I am a socially awkward introvert.
I don’t do very well in social situations.
I always tank interviews.
Those are all true statements. At least, they were true once. Those are all accurate examples of the person I once was, but they are not the person that I am now. You see, the person I am today isn’t the person I used to be, and the person I am today isn’t the person I will always be. If I held onto those labels, I wouldn’t have given myself a whole lot of room for growth.
In all reality, people change and they will if they allow themselves the space to do so. I would encourage you to think about the old labels you have held onto that might not accurately describe the person you are now. Like the nerdy kid in school who black swanned her way onto the catwalk. Or the bully who dealt with his demons and become a compassionate nurse. Change is possible if you want it.
Of course, if you want to direct that change then you have to be intentional about it and that should begin now. It might sound daunting, but if you think about it you probably spend a lot of time and energy planning your annual vacation. You have two or three weeks to refresh and reenergize until it rolls around again and you plan it meticulously, whether you’re going abroad or sticking close to home.
You look at TripAdvisor for hints and tips on restaurants and sights. You might even be one of those people who goes to the trouble of creating a spreadsheet to detail your plans, or maybe I’m revealing a little too much about myself. The point is, you go to great effort to plan a short break but you don’t apply that same ethos to planning the rest of your life.
Even if you plan it all and it doesn’t always go exactly as you imagined you still enjoy yourself. You use that vacation plan as a guideline for your time and travels. It makes sense. You do the hard work now and you reap the benefits when you reach your destination. That way, once you get to where you’re going you can enjoy it properly. You see where I’m going with this, right?
Take away those few weeks of vacation and you still have 49 weeks left to deal with. A vacation is a small sliver of time, but one we are obsessed with. Can you imagine how great your life could be if you were even a quarter as obsessed with planning it? We rarely take time to think about our destination.
Oh sure, there’s a general idea, a rough plan of going to school, finishing college, finding a job, meeting a partner, buying a home together and getting married, perhaps there are children, and then there are grandchildren and then there’s retirement and eventually, there is death. Vague ideas of how life will unfold, but nothing concrete.
The problem with that is that sometimes you reach a destination and realize that this was not the one you wanted to find. You don’t want to be the kind of person who finds themselves in an old folk’s home staring out the window wondering where the time went because you missed it. Every life comes to an end, but how much of the journey did you enjoy? And how much did you miss out on? That’s the question.
Now, that’s not to say you should spend so much time planning your future that you miss out on enjoying your present. It’s all about striking a healthy balance to do a bit of planning now to help shape the future that you want to live. What good will you do? What will you achieve? What do you value? What’s important? What do you want others to say about you when you’re gone?
You have more control over your future than you realize. The hard work starts now, but what does that work look like?
Start with a Letter
If you want to get specific about your future self and future life, then let’s get it down in writing. How far do you want to look into the future? That’s your first decision and from there, you can describe your ideal life in terms of career, home, health, social, and family.
Think about where you would like to go and how you’d like to see your life unfold and put it in writing. You can be as realistic as you like or if you’re taking it well into the future you can dream as big as you want.
You shouldn’t just think about the things you will do, you should think about how you behave. Will you be a charitable person who donates time or money? Will you be a person who is proactive about healthy living? Think about every aspect of your life because the person you want to be in the future can influence your actions and behavior right now.
This letter can be your guide to changing your choices right now. Maybe your future self doesn’t drink alcohol, well, you can start cutting back right now. It isn’t about changing absolutely everything all at one time, it’s about having a clear idea about the direction in which you’re heading and making incremental changes to support that.
Your Future Self
Imagine your retired life. What will you be doing when you’re retired? How will you be living? Thinking about that type of thing can help you form goals to work for. It might sound like a long time ahead to consider, but in reality, it’s helping you identify the action that you can take now to ensure that future becomes a reality.
For example, if you imagine spending a lot of your retirement climbing mountains and going hiking, then you can take action right now to protect your health and wellness to ensure your body can handle all that exercise. Prepare yourself now for the future you want.
The Work Starts Now
I want you to give you action points that you can actually use to influence your future. Who you become will depend on who you are today and what you do with the opportunities you have now. Let’s do this.
Invest in Yourself
You spend a lot of your time investing in other people to build strong relationships. That’s important, it’s a positive thing, but investing in yourself is just as, if not more, important. That’s what this is about, this is your helpful reminder that you have to invest in yourself and do so consistently if you want to become the future self you are planning for.
More to the point, make decisions about the person you are and, I’m not talking about building an identity around your career. That’s something too many of us fall prey to. Your career does not define you and it shouldn’t. Why do you think so many people struggle with retirement? They wake up one morning and they don’t have to go to work.
They assume it’s going to feel amazing, but they feel lost because their entire identity was built around being that job. It’s easy to lose your sense of self when you built that sense of self on a foundation of sand.
Make decisions now about who you are to build a stable foundation because having a strong hold on who you are is what provides you with stability.
You decided who you are now it’s time to make it stick. The best way to do so is to be that person you decided you are and to be that person daily. If you want to be a better person then you have to start acting as the best person you can possibly be.
Know this, there will be moments where you fall short. There will be times you feel as though you have let yourself down. That’s natural, but if you keep at it you will eventually succeed. When you do fall short, aim to learn a lesson about what you need to improve on to ensure you nail it next time.
Live Your Values
Of course, before you can live your values on a daily basis, you first need to have a strong sense of what those values are. Someone with a strong sense of their values is going to be a strong, happy person. Someone who does not have a clear set of values or beliefs then they will often feel like a wooden shack in the eyewall of a hurricane.
If there’s one thing in life that’s certain it’s change and the knowledge that we have very little control over that. We often find ourselves at the mercy of others and at the mercy of change. Your values are something you can hold on to, something that will keep you strong, protected, and healthy. When you know what they are be sure you stick to them.
Who You Will Be
You don’t want to build your identity around your career, but what should you build your identity around? When you build it around a career you start to feel trapped in that career even though you lose interest in it or no longer feel as connected.
You’re in so deep with that identity that starting over feels like it’s too much. Wouldn’t it be crazier to walk through life dissatisfied? If things aren’t working out how you expected or you have changed your mind, then make a change now to influence your future how you want.
Know Your Value
We just talked about your values, but now I’m talking about your actual value. You need to know your worth. This will influence and be influenced by the next point.
If I had a dollar for every success quote that has been plastered on a poster and hung in businesses all over the world… well, I expect I’d have a small fortune. The idea of success is constantly pushed in our faces. But what does success mean?
What does it look like? Believe it or not, that’s up to you! Because someone can be rich, powerful, and miserable. That isn’t success. Just like someone can work part-time, just get by, and be happy. What do you define success as? Think about that because having a strong idea of that will help you build a better future, one that you will be happy with.
While life can be a random, crazy ride that you have little control over, there are still plenty of conscious choices you can make to shape it in your favor. There are lots of things that will just happen to you, but you can make conscious choices and determine just how things affect you.
You can choose your mood. You can choose your mindset. You can choose this and you can choose that. When you have an opportunity to make a conscious choice, take that opportunity and choose well.
Forward Progress Always
There are certain goals that take months to achieve and others that years, some even take a lifetime. The important thing is that you are always moving forward in an attempt to progress those goals. You should always choose a goal and work backward to break it down into smaller steps that make it easier to achieve them. Celebrate often.
Speaking of always moving forward, it doesn’t matter whether you were on the wrong path before or not. You cannot keep looking back if you want to head in the right direction moving forward. You have to take the lessons you learned and apply them to the future.
Don’t look back and wonder how it could have or should have been. It’s gone, the only thing you can influence now is what comes next.
If there is one thing you should never give up it’s learning new things. Don’t be afraid to switch careers and learn a new trade. Don’t be afraid to enroll in a cooking class to learn French cuisine. Dig, explore, research. The more you learn, the more prepared you are for whatever life can throw at you. You may have left school a decade or two ago, but there are daily opportunities to learn if you are looking for knowledge.
Here’s the thing – you might have to learn how best to learn before you get started. In school, we learn that memorization is the key to passing tests but we tend to forget most of that information as soon as we’re done with it. That’s not learning. True learning is taking in information and being able to process, understand, and apply it.
Break It Down
For every goal that you have, it should break down into multiple goals. Each of your smaller goals should be assigned a completion date and when you achieve that goal by or before that date, then you should give yourself a reward and celebrate it.
As you move closer to each of your goals you will notice that there are certain changes that need to take place. Whatever you do, you can’t flinch and back away from making those much-needed changes. Change is scary, but you have to push through and make those changes anyway.
How cluttered is your life? I’m not just talking about material items either, I’m talking about emotional clutter, unfinished projects, regrets, and what-ifs. How much of that clutter is impacting your life? If you have important unfinished projects, then make a plan to complete them. If they’re not important? Let them go.
Address regrets and find a way to forgive yourself and move on. Deal with material clutter, deal with emotional clutter, and start making room for self-improvement and growth. Make an action plan, put a date on each piece of clutter, and focus on clearing it.
Agree to Disagree
Or, more accurately – don’t do things that you don’t agree with. If it goes against your values, then you shouldn’t let anyone talk you into it. It doesn’t matter how convincing they are or how persuasive their arguments or excuses are. If you give in you will regret it.
The habits you build now will influence your life for years to come. Good habits build bigger success. If you spend every waking spare second you have watching television or playing video games, then it’s going to drain your ability to get anything else done.
You can still make time for those activities, just schedule them in as a treat to reward yourself for getting important things taken care of. If you know you’re guilty of giving in to bad habits (smoking, drinking too much, junk food, etc.) then now is the time to nip them in the bud. Deal with them now so future you doesn’t have to worry about it.
Once you put bad habits in their place you will need to establish some good habits to replace them. If you aren’t sure where to start, take a look at people who have the type of success you are striving for. What do their habits look like? Make a list of those positive habits and put them into action today.
What matters to you? Because you need to have a clear understanding of your priorities and you need to follow through and actually prioritize them. When you take on too much and it’s the wrong stuff you move yourself closer to burnout and further from where you want to be. And hey, your priorities will change as you grow.
Right now, your priority might be raising your children but ten years ago it was building your career, and ten years from now it could be changing careers. Changing priorities is normal, you just need to learn to lean into those changes and embrace them to support the right things. You will enjoy things a lot more if you strike the correct balance with your priorities.
You will know by now that not all friendships are built to last and that’s okay. Some people pop in for part of the journey and some are in it for the long haul.
Remember, you can decide which people you keep around. If someone is dragging you down, let them go. If someone consistently lifts you up, hold them closer. Not everyone deserves to be on your journey with you, remember that as you populate your social circle.
Some people are easy to ‘handle’. They respond well to open communication, mutual respect, and compassion. That doesn’t always work, though, and the more you learn about handling people the way they want to be handled, the better off you will be going forward. Let people be who they are without projecting your desires onto them. Wouldn’t you want others to do the same for you?
Points of Agreement
When you meet someone new, look for points of agreement. It’s always nice to find common ground instead of immediately being wrong-footed in social situations. When you find that point of agreement, comment on it, and run with it.
Repair Damaged Relationships
Relationships are bound to go wrong and sometimes that’s the best possible thing. It might not feel good at the time, but in the long-term, it was the right result. However, sometimes we take good relationships for granted and we realize our mistake far too late. Make amends with those people.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you will have a continued relationship. It doesn’t even mean that they will forgive you. However, it’s only right that you apologize if you did something to hurt someone. It’s only right that you make amends if you feel you should have done something sooner. Moving forward, be more mindful with your friendships and relationships.
Change is inevitable, do not be afraid of it. Do not be afraid of the unknown. What you need to build now to deal with change at every stage in life is confidence. Build your confidence and embrace change whenever it comes your way.
It might feel uncomfortable, but ultimately, the only thing that life guarantees you is that change will come. So, change your mindset and consider why you view change as inherently negative. With change comes uncertainty and discomfort and we tend to fear what we don’t know. But change comes all the time.
Growing up, you had a brand new teacher every year. It was scary at first, but you got used to it. When you left home to forge your own life it was scary, but you got used to it. You’ll get used to change much quicker if you embrace it.
When you serve others, you learn more about yourself. It is perhaps the universe’s greatest secret. Take every opportunity to indulge kindness you can, especially those that align with your goals and values. If you want to become the future self you are imagining then you have to live those values and in service of those goals now.
Don’t be afraid to accept help on your journey. It isn’t about getting a favor and owing a favor. It isn’t about obligation. Letting people help you and helping people when you have the chance is about building goodwill.
Communication is key so, now is the time to build your communication skills and learn how best to harness the power of ideas. If you know how to communicate effectively it will save lots of energy, time, and upset.
Say things in a way that will be well received by the person you’re communicating with. When you communicate make sure the person has heard you properly and that they have acknowledged the message you are sending.
If you don’t think communication matters, think back on a miscommunication you’ve experienced. Whether you were the one who communicated poorly or on the receiving end of the poor communication. There isn’t just a risk for bad blood, it can also result in poor results. You are responsible for your communication and ensuring that you are understood so get to work on that now, your future self will thank you.
It doesn’t matter where you are in life right now, it doesn’t matter where you used to be, there is always time to forge a new beginning. And, if you want to plan a new future self the work starts right now. With all of that advice in mind, I want to finish on a high note.
Maintaining a Future Self Journal
Earlier, I encouraged you to write a letter to your future self. I would love to revisit that idea. Now that you have a better idea of what to do and how to go about doing the work to plan your future self, it’s time for you to start a future self journal. When you act without being present it’s because your subconscious has you running on autopilot.
You hop behind the wheel of a car and your brain stops at red and goes on green, it turns where you need it to, and you make it to where you’re going safely even though your mind is on other things.
If you want to influence your future self, though, you have to do the work now and that means making conscious choices to influence your behavior. You can’t shift habit loops until you are aware of them and to become aware of them you have to be present. A future self journal will allow you to build that awareness and, the more you rely on it the more expanded your consciousness will become. That is where empowerment lies.
Let me break it down. Begin your journal with self-awareness. Give yourself time to make a note of the behaviors that hold you back and are simply not compatible with the future self you have pictured previously. If you don’t have a list ready, take a couple of weeks to make notes on behaviors and habits derailing you.
You can make a note of multiple habits, behaviors, or patterns that you would like to change, but you have to focus on just one to start. From there, you can write out positive affirmations to help you overcome that habit, behavior, or pattern. Make a note of how you will practice new behaviors to override those old behaviors. You can move onto another issue once you have successfully stamped out the first one.
The key to ensuring your future self becomes a reality is consistency. You might want to skip a day but don’t. Journal daily, revisit your goals, track your progress, and practice at every opportunity. If you do miss a day for whatever reason do not punish yourself for it. As important as consistency is, it’s just as important that you lift yourself up rather than tearing yourself down. No one is perfect, we all have off days, and you will do it right tomorrow. It isn’t the end of the world, it’s simply the end of the day, and tomorrow you have a whole new opportunity.
If you feel resistance within you to journaling, then your subconscious mind is winning the battle right now. You have to disrupt that pattern. It’s part of the process. Often, the reason for this type of roadblock is an obsession with perfection.
You don’t like to journal because you want to do something right or well, but there are no rules to journaling. You can start small and work your way up to doing more each day. In terms of when you journal, that’s up to you.
For some, starting their day with journaling is a great way to encourage them. Others prefer to get everything off their chest before bed. Do it at whatever time you feel comfortable with.
Ultimately, the purpose of future self journaling is to expand your consciousness and becoming more aware of yourself and what you want. If you commit to it, then you will have better results.
You will enjoy the benefits more if you stick to one pattern at a time and focus on it for at least 30 days before you move onto something else. You will experience some mental resistance, but that’s normal. Don’t focus on your negativity or resistance, focus on improving