Ideal Future Self Is Watching Current Self Fail
You’ve probably heard the quote. “Dress for the job you want not the job you have”. It’s usually accompanied by a Batman meme or reference. Expand “dress” to all of your actions, and expand “job” to any life concept you aspire to. “Take action toward the life you want not the life you have”.
Don’t wait until you are Batman to act like Batman. Herein lies everyone’s problem. They wait in hopes of being the Batman before acting the part of Batman. They don’t want to make the effort, yet dream of the result. You can now skip the rest of the article as I’ve laid out the essence. If you must persist I will aim to entertain and enlighten you further. I don’t suggest you go don a cape and hockey pads, fighting criminals at night. Instead, hitting the gym every day, training martial arts, eating to perform at an elite level, and studying the technical skills needed to fight crime, would be better daily pursuits.
We all own a vision of the person we wish we could be in life. Settle on the idea and ask yourself what’s different about that idealized self vs the current you? I shouldn’t have to specify we aren’t talking about your fantasy of facing off against the Joker or carousing with Catwoman. No amount of action makes this a reality. We’re talking about the person you could see yourself one day becoming, just haven’t acted on yet. The next best thing to being a super hero is having a super life. Having that life is entirely within your control. That life requires big, consistent action. Right now you may actively be choosing not to.
Let’s set about this exercise differently. Think back to a place and time 5, 12, or 20 years ago. For me each of these intervals is a different place and these 3 personal portraits would read as 3 completely unique lives, each evolving to the next through action. Think about the major changes you’ve undergone. What actions did you take to transform from your earlier incarnation into today’s version? Think on habits you changed along the way. All we are doing here is looking back to recreate this process going forward. We can recognize the successful efforts producing big changes. We can also identify where some negative behaviours have led to some exponential growth in problem areas, possibly your waistline or bank statement. Realizing the power of the direction you act or fail to act in becomes critical. We aren’t just moving toward great outcomes, but aggressively away from bad ones.
Return to the vision of your ideal identity. How does that person act?
How does your future self approach unfortunate life events? Does she blame others for her misfortune? Does she take ownership of her role in what’s happened and does she resolve to be positive as she moves beyond the issue? Does she strive in all pursuits to be a better, kinder, more generous person?
Does your future self workout and care for his health as he get older? Is exercise of little concern? We often tell ourselves that we we will start on Monday or January 1st (bad news as most gyms are closed on New Years Day). We all see our future selves as active people, who work harder at maintaining strength and health. We just haven’t started yet. The future self sleeps better and wakes earlier. He cooks healthy meals, eats less junk, drinks less pop and alcohol.
Does your future self get outside for walks, hikes, and time in the sun? Or does he rarely leave the couch? Is your future self taking the trip you’ve long dreamt of? Is she in shape to feel confident on the beach in a two piece?
Much of the problem in delaying change is feeling we don’t have enough time. We tell ourselves we will act when we have more time. These are bold faced lies we tell ourselves. We create excuses to delay action. Abundant time is a thing of the past. We don’t want to face the imagined discomfort or put in the effort. We want to be magically transported to the future self, have the muscle, have lost the fat, have the career, speak the language, etc. We want to arrive at the destination without experiencing the journey.
I’ve long imagined my future self relaxing with a book and or listening to classical music. This comes from spending time around my grandparents growing up. My grandfather and aunt both successful doctors, had lifestyles of the purest image of success growing up. I recall my grandfather sitting in his chair with a crystal glass of scotch. I’ve always associated scotch with success. A few years ago upon working hard and buying my first home I developed an interest in scotch. I had won a beautiful set of crystal glasses and decanter and decided to use them. I felt like I had achieved a reasonable amount of success and the ritual of relaxing with a good Highland Single Malt channeled positive memories of my family growing up. While drinking scotch on its own isn’t a behaviour that creates success, it for me was part of a vision of a successful future. It’s an example of the type of reward that must wait until you have achieved a certain level of progress. What really matters are the behaviours that create success.
Don’t lose sight of how far you’ve already come towards your ideal future self. You deserve a lot of credit for what you’ve done. Remind yourself that your efforts have worked and will continue to carry you forward. Progress is a powerful motivator. It’s worth cherishing the journey to remember why you started. Imagine future you looking back with gratitude for having started, for not quitting along the way. Visualize success in the future and decide to act toward it. Act successful then become successful.
Changing your actions today is the answer to changing your situation. You can’t wait until you’ve become the ideal you to suddenly behave as that person would. It’s not how any of this works. There’s no skipping the hard stuff. The changes need to start now and I don’t mean the scotch. Today’s actions shape tomorrow’s outcome. The strong, lean, future you is built on today and tomorrow’s sweat equity. He’s transformed by today’s meal choices. She’s formed of the books read and education investment.
A perfect example is the quest to become a police officer or firefighter. These are idealized careers and lifestyles for so many people. Though not every part is glamorous, these are identities that some idealize and aspire to. Being a police officer or firefighter as their identity is inspiring. Among my friends and clients who have pursued these dreams, the successful acted every part their future identity along their entire quest for admission. Conversely more than a few who faltered with the physical or ethical qualifications did not embrace the lifestyle and virtues of those professions at the onset of their quest. Sometimes its a long road that requires a physical transformation. Attacking and owning the process drives the transformation.
We have long been sold that slow and incremental habit changes work best for long term sustained results. Now, as an industry we are learning that big, all-in changes show greater rates of success for fitness and weight loss transformations that last. This may seem counter intuitive. It may be the years of hearing something repeated leading us to blindly accept as gospel without supporting evidence. Slow and steady works for some and it can be the right approach. It can also be a convenient way to avoid making the needed commitment to needed drastic changes.
To make a drastic change last, we need massive buy in but how do we get it? By becoming the person we’ve always imagined. Buy into the vision of your ideal self. Its already a part of your identity, you’ve just delayed action being your ideal self. Hand the controls to the future super version of you right now. Don’t even wait until tomorrow or the benefit of reading this wears off.
If forced to choose, do you choose to stay where you are? Do you choose the truly epic version you’ve imagined and idealized? It begins with action. The good news is people make this leap every day. They commit thought into action. Or better yet they act on emotion before thought gets in the way. Thought can talk you out of action, find all the reasons why it won’t work and bubble to the surface every fear in the way. Get started by taking action before doubt and over thinking wrestles you will into submission.
Great piece! Thank you!
Thank you for taking the time to read it Francis.