I like to think about my future self, and then take action to help her out.
My coping mechanism isn’t new or unique. Psychologist Benjamin Hardy in “Take Ownership of Your Future Self” clearly explains how important it is to take steps in the present to determine your future. It’s like planting flower seeds, only in this case, we are planting actions. We then look forward to the blossoms. Hardy says, “If your future is clear, exciting, and something you believe you can create, then your behavior in the present will reflect that.”
Hardy’s article focuses on long-term goals. Similarly, Jordan Peterson, a psychologist and founder for Self Authoring, advocates future self-authoring by planning ahead for even the next three to five years. Both he and Hardy and many other wise men and women promote the importance of thinking into the far future.
While long-term goal shaping is smart, I like to follow their advice on a smaller scale and incorporate short-term actions that keep me progressing toward significant life objectives. Hardy mentions that “you can train yourself to see even short-term growth by measuring progress on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis.” I want to take his advice a step further and promote daily or hourly progress. So, I follow Hardy’s guide to “imagine my future self” not just in the long term, but within the next 24 hours.
Let me explain further.
When I know I have a rough day ahead, I’ll lay out my favorite pajamas at the end of my bed. When I come home hours later, I find them waiting for me, like a little present to greet me and say, “You made it!”
I might create overnight oats; then in the morning I have a homemade breakfast carefully prepped and ready. That container of cereal and fruit is like a gift from my past, and I will feel cared for as I pull it out of the fridge.
If I can, I’ll run an errand a little early, gifting myself spare time later in the day. I know I’ll appreciate that extra margin of time, and I’ll find myself looking forward to it.
As you can see, I’m not talking grandiose actions. I’m intentionally considering the day-to-day actions that will encourage me as I move forward, ultimately toward the significant goals in life that may be years away.
I can best compare it to when I’m cooking. Usually I’m hungry while I prep, so I’ll snack as I follow my recipe. I’ll pop some of the cheese in my mouth and a handful of nuts, or I’ll sample the mashed potatoes. These yummy tidbits really make my kitchen time so much more enjoyable and motivate me as I work toward my larger goal: a complete meal.
The stakes are obviously different: my life goals verses whipping up a quick dinner. But caring for myself in these little ways helps me live out Peterson’s advice to, “treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.” Experts are stressing self-love and intentional living for a reason. We absolutely should treat ourselves in a way that inspires us to reach the next five years, but also the next day, hour, or even minute.
Much Love, Gina