“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” — Dr. Seuss
I want to share a simple strategy that helped me connect with my Future Self.
Your Future Self is just you in the future, and the science of Future Self is compelling.
The vision that you have of your Future Self, and how connected you feel to your Future Self, really drives who you are today.
If you feel connection and empathy with your Future Self, you will take care of yourself better, and make better decisions today.
The opposite is true, too.
If you don’t feel much connection with your Future Self, you don’t really care about the longer-term consequence or pain, of your choices today.
It makes it easier to bite your nose to spite your face.
The bottom line is, by connecting with your Future Self, can both inspire yourself and save you from yourself.
Here is the story of how I used “Better Me” for better results, working backwards from my Future Self.
Your Future Self is the Backbone of Grit
Before I share my story, I want to start with why it even matters and how you can use it if you are working on your own motivation, will power, or mental toughness.
Effectively, your Future Self can inspire you, motivate you, lift you, and serve as the backbone for your grit when you need it most.
In her book, Grit, Angela Duckworth breaks grit down into 4 elements:
You can relate each of these aspects to your Future Self in a very simple way.
For example, what sort of interests do you expect your Future Self to have?
If you expect your Future Self to be able to play the violin, then you can use that vision to stoke your fire today.
If you can see your Future Self playing the violin and enjoying the amazing music you unleash from yourself, then you can use that to practice more deliberately.
If you imagine your Future Self is driven to play the violin because it realizes something difficult you always wanted to learn, that’s a way to connect purpose.
Or if you imagine your Future Self playing the violin in a way that makes people smile and feel good, that might be a way of realizing your purpose, too.
And the fact that you can see your Future Self playing the violin, can give you hope for the future.
That’s just an example, but you can see how you can develop your grit by connecting to your Future Self around interest, practice, purpose, and hope.
I Named My Future Self, Better Me
My story starts out in a pretty simple way. It was actually a case where I lucked into it.
It wasn’t that intentional, it really just started when one day I asked myself:
“What would Better Me do?”
I liked the name. Right off the bat, I like the idea that my Future Self is a better version of Me.
Why not imagine a Future You that’s better in any way you want.
(I tell folks Future Me is way better looking, much better shape, way smarter, and, oh, did I mention, way funnier, too?)
Anyway, I found myself in more and more situations asking myself, “What would Better Me do?”
And it became a simple way to check in with my Future Self, when I needed hope, or inspiration, or even some extra elbow grease.
I found that because I kept it simple and didn’t over-engineer it, I was regularly checking in with Better Me.
I Asked Myself, “What Would Better Me do?”
Checking in with Better Me became a habit. I didn’t plan on regularly checking in with Better Me, because I didn’t realize or anticipate how effective or how profound it would be.
Whenever I hit the tough stuff in my life or face tough choices, or even easy one, I would check in with my Future Self:
“What would Better Me do?’
When I struggled during a workout.
When I was trying to learn something that seemed especially challenging.
When I needed some extra mojo to make it over a big hurdle in my day or my week.
When I would think about and explore different aspects of my life from where to live, to career, to new hobbies, to anything really.
It was always good to check in and get a fresh perspective from Better Me.
Why Use Future Self or Better Me vs. Just “The Future”?
Of course, you might wonder, why didn’t I just try to imagine or picture the future?
Because “the future” is fuzzy and easy to abstract.
Also, when you focus on the future, without a clear anchor, your brain shuts down.
And, worse, by default, you treat Future You like a stranger.
But when you focus on Future Your or Better Me, in an intentional way, you can make it real and relevant. You make it personal, and you can build empathy.
You can really imagine a Vivid Vision to pull you forward. (note – Cameron Herald shares a way to use deep visualization in his book Vivid Vision, geared towards the corporate arena.)
And so that’s what I did.
I Was So Proud of Me Then
Flashing back, there is a related idea that helped me appreciate the practice of asking, “What would Better Me do?”
Long ago, I overheard a hallway conversation where a colleague was telling her peer, in these words:
“I was so proud of me then.”
I never heard somebody say that before, so I was both curious and excited to hear her story.
She was sharing with a friend how she had made a tough choice under stress that helped her get to a better place in her life.
If you think of “proud” as just a deep sense of satisfaction of her achievement, I could hear it in her voice.
I missed the rest of the conversation, but it was along the lines of, why didn’t she do more things to make her Future Self proud?
And I remember thinking, what a great example of her acknowledgment and appreciation for her personal victory.
I wondered how many people forget to practice an attitude of gratitude for themselves.
And I wondered how many more people dwell on their not-so-proud moments and stew in their own juices.
I wondered how somebody could, in such a simple way, focus on creating more Future Proud Moments…those moments you could look back on and be proud of.
Not for proudness sake, not for goodness sake, but to remind yourself of what you are capable of when you care and when it counts.
Mastery Focus Versus Performance Focus
This little vignette in the hallway really planted a seed in my mind.
I wondered, how might I use more Leadership Moments and Learning Opportunities to create more Future Proud Moments?
I think some useful science here is the idea of a “Mastery Focus” versus a “Performance Focus.”
The big idea that is when you focus on “performance”, you focus on the score.
That score could be a scorecard, a grade, a scoreboard, praise, you name it. It’s the achievement itself.
When you focus on “mastery”, you focus on how well you actually perform the given activity.
You focus on getting better at it. You focus on what you learn. You focus on actual mastery.
This is living a “Growth Mindset” at its finest. And it’s a great way to find your “Flow”.
The science says that a “Mastery Focus” wins in the long run, because a “Performance Focus” drives stress and bad behaviors and short-cuts to make the score look good.
You can apply this idea when you review your choices you make.
You can dwell on the “score” of your wins and losses…Or you could focus on what you learn and on getting better.
Which do you think your Future Self will really thank you for?
Ask Yourself, “What Will Make My Future Self Proud?”
This is a very simple way you can practice using your Future Self to shape your future and improve with skill.
You can ask yourself, the following question:
“What will make my Future Self proud?”
Focus on mastering yourself, not scoring or scolding yourself.
Remember to dream big and really imagine what your Future Self will be capable of.
Keep in mind that the science of Future Self says we underestimate what we are truly capable of.
I even like to remember to age like a fine wine and get better with age.
As Earl Nightingale put it:
“You are now, and you do become, what you think about.”
You can practice your Future Self every day. And when you reflect back, you will remember your choice points.
As you practice your Future Self, you will create increasing clarity.
And with great clarity, comes great confidence, and confidence is the secret sauce of extraordinary performance.
Your Future Self Says You Can Do It
Can you do this? Of course, you can. The real question is will you.
And whether you will or not, can actually come down to your Future Self.
If you connect with your Future Self in a deep way, an amazing thing happens.
Instead of feeling limited and wondering how to become limitless, you start from a place of limitless.
And then your only wonder becomes will you explore enough to actually find your real limits or create new ones.
When you put time on your side, and a compelling image of who you want to become, you flip the script as you BE, DO, HAVE your way forward.
If you just felt a little tug, that was your Future Self saying to you:
“You’ve got this”
So Do You and enjoy the journey of shipping and shaping new versions of you.
And if you ever get stuck, got back and read Oh, the Places You’ll Go, by Dr. Seuss.
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