"Starting strong is good. Finishing strong is epic." -Robin Sharma
Three years from now, what will your "future self" think of your current self? Will you even be the same person? A very compelling question to consider.
How can we plan if we don't account for our future self?
The question went more profound with a quote from 18th-century philosopher Joseph Butler. He wrote, "if the self or person of today, and that of tomorrow, are not the same, but only like persons, the person of today is no more interested in what will befall the person of tomorrow than in what will befall any other person,"
Oh crap! Is Bulter suggesting that we don't have a stake in our future self? Or is he suggesting that we are so disconnected from our future self that we don't get invested? Hmm. I love existential angst with my morning coffee.
I have always embraced life "as sprints in a marathon." The finish line for sprints is in my visual range. I can push myself to the limit with the end in sight. Linking a thousand sprints together, you get a marathon. Speaking of running, let me illustrate my thought process. My morning runs are filled with motivational music to get my juices flowing. This morning, Red Rider's Lunatic Fringe kicked me off. The next song raised my tempo another notch with these lyrics.
It's go, go, go, go, go, go, go time
Tick, tick, boom
We're bringin' the noise
Oh, baby, we bringin' out toys
Separate men from the boys
Chopper be singin', should be on The Voice
Bang, bang, we gon' ride out
Gang, gang, we don't die out
When it like this, ain't no timeouts
Tell me who really gon' find out?
Tick Tick Boom by Sage the Gemini (Dominic Wynn Woods) delivers the "It's go, go, go, go, go, go, go time" I need to be shifting gears.
The edgy upbeat music and energizing lyrics jack my adrenaline. The night before my daily runs, I lay out my clothes, check the weather and align my music. I set the stage for success. And for 2,563 straight days, thinking of my future (next morning) self has allowed me to battle through injuries, hurricanes, and the occasional cold. Let's ignore the mental chatter trying to repress my consistency. I have made a game of counting the terrible weather days when I would be the only runner. The days any right-minded person would stay in.
I was COVID-19 positive in July of '20. No big deal. Off I ran. Running every day for years without a miss is mind over matter. If I don't mind, it doesn't matter. And my daily preparation with a nod to my future self is a positive catalyst for consistency.
Yes, I agree; my streak is pretty cool. However, I am still openly awed by more compelling feats of human willpower and insanely disciplined stubbornness. I observed one such feat on social media early this week.
I know, social media is rightly scolded for being fake, mostly illusion, and unsubstantial with its' filters and ability to do retakes. In life, this moment is one of a kind. Not subject to a golfer's mulligan, a reshoot, and the magic of photoshop. A life lived authentically is raw, highly visceral, and largely uncensored. However, looking real close, you might witness a few stunning transformations. I follow a young lady's blog where she has photographically documented her metamorphosis from a fleshly cacoon to a butterfly dropping severe weight. She is half her starting body size.
This recklessly honest blogger results in a pretty and slim woman almost unrecognizable from her past self. She made the journey from the eve of self-destruction to a bona fide hottie in a year. Let me repeat that, in 365 days, the lady blogger transformed herself from self-harming with food into a world-beater.
I bow to the butterfly blogger willing to pay daily homage to her future self. She traded many "here and now" moments for the elusive and uncertain promise of "one day soon." For a year, the lady kicked ass. She has my unabashed admiration. But more than any praise heaped on her, now she possesses the recipe for the magic elixir that delivers change. The world is her oyster.
In synchronicity, I ran across the article "How thinking about 'future you" can build a happier life" by David Robson, a science writer and author based in London, UK. His latest book, The Expectation Effect: How Your Mindset Can Transform Your Life, is on Amazon. His article appeared on the BBC's website. As I put the finishing touches on my book "Thinking4Tomorrow.", his subject matter piqued my interest.
He writes, "We should think more about whom we'll be in the future – because doing so has profound consequences for our health, happiness, and financial security."
In 2018, Hal Hershfield, an associate professor of marketing, behavioral decision making, and psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that people's future self-continuity could predict their exercise behaviors and overall fitness. The more you identify with or can envision your future self, the more willing you are to look after your body for your "future self."
In 2020, Hershfield confirmed that someone's (in)ability to identify with their future self could have long-term consequences. The longitudinal study, which tracked more than 4,000 participants for a decade, found someone's future self-continuity at the beginning of the study could predict their life satisfaction ten years later. Hershfield's findings make a solid case for anyone wondering whether taking the time to Visioneer your long-term goals matters.
Meghan Meyer, an assistant professor at Dartmouth College, recently went further down the "future self-continuity" rabbit hole, asking participants to estimate the future-self continuity overlap at various time points. In agreement with Hershfield's work, Meyer found that the average participant's concept of their future self rapidly diverged from their idea of the current self. An enormous sense of disconnection already appeared at the three-month point. (see graphic B below)
Eureka! I believe the two researchers have found why New Year's resolutions fail.
Interestingly this disconnect plateaued in later time points. (see below) There was little difference between the nine-month and year time points. Also, the disconnect from our "future self" for over a couple of months is irrevocable. Meyer suggests that their vision of their future self was becoming "blurrier" and less nuanced. Meyer says, "It's consistent with this philosophical idea that you treat your distant future self, like a stranger."
Unless you can introduce a process to keep your life flying straight and level toward your future self or produce a map of how to get from your present self to your future self without getting lost, most of us are destined to stay estranged from our future self. Let me summarize my "Wildest Dreams" post on December 30th of, 2021, about New Year's resolutions to crystalize my thoughts.
"One of the key things I feel like I've learned in the last decade of studying this is that goal failure is the norm," Dr. Milkman said in a CNN interview. "The whole ball game is figuring out how we recover from failure, keep trying, and getting better."
According to a survey by Statista, only four percent of people who made New Year's resolutions in 2018 said they kept them. (See below)
Do you want to change something about yourself in the new year? If you want it bad enough, you will find a "way" that worked for you in the past. And you will repeat it.
A couple of key phrases from my forthcoming book to punctuate this post. "Failure finds success." "Success feeds on success." And "Success breeds confidence." With confidence, the sky is the limit. My butterfly blogger mentioned above has experienced this metamorphosis. She understands the transformative process of hit and miss. Failure finding success and success feeding on success. She lived it. And the results speak for themselves.
Here is the cool part of my post. Suppose the lady blogger can do it. So can you. The primary way we learn as humans is by mimicking, doing what others have done before us, and copying them.
Only 70 days have elapsed in 2022. 19.1% of the year. If you are on course. Good for you. If you veered off your intended path, your Visioneering or resolutions are still alive and ready for a reboot. I am progressing toward my goals while balancing the natural chaos of big dreams. My "future self" is taking the exit (see above) and staying on course.
How about you?
Until next time. Stay frosty, my friends.