I was reading a fairly cheesy productivity book the other day, and listening to a similarly cheesy podcast, and by happenstance, both brought up the same topic: the burdens that we place on our future self. Both were talking about procrastination and the basic concept that we tend to think of our future self as someone else. That is, someone who’s going to be able to do that workout, write that report, do that strength session, eat healthy home-cooked meals, and so on. But the thing is that our future self is still… ourselves. There’s nothing magical about your future self, so why do we assume that they will be able to better cope with the stuff we’re currently putting off?
The book/podcast were talking about this in terms of workplace productivity, but I think it speaks A LOT to our training. In fact, you can see how it becomes a problem for athletes. After all, we talk all the time about having a point A and a point B. Of course, we also talk about what you need to do to get from one point to the other, but a lot of people get pretty stuck in that idea of two points, no middle. It’s REALLY easy to assume that future athlete version of us is going to be more than happy to do her mobility work, or that early morning run. My future self will absolutely love doing strength training twice a week.
Spoiler alert: My future self is pretty much the same self that I was two—or five—years ago, plus a couple more books published, a few more gray hairs and a couple of fine lines. I have not had a makeover montage moment that has catapulted me into being an early rising yoga-on-the-beach open-water-swim-at-dawn kind of woman.
And that’s OK. I should probably let go of that unrealistic future version of myself and figure out the future that I actually want, and do the math to figure out how to get there. (This is why we love planning in two weeks, two years and two decades as we’re doing any goal-setting practices!)
Once you do define your actual, realistic-seriously-this-is-what-you-want future self, you can use this to your advantage.
The narrative around your future self can give you a reason to stop procrastinating. The next time you’re thinking about putting off a workout/stretch/healthy grocery shop/meal prep/whatever, remember that your future self, the one that you’re about to burden with not only the workout, but with the fact that you put off the workout for so long and therefore it’s likely going to be harder to get back to… is just you.
If you do want your future self to be the person who does the workout/meal prep/mobility/whatever, the only way to get there is by doing the damn thing today, too. Your NOW self has to put in the work if your future self is going to be that person you want them to be. You’re the one in the driver’s seat. (At least, until time machines are a thing. But even then, I’m not sure how you can time jump your way into skipping workouts and still making progress!)
So, stop bullying future you and expecting so much from your future self. Give them a helping hand and a leg up rather than increasing their burden. Or maybe, just maybe, you need to give your now and your future self a break. You aren’t going to be able to do everything all at once, and the same will hold true next Monday, next New Year, and 10 years from now. So in addition to thinking of our future selves as our now selves, let’s also have compassion for that person!