What are You Waiting For?

“A person can change his future
by merely changing his attitude.” 
                                                                                                         -Earl Nightingale

A number of years ago I attended a seminar presented by Richard Schell, a professor at Penn’s Wharton School of Business.  Following his presentation, I had the opportunity to speak with him informally.  We shared life stories, our “takes” on current events, and pictures of our children and grandchildren.  He made one comment in particular that struck me; “Rick, I believe we both have come to understand what success and happiness are at 65.  I wonder what they will be like at 75?”  There’s nothing prophetic there, but if you think about it,  Schell is expressing his belief that life changes, and that happiness and success are but moments in our current life.  They will come again, at another point, in another form.  With that in mind, let me ask you a question, “Given the opportunity, would you like to meet that future self for whom happiness and success are destined? Then read on.

Dr. Benjamin Hardy is an organizational psychologist, bestselling author of Willpower Doesn’t Work, and a regular contributor to Inc. and Psychology Today In a recent post, How to Become Your Future Selfhe challenges us to look at ourselves as two different people; our present and future selves, and in doing so the likelihood of making better decisions in the present will improve.  Why is that?  Simple, it’s a change in perspective!  According to research conducted by Dr. Daniel Gilbert of Harvard, as we age, we find it easier to remember the past, and our past self, rather than imagine the future and a future version.  He refers to this as, ”The End of History Illusion,” wherein we:

  • Recognize that we have gone through some big changes in the past.

  • See our current selves, as the finished and evolved version.

  • Assume that in the future we will mostly be who we are now; our current self.

Research also revealed that as people age, they tend to become less open to new experiences.  They stop seeking novelty and change, and they stop imagining a bigger future. Who they were in the past becomes increasingly prevalent in predicting who they are, and who they will be. It’s time to let that notion go!

Richard Bach author of the 1970’s classic, Jonathan Livingston Seagull writes, “To bring anything into your life, imagine it is already there.”  So the question becomes, how much imagination do you want to create?  Hardy suggests that we let go of the past and use five powerful strategies for imagining and creating our desired future:

  1. Imagine Who You Want to Be in Three Years – What is your vision for you three years out?  Where will you be personally and professionally.  Take the time to lay it out. Make it clear and concise.  When you create a future vision for your life, you immediately begin to see your life in terms of that vision.   (So What’s Your Plan).

  2. Feel Deeply, What it would Feel Like to Truly Be That Person – The idea here is visualization.  Establish morning and or evening routines during which you take a few moments to visualize what you want in your future, and then imagine what it might feel like.  Neurological research calls this “mental rehearsal”; a process by which the brain begins to recognize these changes and likewise begins to establish new neurological patterns that literally change it to resemble the brain of our future.

  3. Shift as Much in Your Current Life as You Can to Reflect Your Future Self – Ask yourself, how much of my current life, environment, and behavior match my desired future.  Once answered, begin to move away from that which keeps you tethered to the past and actively embrace that which you desire to become.  This is where we make both the emotional and personal investments, and these are powerful decisions; the kind that enable us to prioritize.  You determine who you want in or out of your life, and what success looks like for you.  This is the point where you reset your brain, stop being what others want you to be, and begin to expect and experience very different and unexpected results.

  4. Expect Everything, Attach to Nothing – According to the Expectancy Theory of Motivation, our expectations play a huge role not only in our motivation, but in our life.  The theory is simple, you need three things:

    1. You have to actually want the outcome.

    2. You have to have some (not all) of the requisite knowledge or experiences of how to get it.

    3. You must believe you can do whatever it takes to achieve the goal.

As you move forward it is important to team-up with other capable people; people like you who believe it is possible to become a better version of themselves.  You will face painful moments, and it will hurt, but the team will help you through.  As you overcome the hurdles and obstacles, as you make progress, and see your future self emerging, not only will your confidence grow, but the support from your team will push you and propel you even more.

  1. Measure the Gain, Not the Gap – Progress needs to be measured, and it’s best when  we begin with “Wins”.  Dan Sullivan is a Strategic Coach and author of The Gap and The Gain.  He suggests that every 30-90 days we measure progress with three questions:

    1. What were your five biggest wins?

    2. What is happening that gives you the most confidence and excitement?

    3. What will be five jumps or wins that will happen in the next 90 days that will have significant impact?

These questions frame our gains, they don’t focus on gaps or failure.  They utilize a positive lens to measure progress and anticipated progress.

Remember the old adage, “Which came first the chicken or the egg?  Some might say the same thing about success and happiness, but alas it is not so; we are successful because we are happy, and it is that happiness, that positive outlook on life, that enables each of us to become our future self.   By envisioning the person we want to be, creating a positive vision and plan, implementing it, and surrounding ourselves with a supportive team, we can become our future self.