What Will Your Future Self Thank You For?
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” ~ Confucius
“A year from now you will wish you had started today.” ~ Karen Lamb
It can be discouraging to make changes, shift thoughts, and work on emotion regulation without the immediate outcome desired. It can be frustrating not to see the immediate fruit of our labour. When discouragement sets in, I ask myself and others: “What will your future self thank you for?” This is a critical question and can help visualize a day when current struggles are now past, and lessons learned become new armour. Imagine what your future self will thank you for doing today, or this very moment. Are you speaking to yourself lovingly and encouragingly? Are you caring for yourself in a meaningful way? Are you holding yourself accountable? What are you telling yourself about who you are? What are you predicting for your future?
Humans are interpreting beings. We seek to make meaning of the experiences we have by finding a way to explain or make sense of events. The meaning essentially forms the plot of the story. Whether we realize it or not, we are continually giving meaning to what occurs or what does not occur in our daily lives. That narrative is like a thread that weaves the events together, forming a story.
The stories we create are about ourselves, our abilities, our struggles, our competencies, our actions, our desires, our relationships, our work, our interests, our conquests, our achievements, our failures. The way we have developed these stories is determined by how we have linked certain events together in a sequence and the meaning we have attributed to them. Often the stories we create about ourselves and the world around us are based on past fears, which can serve to protect ourselves, but that narrative can also get stuck and have nothing to do with our present or future. We can then lean on implicit memories of the past to define and anticipate the same in the future. The future is determined even though it doesn’t exist yet.
Narrative Therapy is a type of intervention that provides the opportunity to write an alternative story. Often current struggles can strongly influence our current view of what our life means and who we are. A significant component of Narrative therapy is the ‘future story.’ This is the opportunity to write out how we would like to live our lives in the future. It is an opportunity to ‘re-authoring’ or ‘re-storying’ conversations we have about ourselves about our future. What would your future story be?
The journey is just as important as the destination
Having immediate, split-second results, of course, would be amazing, but it just doesn’t work that way. It can be hard to start something new without either feeling like a failure or never getting into the groove because of unrealistic expectations. There is likely a reason for that.
I was listening to a podcast about some individuals pursuing excellence, whether in academia, sports, or other endeavours. The story shared that after going through a type of hypnosis, the subjects were able to obtain their goals immediately through a shift in mindset. They were not, however, able to hold onto the advantages. They encountered an inner turmoil and grew intensely conflicted with the instant rewards and honorarium. Experts suggested that they were missing a significant and critical component of their success, the journey towards their victory. The essential small and meaningful increments of growth and adjustment prevented them from fundamentally adapting shifts in perspective and character that ensure sustainability and healthy acclimation of their new reality.
Those that achieve gold medals, or invent ground-breaking technology, or create great pieces of art or literature. Would the success be as meaningful if they moved from idea to outcome in the blink of an eye? Perhaps failing, falling, recreating, adjusting, correcting, and adapting is essential for the transformational outcome. Maybe if we are not sufficiently conditioned for success, it is not ours to have?
"In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins – not through strength, but through persistence" ~ Buddha
Perfectionism is not welcome
A key barrier to doing the work today is perfectionism. Rigid ideas of how things should be done, what it should look like and how we must behave in every situation will only lead to defeat and discouragement. This is the irony of perfectionism, as trying to do things ‘perfectly’ will remove key opportunities to move in different directions, adjust and adapt the preference of having a pre-determined view on how it should be done. Healthy striving over perfectionism is the route to take. In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown writes “Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it's often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.” Brene also shares that “Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.” Brown also challenges the notion that perfectionism is a quality to aspire to as suggests that perfectionism is other-focused where as healthy striving is self-focused.
Embrace uncertainty, failure, and frustration as required elements and components of the future-self we seek. Embrace imperfection, falling short, and the ups and downs. Notice what you do right, what works no matter how small. Give yourself credit to continuing to try and being brave enough to keep going. Comparisons to others has no place as this is your journey, your adventure and your growth. Set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time specific (also known as SMART goals). This is your life to live, not others.
"The one who falls and gets up is stronger than the one who never tried. Do not fear failure but rather fear not trying."
~ Roy T. Bennett
Your Future Self Will Thank You for What You Start Today!
So, imagine that one day you are on the other side of your current challenges...
What will you feel like?
What kind of emotions and thoughts will you have?
What kind of relationships will you have?
What changes do you need to make to live a life of happiness, meaning and love?
What can you focus on today, this very moment, that your future self will be grateful for, no matter how small?
What have you been dreaming of starting?
What have you been putting off?
What idea have you been eager to make a reality?
What action have you known in your gut you want to take?
Imagine your future self saying
“Thank you for taking that step, thank you for pushing past your doubts, thank you for wanting more”.
Photo One by Markus Winkler
Photo Two by Stephen Leonardi
Photo Three by Harris Vo
Book: The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown