Honoring Your Future Self
This is my 61st day in a row of blogging, so I’m flowing along nicely with the daily blogging challenge for this year. My biggest concern with this challenge isn’t that I’ll intentionally skip a day or give up. I’m more concerned with accidentally missing a day, especially since I like to blog with the flow of inspiration, which often means writing at different times each day.
It feels good to honor this challenge. Most days it’s no problem, but I will say that it isn’t easy to do this every day. Some days I get pretty busy, but I’m never tempted to skip it.
When I was younger, I couldn’t have made this kind of commitment with the expectation that I’d follow through. If I made a promise to myself, I’d have broken it shortly thereafter. I didn’t have the ability to make serious promises to myself and keep them. I hadn’t developed the kind of character who could do that.
What turned things around and made these types of challenges possible was that when I was 21 years old, I decided to work on getting aligned with the value of honor. This transition was important to me because it was part of my recovery process from a rough time in my life. I had gotten into much trouble in the previous years, including four arrests and expulsion from college, due to exceedingly low personal standards.
Back then I reveled in doing what was exciting, thrilling, risky, or illegal. When I wasn’t doing such things, I felt bored, depressed, or numb. The few activities that helped me feel alive were shoplifting, gambling, drinking, some kind of scheming, or hanging out with friends.
There was, however, one activity that gave me solace, and that was going for long walks, especially late at night. Sometimes I’d go for a walk at 1am or 2am and wouldn’t return till dawn. I loved the night time because it gave me solace. There were hardly any people around, and I could walk wherever I wanted in my own undisturbed space of being. Even though my life was a bit of a mess back then, I found the night energy comforting, accepting, and nonjudgmental. Somehow it felt like the night treated me well no matter what, as if it covered up all my problems and just let me be free of them for several hours.
As I gradually pulled myself out of the funk I was in, I continued this habit of going for long nighttime walks, but not as late or as long as before.
During some of those walks, I thought about my future. The future was a fresh field of possibility, much like the night itself. I enjoyed letting my thoughts wander forward in time.
I wasn’t sure what I’d end up doing with my life, but I thought a lot about what kind of person I could become. Partly this was due to curiosity. I was immensely curious about what it would be like to be me in the future. I think that was largely because I knew that my past self would have a hard time predicting all the trouble I’d eventually get myself into. This made me realize that I could be a very different type of character in the future.
Eventually I got to thinking about the value of honor, and I began projecting that value into my future, imagining what my life could be like if my future self embodied this value somehow. When I assigned this value to my future self, I liked how that felt to me. It was pleasing to think of my future self as an honorable guy, as someone who lived by a set of personal standards and ethics. The feeling of this future vision as a person of honor stood out to me as different and special.
I wasn’t in a place to care about the well-being of others at the time, but I liked nurturing this vision of my future self as someone who had higher standards for his code of conduct. The standards that I assigned to my future self were the standards that would have prevented my recent problems. So partly my vision was about imagining what kind of person would have avoided those problems altogether. What kind of person wouldn’t have fallen into the traps that I did?
In the months ahead, I kept thinking about this future self now and then, and this started to influence some decisions. When I felt the temptation to do something that didn’t feel honorable, it would pull me away from the vision of my future self that I really liked, as if I was pushing him away. But when I leaned towards this standard of honor, it felt like the future me had moved closer. So this vision combined with my feelings helped to serve as an interesting compass for making better decisions.
Later in life I realized that I could expand upon this idea by imagining other character qualities I wanted to develop. Then I just had to keep honoring the vision of my future self, keeping him in mind when I made important decisions.
For many years of my life, I often saw my future self as being confident and relaxed, even when faced with big challenges. Holding this vision helped me lean into honoring it too. When I felt overwhelmed or stressed by life’s challenges, I remembered that my future self was cool as a cucumber, and he wouldn’t be phased by the same problems. This vision kept encouraging me to reframe my problems and challenges till I saw them from a perspective that made them look manageable. If I let my problems beat me down, that wouldn’t feel good because I’d be dishonoring my future self.
I still use this model today, although perhaps not as much as I did in the past. It’s empowering to ponder what kind of future self I want to become and then to think about how to honor his presence by leaning into actions that make him feel closer.
You have lots of options for what kind of future self to imagine. I recommend playing around with different possibilities till you find a future self that feels good to you. Then when you make important decisions, think about which direction would honor your future self.
When you create a vision of your future self that feels good to you, you won’t want to betray that vision. You’ll want to move towards it. This desire to honor your future self enables you to commit to bigger challenges and expect that you’ll follow through. You’ll be able to handle more discomfort and take more action because you won’t want to push away a future self that you really like.
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