Who is your future self?
If you’re in your 50s, and you’re planning for your retirement, then it’s natural to think a lot about your future.
You want to be prepared financially, of course, but I’m sure you also want to be healthy and happy and active in your older years.
When you think about 15-20 years from now, you probably envision where you’d like to live and doing the things you most enjoy.
Maybe you look forward to taking cruises or traveling through Europe. Perhaps your heart is in volunteering and having more time for hobbies. Or maybe you just want to spend as much time with your grandkids as possible.
You think about what you’ll do, and how you’ll feel about doing it. It’s what you look forward to.
But do you think about who you want to become? Who is that person you want to be as you enter the last seasons of your life? And can you get to know her now?
That person you envision in your future – the person you have the potential to become – can be thought of as your “future self”.
In this post, you’ll learn how to meet your future self, ways to build a friendship with her, and why that relationship is important to the choices you make today.
And, you’ll learn why using this perspective can be a very effective strategy to reverse-engineer your life and the goals you want to achieve.
For the skeptic (please read before leaving)
I can feel your eye-roll from here.
I get it, as someone who puts her faith in God’s will for her life, I can see how this might seem a little … *woo woo*.
Don’t let the language trip you up.
If you think all this sounds a little “out there” to you, think of this exercise as one more way to be intentional with your life.
The time we’re given is a gift, and we’re each responsible for making a difference in this world.
None of us know how much time we have left, but most of us have a good chance of living into our 80s or even 90s.
This means your retirement could last 20 or 30 years!
How do you want to spend that time?
How do you want to keep growing as a person?
How do you want to give back?
How do you want your family and friends to remember you?
Your answers shouldn’t remain unknown, because you only have one shot at life on this earth.
Spend time working out the life you want to live and the person you want to become. Be responsible with the time you’ve been blessed with.
If you live with intention, you give yourself the opportunity to fulfill your life’s purpose.
One way to do this is by imagining the person you eventually want to be, and living the life you want to live.
That person is you, in the future.
In other words, your future self.
Then, you simply work backwards to determine the choices you should make now to get there.
And, if you’re intentional about building this relationship with your future self, then you’ve found a very unique motivation to make better choices today.
So, I encourage you to keep reading. Because, the only way to fulfill your purpose in life is by being purposeful with how you live it.
How to meet your future self
Would you believe me if I told you that you actually already have a relationship with your future self? Stick with me …
Your future self is that person you’ll be tomorrow, and next week, next month, next year, when you’re 70, etc.
And, for example, if you go grocery shopping today, then you’re doing something to take care of yourself in the future. You’re looking out for yourself by getting food that you can eat sometime tomorrow or next week or whenever you’re hungry.
Same thing if you put money in a retirement plan, or do your laundry, or go back to school, or plan a vacation, or go to bed early.
You make decisions now to take care of yourself later.
And, when we think of the future, we think of ourselves in the future. We use our imagination to envision where we’ll be, what we’ll be doing, how we’ll be feeling, etc.
Everybody does it! We all have this relationship with ourselves in the future.
It’s just that when you separate that person from who you are today – by labeling that person as your “future self” – then it can start to feel a little weird.
It’s the same concept – but, it’s helpful to make that distinction.
The separation between you and your future self can help you create a stronger connection to your present choices.
Have you ever thought back to your teenage years and said, “I wish I would have made better decisions”?
Who you are today would do things differently back then (because you *are* different today), so you could avoid the pain and consequences you may have experienced.
Your present self would know what choices you *should* have made in order to have better relationships, or a better job, or more financial security, etc., as well.
So, when we project ourselves into the future, we can ask what are the choices I can make today that are loving and generous toward my future self?
Brooke Castillo, creator of the Life Coach School Podcast, calls these choices “gifts”.
And when you think of the good decisions you made in the past – like losing weight or quitting smoking or studying hard – you can also think of these choices as gifts that you now live with in the present.
They’ve blessed your life and made it better. Your past self did the hard work and now you get to enjoy the benefit of those decisions.
You can also consider the gifts your future self would give you by asking, what advice would my future self give me today? How would she encourage me and guide me?
These are great questions to ponder, but they require the intentionality of building a friendship with your future self. And this means you need to know who that person is.
Have you decided who you will be?
Nobody can predict the future, but we can all plan for it.
And, because we each have control over our own thoughts, feelings, and actions, we can make choices today that will affect who we become tomorrow.
So, who do you want to be? Who is your future self?
This is where you have to really engage with your imagination and go beyond the boundaries you may have limited yourself to thus far.
Most people stop at what they’ll be doing, where they’ll be living, and what their life will feel like, in general.
But if you want to build a friendship with your future self, then you need to go deeper.
Ask yourself questions about your future self, such as:
- What have I learned?
- How have I changed?
- What are my thoughts?
- What are my beliefs?
- What is my mindset?
- How have I grown in wisdom and love and life?
Then, expand on your answers by asking other future self questions, such as:
- What are the gifts I’m enjoying from my present self?
- What things am I thankful for about my present self?
- How do I feel about my present self?
- And what would my future self say to me today?
Hopefully, when you think of yourself in the future, you see her as someone who is wiser, happier, smarter, healthier, and yes – possibly even richer. This is a person you need to talk to; this is someone who could really teach you a lot!
It’s important that your future self is someone you want to become, and someone you can learn from.
If you see yourself still stuck in dysfunctional cycles with money or relationships, or you believe that life isn’t going to get better and there is no hope for progress, then you will have a bad relationship with your future self.
These thoughts and beliefs will ultimately lead to actions that perpetuate a life you don’t want.
Spend some time thinking about the person you want to become, and the relationship you want to have with her. Consider what gifts you want to give her in the future, and how she can guide you in the present.
What do you think of your future self?
When we project ourselves into the future (like, when we plan for retirement), or when we look back on our past, we can connect with ourselves when we were – or will be – different people.
Who I am today is very different than who I was when I was a teenager, and also who I’ll be 20 years from now. This is as it should be, as we allow life experiences to mold and shape us into better versions of ourselves.
So, if you’re going to be different in the future, what do you think of that person?
You may be thinking, how am I supposed to know? I’m not that person yet. Who knows what life is going to hand me between now and then? Who knows what circumstances I’ll have to deal with?
These are valid questions, but I think they’re flawed. Because when we leave who we’ll be in the future up to whatever life gives us, then we give circumstances the control.
But when *you* decide who you want to be – 5, 10, 20 years from now – then, you can be purposeful today about the thoughts, feelings and actions that will get you there.
You have control, but you also have to be purposeful about it. Otherwise, life can really do a number on you.
How to write a letter to your future self
A great exercise to build a friendship with your future self is to write letters to her, and have her write letters to you.
Sound a little crazy? Maybe, but try it anyway.
Open up your mind to see your future self as someone you deeply care for, and who has great advice to offer you today.
To begin, use your imagination and allow yourself to create a future that you love. Think about the person you are in your future, the person you want to eventually be.
Envision the house you live in, your personal style, even how you move your body as an older person. Think about where your kids are, the condition of your marriage, how you’ve aged physically, your financial situation.
Your future vision all starts in your imagination, so consider it a skill to develop and strengthen.
Then, write a letter to the future self you imagine.
Some questions to ask your future self in a letter could include:
- How do you handle conflict and adversity?
- Which habits have you developed that have given you the greatest benefit?
- What relationships are meaningful to you?
- Where do you live, and why?
- How do you find joy and meaning in everyday life?
Think of the answers you need today that will help you create the future you want.
Then, on a later day, write back from your future self.
- What would your wiser, healthier, happier self say to you today?
- How would she answer all of your questions?
- What advice and encouragement would she give you?
- What would she thank you for?
Make sure you take your time. Allow those thoughts and ideas to really sink in. Think in as much detail as you can.
You can stop here, or continue to write back and forth. Think of things to say to your future self that will help you build relationship and stay connected to her.
- How would you respond to her letter?
- What other questions would you ask?
- What would you say you’re working on today that will take care of her in the future?
- What gifts would you tell her you want to give her?
Another good exercise is future self journaling, where you stay connected to the goals you want to achieve by journaling to yourself in the future.
Both letters and journaling can be an effective way to create meaningful goals and stay committed to making productive and positive choices today.
If you find it difficult to start – maybe it’s too challenging at first or you just think it’s weird – then begin with writing a letter to your younger self.
What advice would you give to her? How would you encourage her?
Maybe you would point out things that don’t really matter in the long run, and what choices will affect the rest of her life.
This might be a little easier, since you’ve already lived as both your present and past selves. And, hopefully, it will help you get in the mindset of connecting with your future self.
But it’s important to build that relationship, because it will help you be purposeful about continually growing into the person you’re called to be.
Why it’s important to know your future self
You might be thinking, why is this even important? I’m glad you asked.
When you see yourself as a separate person, in the future, it’s easier to think of her as a dear friend or mentor. She becomes someone you care about and look up to.
The relationship you have with her is important to you, so you treat it with respect.
That means you’ll consider how the choices you make today will affect her, and they’ll be a big indicator of what’s important to you in the future.
If you don’t brush your teeth or lose the weight or limit the alcohol, then you’re not really concerned about taking care of your future self’s health, right? Because it’s your future self that will suffer.
Or if you spend all your money today and don’t put any in savings, you keep racking up debt and making late payments, then you’re making life difficult and unstable for your future self.
You may not have any serious consequences today, but your future self will surely have to deal with them.
But, if you’re diligent about eating right, saving your money, quitting that bad habit, and building great relationships, then all of these present choices will give your future self a great life.
So, it’s important that you make the relationship you have with your future self a priority.
Because, if that relationship is important to you, then you’re going to take care of that person.
You’re not going to flake out on her, or leave a big mess for her to clean up, or create a situation that will leave her financially insecure.
If you care about her, then you’ll make choices today that will bless her in the future.
And this takes a good amount of emotional maturity, because it requires the discipline to delay gratification for your present self.
You may have to limit your spending, or give up the wine, or sell the house, or get a second job. These would all be sacrifices you’d make today so your future self could experience something even better.
But, it will be worth it, because you care about your future self and you want her to have an amazing life.
How your future self can help you
Your future self can help you keep a lot of things in perspective, as long as you have a good relationship with her.
When you think of her as someone who embodies everything you value and cherish and want to be someday, then you can really learn a lot from her.
Maybe you see her as a person of wisdom, maturity, good health, joy, generosity, and success.
Maybe you see her as an excellent wife, an involved grandparent, a world traveler, and a successful business owner.
Think of the lessons your future self has learned from the experiences she’s had. She can help you to keep your priorities in order, and remind you of what’s truly important in life.
She can encourage you to keep trying, keep learning, keep saving and sacrificing and building, because she knows how great life is beyond that.
She can remind you that the good choices you’re making today have created such a wonderful life for her. And she can tell you what a truly fulfilling life is really like.
Recognize the good decisions your past self has made
Sometimes we can let our past mistakes keep us from having hope for our future.
I once heard a life coach ask, if you could write to your 18-year old self, what advice would you give her?
There is so much I would tell my 18-year old self. When I look back, I can see clearly the wrong turns I took. I only wish I could have had the person I’ve become be there back then to give me advice and encouragement.
And yet, if I look back at how I grew as a person through all my poor choices and failures, I’m thankful to my past self for certain decisions I made.
I married a great guy, I decided to have 3 children, I graduated from college, I’ve kept good friends.
Despite all the dumb mistakes in between, I made some awesome decisions that have given me the life I have today.
It’s important to recognize how your past self helped create the life you now live. If you struggle with guilt or regret, remember the decisions you made that are a blessing to you today.
Start building a friendship with your future self
We all have a relationship with our future selves. We do things every day to take care of ourselves sometime in the future.
But when you expand on that idea and are purposeful about building a relationship with your future self, then you really start to connect your present choices with your future life.
When you can see yourself in the future as the person you’re taking care of today, then you create a different motivational spin that influences your decisions.
You’re led by a different set of questions, such as:
- What can I do today to take care of my future self 10 or 20 years from now?
- How can I bless my future self when she’s 60, 70, 80 years old?
- What can I take on today so that my future self isn’t burdened with it?
- What choices can I make today that I want my future self to be grateful for?
- What gifts do I want to give to my future self?
- How can I support my future self and make the best life for her?
- What hardships and pain can I spare my future self?
- How can I love and value my future self today, and make her the priority?
So, envision who you want to be in the future, then start getting to know her.
Ask her questions, learn from her, tell her how you’re taking care of her, what gifts you’re creating for her.
Write her letters, and have her write letters back to you. This is a powerful exercise that will help you be future-focused and guide your present decisions.
Who you are in this moment is the bridge between who you were in the past and who you’ll be in the future.
So, be grateful for what your past self has done for you, how she has set you up to have the blessings you experience today. Cherish the lessons she’s learned, the sacrifices she’s made, the friendships she’s kept.
Then, think about how you can pay that forward to your future self.
How can you build on what your past self has accomplished and make life even better for your future self?
I encourage you to write the letters and answer the questions and make a list of the gifts you want to give to your future self.
Because it’s when your relationship with yourself is at its best – past, present, and future – that you will have the most to give to yourself and to others.
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