A Resilience Manifesto
Are You Managing Your Job Instead of Managing Your Career?

4 Ways to Plan With Your Future Self in Mind

Future self

One of the problems we humans can have with setting and reaching our goals is that when we set them, we are thinking of the person we are right now, rather than the person we will become when we meet those goals. We haven't connected with that future version of ourselves. 

For most of us, our future selves are like other people--people whose motivations, emotions, etc. we understand imperfectly. In fact, research shows that we treat our future selves as though they ARE other people. (And incidentally, this means that we are less kind and thoughtful about that future person)

But research also shows that when we are more connected to that future version of ourselves, we are more likely to do things now that will take care of that person we will eventually become--whether it is the future of 30 minutes or 30 years from now. 

Connecting to Your Future Self

When I talk about the Connecting habit of Career Resilience, I'm generally referring to the connections we form with other people. But to achieve our goals, we also have to form stronger connections to our future selves. When we envision who we will become and use that to help guide our behaviors in the present, we are likelier to take the kinds of actions that will lead to longer-term health, wealth and happiness.

So how to do this?

Envision Your Future Self


Start by envisioning the Self that you want to be. I personally believe that the most powerful way to do this is through collage--pasting images and words onto card stock or poster board. Start collecting images and phrases from magazines, books and the Web that capture the person you want to become. Then spend an hour or two arranging and gluing them to create a literal picture of who you want to be. 

This is a process that can be really powerful, as it often uncovers thoughts or ideas that you may not have allowed into consciousness before the exercise. 


Connect to Your Broader Life Dream 


Psychologist Daniel Levinson found that most of us have a "Life Dream," something that is often connected to our "sparks"--those skills, talents, passions that bring us the most joy and fulfillment. Levinson found that the life crises many of us experience at different phases of our lives are often the result of deferring or not acting in alignment with achieving that Life Dream:

“Major shifts in life direction at subsequent ages are often occasioned by a … sense of betrayal or compromise of the Dream. That is, very often in the crises that occur at age 30, 40, or later a major issue is the reactivation of a guiding Dream … that goes back to adolescence or the early 20's, and the concern with its failure.”

 By connecting to your own Life Dream and taking actions today that move you toward that dream, you are more likely to avoid these types of crises in your life and career. 

So find ways to explore and connect to your Big Life Dream--what is it that THING you want to do or be and how can you take steps now that move you toward that dream?

Write Letters to Your Future Self

Letters to future me

One of the most powerful ways to connect with your future self is to write him/her a letter. Begin the letter "Dear Future Me" and then go on to describe all of the things you're happy and proud about that this future version of yourself has accomplished in important areas of life.

For added benefit, be sure to talk about HOW and WHY this future self has been successful. What did they do to achieve these things? This helps you create the bridge between who you are now and who you want to become. 

I've found this to be especially helpful to do as part of shorter term planning. For example, write a letter to the Self of 3 months from now. What is he/she up to? How did they get there? 

Send Emails To Your Future Self

Future me

FutureMe is a free service that lets you send emails to yourself at scheduled times. This can be an excellent way to provide yourself with shorter term coaching and motivation.

If you want to start changing certain habits for example, you can schedule a series of messages to yourself that ask if you've made progress on that goal. So if you're working on being more mindful, then set up messages that ask "Have you taken a 2-minute mindfulness break yet?" Or if you want to be more intentional about strengthening your connections, schedule daily emails that ask "Have you sent a note of appreciation to someone today?" 


Connecting to your future self can be a powerful way to see more progress in achieving your goals.

What do you do to support that future version of who you will become? How do you stay connected to him/her so you can take the actions you need to get there? 


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