
There is, however, hope for our future selves. It’s just a matter of how we view the situation. Despite our awareness that our past self is clearly very different from our present self, we tend to fall into the thinking that who we are now is who we will always be. For those of us struggling to embrace and love ourselves, this can be horrifying. It’s so easy to think that who we are now is the “finished” and “real” us. As Dr. Gilbert puts it:
“Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.”
Embracing Your Future Self
In order to embrace our future selves, we have to take ownership of them. We have to accept that we alone hold the power to determine who our future self will be. We have the power to make the future us someone we can be proud of. This happens by following a few important steps. While change is inevitable, it certainly isn’t out of our control.
Separate Your Past, Present, and Future Selves
As a general rule, people tend to place an extreme emphasis on their present selves. We tend to cling on to our present selves to an extreme and speak in highly definitive terms about who we are now. Unfortunately, such labels leave little room for positive change and growth in the future. This is because, after all, when you start viewing yourself as a distinguished label, you start being unable to see any alternatives.
To combat this, it’s important to separate and distinguish your past, present, and future selves in your mind. Once you are able to distinguish between your current and former selves, it becomes all that much easier to view your future self as a different person as well.
Ask Yourself Who You Want Your Future Self To Be
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
In order to truly take ownership of our future self and all of the possibilities that come with it, we have to take the time to imagine the person we’d like to be. It may be much easier to default to the present than to imagine the possibility of a different future, but it is important to do what is hard. According to Harvard Business Review, “research has shown that shaping your future self requires “deliberate practice,” or the ability to develop yourself towards a specific goal.” A clear goal must shape the process of growing in a positive direction.
It’s important to know that, put simply, your behavior in the present is directly shaped by your view of your future. So who is your future self? Ask yourself who you want to be, where you want to be, and how you want to feel. Then think about the positive steps you can take to come to that outcome. We have to make the needed changes today to influence our future selves.
Change the Narrative of Your Identity
Finally, to take ownership of your future self, you have to remember that identity is much more powerful than personality. Behaviors eventually become our personality and behaviors are driven by our sense of identity. Put simply, your personality is simply a product of your identity. In saying this, it’s important that we change the narrative of our identity. Our personal identity narrative informs the story that we tell ourselves about ourselves- including who our past, present, and future selves are.
When your sense of identity is rooted in the past and present alone, this can make our current personality feel permanent and incapable of changing in any positive way. You should use your identity narrative to tell both others and yourself who you want to be. Acknowledge that your future self is in fact a different person than your past and present selves. Yes, this can be difficult. But telling others (and yourself) who you want to be is extremely powerful as it can compel you to make your behaviors more consistent with your new story.
What Your Future Self Wants You to Know
“There is nothing our future selves would ask of us that is impossible for us to accomplish.”-Chris Patton
So what does your future self really want you to know? If your future self could sit down with you and have a conversation about where you need to go from here, answering all of your questions about who future you is, what would they say? These are important questions and the answers your future self would give you are crucial. Unfortunately, things aren’t all that easy and we don’t have an open line of communication between our present selves and who we will be one day. That being said, there are some things your future self wants you to know and these things can help you make the right decisions going forward.
You Are Capable
Sometimes (more often than not) it can be easy to look at ourselves and think, “I’m not capable of having the life that I want”. That being said, if your future self could sit down and have a conversation with you, more likely than not, they’d say that you are perfectly capable. How do they know? They were you at one time and they know what you overcame. They know your current issues and insecurities, your hopes and fears, and they know what you did to get to the point they are at.
If your future self could tell you anything, it’d be that you are a perfectly capable person. You have everything that you need right inside of you. If you want to succeed, you have all of the tools there to make it happen. What you must overcome is your own fear. You have to overcome that little voice in your head that is trying tirelessly to convince you that you can’t make it. Your future self knows what you were able to do despite the challenges presented and they’re proud of the fight you’re putting in to succeed. They wouldn’t be where they are without it.
You Are Worthy
Just as it is easy to convince ourselves that we aren’t capable, it’s just as easy to convince ourselves that we aren’t worthy of success, happiness, love, or any range of positive feelings about ourselves. It’s so easy to look at what we deem our past failures and commit them to memory, telling ourselves we’ll never rise above and never be more than our mistakes. This simply isn’t true. If your future self could have a conversation with you, they’d tell you this. As a general rule, it is much easier to love our past selves than our present and your future self loves you. They know that you were more capable and worthy of success than you ever knew. They were the you that proved it, at one time.
Your future self wants you to know that you’re worthy of becoming the person you want to be. They owe their existence to your hard work and perseverance and those qualities alone make you worthy. If you’re willing to put in all of the hard work to become your future self, you are worthy of all of the good that comes out of it. Your future self wants you to recognize yourself as someone worthy of everything you want to achieve. Without that attitude, you’ll never reach your full potential. Your future self doesn’t want you to give up just because you didn’t feel worthy of all the good that you can capture for yourself. Just as you look up to your future self in your mind, hoping that they are further along and more accomplished, your future self loves you and is thankful to you for all of the hard work that you put in now. Remember that.
You’re Someone To Be Proud Of Now
Your future self knows that you hope they’re someone that you can be proud of. What they would ask of you, however, is that you learn to be proud of the person you are now. You don’t have to wait 10 years down the road to be proud of who you are. You can start today.
“Renee,” you might be saying. “I have nothing to be proud of now.”
My friend, that simply isn’t true. Your future self knows it, too.
Look back at your past self. I’m willing to bet there are things that you are proud of them for if you look deep within yourself. Just as you’re proud of your past self, your future self is proud of the present you. There are so many things you should be proud of yourself for.
Think about how far you’ve come.
Think of all of the obstacles you have faced fearlessly and overcome.
Think of every time you failed and survived.
Think of every time you had a desire to grow and you took the necessary steps.
Think of the times you’ve helped someone who needed you.
Think of all of the times that you were a good friend.
Think of every time you made someone smile when they really needed it.
You think you have nothing to be proud of your present self for? Nonsense. Your future self wants you to accept that. It’s an important step in who you will become.
Becoming Your Future Self Starts Today
While it is important to recognize that present you and future you are two different people, it is equally important to realize that present you has all of the power to create the future you that you want to be. Becoming your future self starts today. It starts with taking ownership of the you that you want to be and it starts with taking the messages your future self wants you to hear to heart. If you can do that, you can start taking the necessary steps to become the future self you want to be.
Although the saying, “anything is possible” can be a bit irritating because it just feels so impossible it’s important to know that it isn’t a false statement. It’s a statement meant to drive you, motivate you, and guide you on the path to becoming who you are meant to be.
Your future self is in reach. You’re capable of becoming the you that you want to be.
You’ll never let your future self down if you can learn to love and foster growth in the person you are today.