Are you well acquainted with your future self? You might think that’s a crazy question to ask since your future self exists in the future. However, you live in the present; therefore, never the twain shall meet, right?
Your current self can develop a relationship with your future self. Not only that, a conscious connection with your future self helps you achieve any current goal you have.
Psychology experts have done extensive research on the future self. By examining the processes and consequences associated with thinking about oneself in the future, they found that having a “relationship” with your future self offers many benefits.
However, it’s crucial to understand how you think about your past, present, and future selves. With this knowledge, you can use your future self to propel you forward.
Your Future Self is Who You Will Become
Let’s start with the basics: Who is your future self?
Your future self is a specific idea about who you might become in the future. You might call this your best or ideal self—someone you know you can or aspire to become. Of course, your future self could be the exact opposite—if you know you need to change but don’t.
You probably think about your future self as another person. That’s pretty common, and seeing this self as different or removed from yourself is good. If your future self is not you, it can offer a different perspective on your life here in the present. From a more objective point of view, it can advise you on how to achieve your goals.
Contradictory Beliefs About Who You Are in the Future
Your vision of your future self is based on who you want to be. That person is different…and the same…as your present self.
How can this be so? Your future self is a different version of you but still you.
In his TED Talk “The Psychology of Your Future Self,” Harvard psychologist Dr. Daniel Gilbert explains that most of us tend to think the person we are today is the person we always will be. Yet, when asked if we will be the same person 10 years from now, the average person says, “no.”
It seems we have contradictory beliefs.
Truth be told, you change as soon as you envision your future self as having accomplished your current goals. The act of deciding who your future self is will move you in the direction of that identity and overrides your belief that you will be the same person in the future. And it begins the transformation of your beliefs, habits, values, as well as personality and identity.
It’s Hard to Imagine Your Future Self
Here’s the rub: It’s hard to fathom the potential for future change because it’s more challenging to visualize the future than the past. In other words, it’s easier to remember than to imagine.
According to Gilbert, the author of Be Your Future Self Now, we are aware that our past self is different than our present self but think who we are right now is the “real” and “finished” version of ourselves. From this perspective, your future self is basically the same as who you are today, and you won’t change. You are fully baked.
That’s an interesting concept since the average person does believe they can and will change over time. Again, contradictions in our belief system.
Therefore, it’s helpful to acknowledge the differences and distinguish between your past, current, and future selves to reap the benefits of a relationship with your future self. For instance, you are not the same person you were a year ago. Nor will you be the same person a year from now. When you can see this clearly, it’s easier to believe you are still in the process of transformation and can and will change over time.
And it’s easier to imagine your future self as the person you want to become.
Forward Thinking Investments
When you see your future self as you—just three, five, or ten years—or more—down the pike, you treat yourself differently in the present. For example, when you are conscious of your future self, you are more likely to save for retirement or make healthy choices.
Such choices are investments in the self you will become. Thus, your connection to your future self creates a forward-thinking way of living in the present. You invest now to ensure your future self’s health, happiness, and success.
So if you decide to start exercising, that’s an investment that creates a healthy and fit future self. Or, if you choose to spend an hour a day writing a book, that’s an investment that creates a future self who is an author. And if you go to therapy to resolve past relationship issues, that’s an investment that makes it possible for your future self to find a loving partner.
How to Develop a Relationship with Your Future Self
The more psychologically connected you feel to your future self, the better. Thus, it’s essential to develop a relationship with your future self.
Your future self is not someone you meet and get to know but someone you decide to be. You get to choose your future self.
First, imagine your desired future self. Who do you want to be in a year, three years, five years, or a decade? Determine what mindsets and behaviors the future self will have. How will they dress and carry themselves? What is their life like? As part of this exercise, set clear and specific goals for your present self, and see your future self having already achieved them. As you visualize, feel what it is like to be your future self.
Second, decide to be your future self now. In other words, take on an identity consistent with the person you want to become.
Being your future self may seem contradictory as well. After all, you are your present self, not your future self. But you can choose your identity. So why not choose to be your future self now?
Your identity drives your behavior. It also dictates your values, mindsets, and personality. If you begin acting like the future version of yourself, you will become that person in the present.
This one decision also helps you bypass any challenges you have to believing you can change—aren’t fully baked yet—or are not the same as your future self. After all, you have chosen to become your future self—to merge the two.
Get Advice from Your Future Self
With a relationship developed, you can see your current life through your future self’s eyes. After all, your future self has “been there and done that.”
So, once you have a relationship formed, you can ask your future self how to create the success it already enjoys. And it can tell you from its perspective what to do or how to do it.
Put yourself in a meditative state and then visualize your future self. Then, ask away. Or connect while journaling. Write down your questions, and then record the answer that comes to you from your future self in your journal.
Deliberate Practice Helps You Develop into Your Future Self
Now your job turns to remaining psychologically connected to your future self. Do that, and you will make decisions that provide a long-term reward. If you become disconnected from your future self, though, you will make decisions that provide immediate gratification only. This makes sense if you consider that achievement of a goal—maybe five years from now—requires you to do the things necessary now—as your present self.
Let me explain this in simpler terms. Take the time to set a goal and imagine who you need to be to achieve it. Then, you’ll intentionally choose to be that person and do the thing that will create your desired future. You will opt for long-term investments over short-term rewards. For example, you might choose to save instead of spend. Your present self may not like that choice but realize that your future self will benefit.
Developing yourself toward a future goal is called “deliberate practice,” and research demonstrates that it helps shape your future self. Why wouldn’t it? After all, with deliberate practice, you enter the process of becoming who you want to be. It’s a personal growth path focused on becoming a person who can achieve your goal or stepping into your best self.
The field of positive psychology has found that humans are not driven solely by their pasts. Instead, they are drawn forward by their vision of the future — a concept referred to as “prospection.” Thus, your current behavior is shaped by your view of your future.
The same goes for your future self. Your current behavior is shaped by your vision of who you want to become.
Of course, you must be able to buy into these visions of your future and future self. If you don’t see them as inspiring, believable, and doable, your behavior will align with that of your past or current self instead.
Define Your Present Self by Your Future Self
Dr. Carol Dweck has spoken about the importance of being defined not by the present but by who you want to be. We are all in a constant state of becoming, whether we realize it or not. So, let your choice of a future self—not your past self—define you.
Do that, and you’ll find it easier to take bold actions toward becoming your future self. Ultimately, these actions will cause your present self to adopt the identity of your future self. Then, you will do the things your future self would do. And you will achieve the goals that self has achieved, arriving in the future as both your present and future self.
Have you tried to achieve your current goals by developing a relationship with your future self in the present? Tell me about your experience in a comment below. And please share this post on social media or with a friend.
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Photo courtesy of NejroN.