Take Ownership of Your Future Self

It’s natural for humans to think that the person we are today is the person we will always be.

Natural, but incorrect and, therefore, possibly the source of dangerous assumptions about our  long-term prospects.

Dr. Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard psychologists explains this as a simple, but hard-to-recognize bias.

Most people, when asked, will say they are NOT the same person they were 10 years ago, yet they tend to think not much will change over the next ten. 

Says Gilbert: “We tend to think that who we are right now is the ‘real and finished’ version of ourselves.” The reality is that you are constantly a work-in-progress, all the way to the end.

While change is inevitable, Gilbert argues that the future is not out of our control. He provides the following three strategies to help you become your desired future self.

1) Distinguish your former, current and future selves so that you do not let biases, even if based on experience, control your future options. For example, suppose your former self thought he or she was a fabulous manager of people. But somewhere along the line, this proved not to be true. In fact, your current self has adopted the bias that you’re a terrible manager! See, you’ve changed, but what you must be open to is that your future self could again become a great manager of people! Time and experience change us all, so don’t close doors to the future based on the past.

2) Imagine your desired future self.  Research has shown that shaping your future self requires “deliberate practice,” or the ability to develop yourself towards a specific goal. Put simply, your behavior in the present is largely driven by your view of your own future. The order of things is not to work hard and then find an appropriate reward. Rather, it is to find an appropriate future award and then work hard to achieve it. My favorite tools for this, also recommended by Dr. Gilbert, are journaling and creating what I call a “photomap,” or a vision board that contains images of you living your future life. 

3) Change your identity narrative. You don’t need to “fake it ‘till you make it,” but a willingness to share with others your intent as to your future self can be key. Telling people who you want to be is incredibly powerful because it will compel you to make your behavior consistent with your new story. If your behavior is rooted in a past identity, then your past is in control of your future.

If you want your future self to be who you want it to be, you’ll need to begin to day to think, and act, like that person. Give it a try…

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