I recently read an article about an experiment in which psychologists compared how people viewed their former selves, their current selves and their future selves.
Your Elusive Future Self
While we are able to see the changes between 10 years ago and today, we are less able to project change into the future. Despite knowing that the future will change us, we have this perception that we've reached our true selves in the now, and will be that person forever. But it's just not true.
In the study the authors advocate looking at examples of my possible future for an indication of what I might be like. What are 56 year old single men doing today? That generalization certainly won't tell me what I will be, but it might give me clues.
So what do I do with this information? Recognizing that I will be a different person in 10 years, I can either wait for the future to change me, or direct that change. It's true that I cannot anticipate what life will send me during the next decade, but I can make plans and work toward the 56 year old version of myself.
I am making some decisions about the changes I will create during the next 10 years.
- I will be a musician in 10 years. I'm just learning the ukulele and I don't feel I've made very much progress over the last year. But in 10 years - I could see incredible improvement in my skills. While I can't become a ukulele virtuoso tomorrow, I can work 15 minutes at a time. Multiply that by 10 years (15x365x10) and that's more than 900 hours of practice. I won't become Jake Shimabukuro, but ...
- I will be in better physical condition in 10 years. I decided that today was the day to stop making excuses, so I went to the Rec Center this morning. I have decided that regardless of how I feel, I need to go every day - even if all I do is walk in and walk out, I have to go every day. I need to create a habit of fitness.
- I will be closer to fluent in Spanish. Like the ukulele, I need a little bit of practice every day.
- I will be better educated. I don't know if I'll have a doctorate in 10 years; I thought this year was the time to start a doctoral program. But I'm just not healthy enough. Will I be healthy enough to complete a doctoral program in the next decade? I don't know. But regardless, I will be better educated. I'll take classes and workshops, and attend conferences.
- I will be a published author with more than one book. Book one is almost ready, and I have a good idea for book two. I just need to complete them.
- I'm still working on a goal for my photography. How will I be a different photographer in 10 years? I'm not sure. I hope by then I'll have a more clear definition of my vision, my creative voice, my style. But I'm not sure how to define the change I want.
- I'm also working on other changes. Who do I want to be when I'm 56?
That is my elusive future self.