Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Future Selves

Do you spend much time thinking about your future self—what your life will be like in 5, 10 or 15 years? Looking ahead to the future is a fun exercise, especially if you're newly retired and in a position to create your next big thing. 

To help my workshop participants get in a future mindset, I have used this Future Self assignment:

Imagine that you have been granted the opportunity to interview a wise, happy person who just happens to be your best self 10 years from now.  As you approach the woman's home describe what you find. What does she look like? What is she wearing? Is she living alone, and if not, whom is she living with? What is the feeling you get when you spend time with her?  (Write down your observations.)
Next, pull out your questions and begin the interview.  (You will want to create your own questions, but these may help you get started.)
  1. You look so happy and relaxed.  What is your secret?

  1. Was there one decision that was responsible for getting you started down this path?

  1. What were some of the first steps you took to make this change? 

  1. You always said you wanted to do something great.  Have you done that?  Is it different now from what you thought it was 10 years ago?

  1. Is there a dream that you thought you were going to have to give up on, but didn't?

This exercise is one way to get in touch with how you want your life to look in 10 years or so. It's fun to imagine our future selves enjoying health, wealth, and happiness. It's a perfect dream. But sometimes a dream isn't enough to get us into action. And when we don't take action, our future vision remains a dream.

Maybe a better approach is to be concerned about the respect we have for our future selves. Consider this quote from Christine Tappolet, a philosophy professor at the University of Montreal:

"Future selves are considered to be strangers, to whom one can pass the buck and impose a heavy and uncompensated burden." (Noted by Phyllis Korkki, in her book, The Big Thing: How to Complete Your Creative Project Even if You're a Lazy, Self-Doubting Procrastinator Like Me.)

I found the respect perspective is a better approach to planning for my future. I have no problem identifying what I'm doing today that could impose a heavy burden on my future self. Not that I'm all-bad. I have taken some of my own advice and been good to my future self. This is why I'm here, now, writing this blog and speaking on retirement wellness. Ten years ago I created a vision for this work and put forth the effort and discipline to make it happen.

So while I haven't totally ditched my future self, there are areas where she is being sabotaged. It's surprising how easy it is to identify these areas. I suggest creating a table as shown below. In the left column list areas where you are being good to your future self.  In the right column, identify areas where you are burdening your future self.

Positive Future Self
Burdened Future Self
·      Write first book
·     Finished Ph.D.

·      Disciplined eating and exercise

·       Procrastinating on creating corporate retirement wellness programs

Once you complete the chart, decide what you're going to do about the right-hand column. My future self doesn't deserve to be sabotaged by procrastination and lazy living. She deserves to have the future she envisions—vibrantly engaged with her family, work, and community. 

Out of respect, I'm going to put into action the steps needed so that I meet up with this future self in 5 years.

Copyright 2016. Patrice Jenkins. All Rights Reserved.


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