How to Build Your Future Self [Journaling Exercise + Integration Tools]
Take a moment and consider…
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Knowing what you know now about life, reflect on a few pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self.
I’m not talking about the “buy Apple and Amazon stock” kind of stuff, but the wisdom that you have about life that you simply didn’t have when you were younger.
Maybe it’s to trust your instinct. Or let things go. Or maybe it’s that you are enough.
So, what advice would you give?
Notice, you are not your past self.
And since you are different from your past self, why should that be any different from your Future Self.
Admittedly though the concept of a “Future Self” can be hard to understand.
Dr. Hal Hershfield, researcher and Associate Professor of Marketing, Behavioral Decision Making, and Psychology has said, “The analogy of the future self as another person may seem like a strange one, but it is rather powerful when it comes to understanding long-term decision-making.”
Your future self is actually MORE important than who you are today too, as it should inform who you are now.
While most people know they are different from their past, they still let two things dictate their present and future self.
First, people let their past events control their life and determine the size of the box they allow themselves to play in. Past events can be someone telling you you’re bad at singing or someone yelling at you when you try to address conflict. These types of emotionally traumatic events come in all shapes and sizes, and we all have them.
Can you think of an emotionally stressful event that occurred, which has created a new belief for you of what you are or are not capable of?
Most of us can think of one, if not a few.
And secondly, people also let labels like “I’m an introvert” or “I’m good at math” dictate who they are and who they can become.
Labels are natural; it’s our brain’s way of synthesizing complicated information down to simple, digestible concepts. Since our brains are an energy-hungry organ that uses up a startling 20% to 25% of the body’s overall energy, it craves these mental shortcuts.
You are much more than a label, and you can be whatever you want. Do not let these shortcuts stunt your growth.
While letting past experiences or labels dictate your life and who you can become is completely normal, it’s also completely wrong.
It’s best to focus on your Future Self.
In Personality Isn’t Permanent, Dr. Benjamin Hardy shares an example of doing this the right way, like Elon Musk.
Say what you will about him, but he has Elon Musk an incredible vision for his Future Self. And like Elon Musk, most successful people start with a vision for their future self and use that as the filter for everything they do. Musk rarely talks about his former PayPal days and is obsessively focused on Tesla and making life on Mars possible through SpaceX.
Notice some of the most inspiring people around you — they’re often talking about the vision for their future, not what they did in the past.
Another famous example of this is Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech. It was powerful, resonant, and inspiring, because he shared his vision for the future.
One day you will become your future self, might as well work toward what you truly and deeply want.
So then the question is, who is your future self?
Do you know where you’re heading in life?
What you want as the next one, three, five, ten, and twenty years unfold?
How you want to feel?
The thing is — if we don’t think about this and purposefully work toward it — we’ll end up with what we’ve always got.
“If you don’t know what you want you’ll end up with what you get.”
If you’re anything like me, I do not want to live on the conveyor belt of life only receiving what is handed to me. I want to step off the conveyor belt and build my most powerful and fulfilled Future Self.
Before I share some Future Self questions to get your imagination flowing, I want to stress the importance of that — your imagination.
All too often, when we’re caught dreaming about life could be like, we quickly shut down and close the door to our dreams. That is not what we’re doing with these Future Self inquiries — we’re going to activate our imagination, connect with ourselves and our deepest dreams and desires, and play for a bit.
So first, you need imagination.
And secondly, you also need courage, which you clearly have since you’re here.
Do whatever you need to do right now to access your imagination and courage.
Now, let’s build your Future Self.
Imagine that you have stepped into your Future Self, your life 10 years ahead.
No matter how old you are, imagine stepping into yourself 10 years ahead.
Close your eyes for a moment to get into this space if you need to.
Now set a timer for 10 minutes, read each question, and write down your answers. Let your imagination flow, and add as much detail and color as you possibly can — the more the better. This is what will bring it from just existing in your head and into your body and into emotions.
Now that you’re 10 years ahead, look around you — what do you see?
- What is your environment like?
- Where do you live?
- What types of clothes do you wear? Remember to get into as much detail as possible.
- What is your day-to-day life like?
- Who are your friends?
- How do you interact with other people?
- What skills and talents do you have?
- What do you stand for?
- What do you feel? What are the dominant feelings that come to mind?
- How do you feel about yourself?
- What goals or vision captivate you that you’ve now pulled off.
- How much wiser are you?
- What advice do you have for your current self?
You’re here — congrats! You’ve just completed your Future Self journal exercise. 🥳
Now that you’ve dreamed up your Future Self, your next steps are to forward and deepen your learning.
Integrate some of these exercises into your daily life. The more you stack the better. Integrate this into your life by:
- Share your Future Self vision with someone else. Sharing our vision for our future is a great way to deepen your learning because we’re social animals, but it also informs them what you want for your life and also can help them dream bigger and greater too.
- Visualizing your Future Self in bed at night before falling asleep. This one is my personal favorite. It’s pleasurable, it’s a great way to fall asleep, and also allows my brain to figure out the “how” while I sleep.
- Use your Future Self as a lens for every decision you make. Ask yourself, “What would my Future Self do?” Don’t want to write a blog post on a Monday? What would your Future Self do? Don’t want to get on the floor and play with your kiddos because you’re exhausted? Ask yourself what would your Future Self do.
- Create a digital or physical collage. Grab photos, images, symbols, whatever it is that resonates with you in stepping into your Future Self. Put it somewhere handy like your desktop screen or your bathroom mirror.
- Look at your current life and decide what you need to start doing, stop doing, or continue doing. This exercise will help you make a change in where you are and are not honoring your Future Self.
And remember, as Anais Nin said, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
PST… If you liked this resource you might like my Be Do Have Workbook; learn about it here.
Special thanks to Benjamin Hardy, PhD, who first introduced me to the concept of the Future Self. If you liked this post, I highly recommend literally everything he does.