Did you ever sift through your high school photos? Only to feel the goosebumps when you saw your image as it was twenty years ago? I’m sure you did. We all did this.
But what we didn’t do is to swift through our future photos. I know it sounds weird, but bear with me for a few minutes.
Why Setting Up A Meeting With Your Future Self
A few years ago I stumbled upon a personal development exercise that I really resonated with. It was a “grounding” thing, which was supposed to give you more clarity.
It had 2 stages. In the first stage, you were going back in time one year, five years or ten years and you were trying to have a mental representation of yourself at that time. Once the image was clear, you were supposed to start a conversation with your past self. Ask some questions, tell some stories about how your life is right now, stuff like that.
The second stage implied that you will try to project yourself one year, five years or ten years from now. Once the image was clear, you were supposed to have a conversation with your future self. Same thing as above, tying to connect, asking questions and getting answers.
I did this exercise quite a few times, and believe me, it’s not an easy exercise. But the benefits are real.
One of them is that you get a better understanding of where you stand, compared with your past self. We get so engulfed in our daily life, in our weekly goals, in our yearly resolutions, that we tend to forget from where we left. This exercise gives you a little bit of contrast, and in most of the cases, the differences from who I was only 5 years ago compared with who I was at the moment of the exercise were really big, although I didn’t perceive myself changed.
Another benefit is that you get to understand more the direction you’re going right now. The future self is more of a projection, is on the “wishful thinking” side of your conscience, but it’s still relevant enough for you to assess if you’re going in the right direction or not. For your information, my future projections were always way too optimistic, meaning that I tend to project a more optimistic view on the world than it really is.
And yet another benefit of this is that it forces you to adjust better. If you do it every six months – which is the recommended time frame – you will be able to see some patterns. And you will be able to take action much faster. I remember that one of the most difficult decisions I had to take a few years back, which involved moving to a new place, was closely related to this exercise. I realized I was stuck in a “no man’s land”.
So, what’s the link between this exercise and “setting up a meeting with your future self”? Well, it makes the whole thing more plausible. It strengthens the link from who you are right now to who you are about to become. It’s like a string of ropes you throw at your future self, hoping to hang on to them when the times will be tough.
Here are 3 simple things you can do, that, beyond their immediate effects, will act like “enhancers” in meeting with your future self.
1. Do Acts Of Generosity
By definition, “generosity” means “not selfish”. So, every time you do something without clinging to the result, you’re setting up a meeting with your future self.
I experienced this on many levels. From people smiling at me with no reason (as a result of me smiling at people with no reason in the past) to getting financial or emotional support (again, as a result of me supporting or comforting other people in the past).
Generosity acts like a seed you plant in your own brain. A balanced work life and a balanced reaction to events will both act like water and sun to that seed. In time, that seed is bound to rippen.
I know that for many people these sentences are making little, if any, sense at all. They might look good on the screen of your tablet or on your computer monitor, but they seem to lose meaning once you go away.
So I encourage you to do your own testing. Start with a 30 days challenge in which you do a random act of kindness (from smiling at a stranger, to helping others), and then just wait. Look around and see what happens in your life.
2. Learn New Skills
Statistically speaking, an average person switches jobs at least three times in his or her lifetime. And I’m talking abut jobs that are lasting at least 3 to 5 years. That’s quite a lot, if you think that we’re going through high-school and college thinking that we’re going to have one and only one career.
So, put aside some time every day and learn some new skills. You can’t control what happens outside. For instance, you can’t control the international economy and a new crisis, like the one in 2008, could explode anytime. You can lose your job in just one day. You can’t control that.
But what you can control is your time. By investing your time wisely, you’ll be in a better position when the going gets rough.
I remember that, in my twenties, I was a radio anchor. And I was doing quite well for my age. But I was always passionate about computers. So, on my way to the radio, I learned how to code. I lived on the outskirts of Bucharest (couldn’t afford any better) and I was spending at least 2 hours a day on the bus. Those two hours were used to learn coding.
When I started by online publishing company, my coding skills were suddenly what marketing people call “the unfair advantage”. I didn’t depend too much on a coding team, and even when I stopped coding myself, I was always able to correctly assess the amount of time and man power needed to complete a project.
That coding skill was a rope I threw at myself and I didn’t even know that.
3. Stick To Your Plans
That’s a little bit more complex than just setting up goals and following them. It’s about being grounded and keeping a clear perspective on what you’re doing. It sounds simple, but in reality it’s much more complicated.
Every plan you draft will change your future self in some way. Every milestone in your life will transform you in some way. By keeping close to each and every project you undertake, you’re actually getting closer to your future persona.
The secret here is to know that your future self doesn’t exist in and by itself.
It is created each and every second.