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Honoring the Future Self

August 15, 2020

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“Do something today that your future self will thank you for.” Sean Patrick Flanery

The writer and neuropsychologist, Dr. Rick Hanson, reminds me that the good that I do today is, if nothing else, an offering to my future self.  He suggests that it when I act out good motivations, when I fulfill my dreams, when I look after myself, I am performing the highest possible duty to my future self.

Taking that thought further, I would say that, it is not only an offering to my future self,  it is a way to honor my future self. It is the ultimate form of self-care.

The Future Self – Who or What Is It?

The future self is of course an imagined being. But even as an imagined thing, it is not only useful to us, it can be a powerful guide. Let me explain.

Our future self is the envisioned self that has acquired wisdom about who we are today in terms of our values, needs and actions. That is because the future self will be either the beneficiary of what we do today or will be the adversely affected recipient of those actions.

Perhaps another way of conceptualizing the future is self is to ask ourselves, “How do we want to feel down the track about the decisions we make today? Satisfied or disappointed?”

For example, when we reflect back on what we did years ago or last week, how do we judge the outcome in terms of how it has affected our present life? Do we wish would have done or not certain things? Do we wish we would have availed ourselves of certain opportunities? Do we wish we could have a re-do?

I am not suggesting that we should live in regret if some things have not worked out for us in the way we had hoped for. That kind ruminating is a pretty useless enterprise. After all, what is, is. But today, drawing on the wisdom of hindsight, are we able to make more informed choices that will affect our future well-being?

Of course, it is sometimes difficult to judge our past actions in terms of our present life, because, at least in some instances, the history book is still being written.  Or, if you like, the jury is still out.

Nor can we absolutely predict the future outcome of our present actions. The only thing we can do is to take the plunge and then leave the outcome of our efforts to the higher powers that be.

Discerning Actions that Honor the Future Self – Some Guiding Questions

Here are some questions that might help us to discern present day actions that will honor the future self.

What can I do today that serves the highest good – not just for me, but for all of life? The good I can do today encompasses anything and everything from the small to the grand. It may be a simple kindness to another. Or it might be a daily action that is caring of the environment. Or it may be, that in choosing between two actions or options, it amounts to selecting the one that is more closely aligned with my values.

What are my most essential needs and what actions can I take today, that helps me to meet them? Identifying my needs does not require a lot of work. All that is required is some quiet time and a pen and some paper. Needs range from the most basic ones through to more complex. If you need some help, check out Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

What step or steps can I take today that brings me closer to fulfilling my dreams?  My dreams are comprised of my yearnings and my longings. They might be big, far off goals, yes. But there are some small steps that I can take today that will move me closer to making those dreams a reality. In the very least, the journey itself will be an opportunity for learning as well as expanding my vision of what is possible.

And in general, if I could talk to my future self, what would she say to me? In fact, how could I best hear the voice of my future self? The voice of my future self can come to me during meditation or in times of relaxation or gentle exercise. Often I can hear that voice when I put pen to paper letting the words flow onto the paper. No editing required.

“The key to making healthy decisions is to respect your future self. Honor him or her. Treat him or her like you would treat a friend or a loved one.”  A. J. Jacobs