Future Self: How To Think Ahead And Love The Present

written by Dan Silvestre
Personal Development, Procrastination
Future Self

Your future self represents the person you’ll eventually become. It helps us understand the decisions we make today and make more progress.

You could be thinking of your one-year future version — or the next five minutes. By making decisions in the present, you control:

  • Who you become
  • What problems you solve
  • What you have achieved
  • How much time you have

So what are we talking about? Old-fashioned long-term thinking? Or is there more into it?

Why Should You Even Care About Your Future Self?

You know that thinking ahead can make life A LOT easier. But our brains weren’t designed to do it.

Think of everything you want to achieve and ask: “Why am I not there yet?” The answer may have nothing to do with money, time, or luck.

You can always take more action or get more resources by telling yourself to do it. But are you the type of person who can create (and maintain) such a success?

Are you unsatisfied with your progress? Your present You is unable to create that dream reality. You have to think like your future self to achieve it.

Now, think of everything you learned and did well in the past years.

If you could travel back in time, wouldn’t you find a way to make things better?

How is that you can do that now but weren’t able back then? Because you’re using your future self.

“If I simply did this and that, my life would be far better today.”

You can see the future as irrelevant (it doesn’t exist yet) or treat it like the present.

  • The first person sees the present as the only relevant moment
  • The second person sees the present as if they traveled back from the future

If you had a second chance to change things, would you take it?

Marcus Aurelius said:

“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now, take what’s left and live it properly.”

How to Think of Your Future Self Automatically

It doesn’t work to just “think long term,” because we’re always busy with the present. Let’s do something more relatable, such as:

  • Create reminders
  • Plan your days
  • Set bigger goals
  • Associate future with the present

Everybody has created to-do lists and set goals at least once. But there’s a specific way to do it to benefit your future self.

Don’t worry: it doesn’t have to be abstract. I promise that after these four mindset fixes, you will learn practical methods to do it automatically.

1. Set Reminders

Your subconsciousness will think of the future if you bring it to the present. How?

That may first make you feel uncomfortable because people may want to know more about it. In fact, the next step is:

  • To share your future with others

You don’t do it to get approval, but to remind yourself about it. If many people know of your vision (whether they believe in it or not), you perceive it more real.

Ideally, the best reminder is a person who is already living your dream life. By joining these communities, you’re reminding yourself of who you’ll become (or at least, who you should be).

If you don’t think of tomorrow, there’s no guarantee it will be the one you like.

2. Set Goals as If You Already Achieved Them

Are your goals a Maybe or something you will pursue no matter what? If you’re 100% committed, why not accept that you will win eventually?

You may not be there yet, but you’ll make more progress when you link them to the present.

Also, attach your goals to something meaningful, not just “make more money” or “become more successful.” Here’s an example:

  • I’ve created a product/service that helps at least 100 people
  • I have high levels of energy and wake up excited for the day
  • My success inspires others to be productive too
  • I’ve earned enough to buy my dream house
  • My family no longer has to worry financially
  • I make more than enough money while having lots of free time
  • I’ve made enough money to work on what I love, not just what makes the most profit
  • I earn more than enough to support the causes and projects I believe in

Write whatever inspires you.

Something curious will happen:

Your mind is constantly reinforcing your current identity. If you make these goals your new you, your brain will start thinking of how to achieve it to prove it right.

It will work on those goals, even when you’re sleeping. Long after you forgot about them, you may find out you achieved them.

3. Train Yourself to Think Bold

What better way to think of your future self than thinking big of new goals? If you will achieve everything you want today, ask yourself what you’ll want later.

Imagine a day when you no longer need to worry about anything. You have:

  • Enough money to spend without looking at the price
  • A large social network and great friends
  • The ability to travel anywhere anytime
  • All the time in the world

What would you do next?

If you no longer worry about surviving, what would you WANT to do? It can be a tough question the first time you ask yourself.

Maybe you want more experiences and variety in your life. Or you prefer a different schedule. Or you enjoy spending time on hobbies that you wouldn’t consider productive.

Hey, I’m not going to define what makes you happy. But if you could do that today, it would be very motivating.

Because instead of being trapped in the present, waiting to live your real life, you’re living it already.

Right now may not be the best moment to start doing what you love. But even the smallest task will bring you excitement for the future

4. Associate Future Discomfort to The Present

If your future self is a few hours from now, it’s easier to consider it in the present.

It’s funny how we lie to ourselves: “this time is different!” You let yourself fall for the same bad habits but somehow believe that consequences won’t affect you this time.

“I’ll figure it out later.”

If you know the bad WILL happen, wouldn’t you try to prevent it? I’ll give you examples:

  • My day is full of fun activities, but that doesn’t make it pleasant to wake up early. When the alarm goes off, I do it immediately because I hate not having enough time to do everything I want
  • Whenever I think of bad habits, I think: “Don’t you remember what happened last time? It will happen again.” Insanity is doing the same thing over again, expecting results to change
  • I know I won’t be as productive after 3 PM, so I get the job done before that happens
  • The last time I skipped sleep, it felt like a living nightmare. I’ll go to bed earlier, even if I sleep for more than 8 hours
  • I’ll wake up at the same time every day regardless of sleep quality. So I don’t disrupt my productive morning routine in the future

Your brain relates well to recent, intense experiences. If you felt a lot of discomfort yesterday, it’s easier to be aware and avoid it today.

5 Ways to Do Favors to Your Future Self

Future self 5 ways to do favors

The more you help your future self, the easier it is to keep doing those favors. These exercises will teach you to think ahead, delay gratification, and prepare for uncertainty.

1. Reserve Fun Work

Make a to-do list for the day. You will find tasks:

  • You want to do
  • Should get done asap
  • Are harder to complete

Common knowledge tells us to do the hardest first, do the urgent ones on time, and leave the fun things for the end. This order boosts your motivation, leaving enough energy for everything.

If you start with fun activities, you won’t see the point of working on the hard ones later. Leave whatever is easy to do after you get over those priorities.

You can totally get hard work done fast if you feel rested and energized. But if you can barely keep up, you should do what you love instead.

  • If your energy falls later (after 3 PM for most people), finish difficult work early. Leave the tasks you enjoy for this low moment to keep you excited
  • Right when you’re in the middle of a project, stop deliberately (use the momentum to start another one on your list). Starting a task is hard, but it’s easy to get back to work if you have already completed more than 50%
  • For the last hours of the day, have fun or easy activities to keep you motivated all the time

Funnily enough, anticipation seems more satisfying than the fun task itself.

2. Buffering

We like to look at our future version as this overachiever who can do anything. But we forget that in order to become that person, we must change ourselves.

Setting high expectations puts pressure on ourselves. When those standards are too different from our current identity, that resistance leads to procrastination.

You’re free to aim as high as you want as long as you’re flexible in achieving it. Accept uncertainty and prepare for it now, so you don’t have to deal with it later.

  • Get out of work ten minutes earlier in case there is a traffic jam
  • Go to bed 30min earlier in case your future self has a bad night
  • Prepare your week the night before so that this Monday doesn’t feel intimidating
  • Write thoughts down so that you don’t need to keep them in your head all day long
  • When you finish work, double-check for mistakes so you don’t deal with future problems
  • Prepare for work 30min before you schedule, so you can warm up and feel comfortable there

This way, you remove pressure from making mistakes. Because you included them in your plan:

  • Worst scenario: You finish work on time or slightly late
  • Best scenario: You finish with lots of free time left. You can now do other things you like

3. Minimize Recurrent Decisions

The perfect day doesn’t exist if you haven’t planned for it. If you need to make lots of decisions today, it’s a sign you didn’t plan enough before.

Procrastinators will relate. Thinking of work is just as hard as working (and dissuading yourself from distractions).

If your self-dialogue is minimal (you just do what you planned), however, it means you’re doing things well.

Make a list of every decision you make every day/week/month. How long does it last until you need to do it again?

  • Today’s meals: I need to decide what to eat every few hours
  • What to wear tomorrow: I think about it once a day
  • My income and expenses: Once a day/week, I do the numbers
  • My daily routine: If I haven’t planned it, I’ll have to decide what to do every hour

Minimize all of these, and you’ll be much more present in your day. Is there any way you cut off recurring tasks and make better decisions?

  • Make a meal plan or hire a chef
  • But many of the same clothes, maybe in different colors
  • Reduce your number of metrics to track personal finances easily. Or hire someone to account and do your taxes
  • Plan what to do today the night before. Plan and review your monthly goals at the end of the week
  • Organize your inbox and files so you don’t feel overwhelmed the next time you open them
  • Learn how to plan your day: “if this happens, do that.” Include every possible scenario as a condition, and keep this script in a visible place

4. Delay Your Impulses

Sometimes, you don’t feel like working. You don’t care about the best productivity strategies.

You just want to take the day off.

If you feel like giving up while working, don’t fight that thought. Accept it, but wait a few minutes before confirming that decision.

Don’t act as soon as you have the thought. You may have thought that by accident.

Train yourself to delay before acting so you can wait for longer. The more time you give yourself, the less likely you are to give up.

If you can delay decisions for 24 hours, that’s enough to think logically and avoid impulses.

That may sound unreal right now, but all you need to do is delay for two minutes. If that’s easy, add another minute.

If you wait for that time, allow yourself to quit. But remember to ask before: can I bear two minutes more?

Don’t think whether you like the task or not. Treat it like a workout: can I do one more rep?

The next time you do it, your future self will find the task easier.

5. Start Learning Skills You’ll Need Tomorrow

Some skills may feel useless today but will pay off forever. These timeless assets will make YOU valuable regardless of the situation.

Best of all, you get better the more you do, which makes it more enjoyable. Pick the high demand skills, and you will create a permanent income stream.

Other abilities allow you to live new experiences:

  • Learning a new language
  • Studying different cultures and ages
  • Meeting new people who think differently
  • Self-awareness and time management skills

If you look back, you’ll probably find one skill that was responsible for everything else you learned later. 

Wouldn’t it be great if you started sooner?

You don’t need to be skilled today. We’re talking about skills you want to have in the future, so you can progress at the pace you like.

It sounds effortless to work on one skill for one hour every day. After two years, that’s equivalent to working full time (8h), Monday through Friday, for over four months.

Which one looks easier?

Even though both are the same, the former is better because it takes less energy and builds the habit. The latter doesn’t let you skip a single day and assumes every hour is productive.

Imagine how easy your life would be if you trained skills for one hour every day for the last five years.

Future Self vs Be Present: Contradictory?

Thinking of your future is like thinking of other people. The difference is, you WILL become that person.

Isn’t it exciting to know that you’ll live a better future? If that’s not the case, you have full power to fix things today.

Who cares about long-term goals, anyway?

Ironically, thinking of your future is the secret to be more present. Because you no longer need to worry once you are prepared for it.

By the way, wouldn’t it be great if you learned all this sooner?

Share this content and check my latest procrastination tips. Your future self will thank you later.

Tags:: personal development, personal growth, psychology, self

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