It's New Year's Eve and my guess is that you're reading a bunch of posts on how to make resolutions that will 'really work' or copying resolution lists made by the top 30 under 30. You're searching for health apps peppered with gamification to help you lose 10 pounds and created a bunch of notifications that alert you when you go over your entertainment budget.
I'm not going to convince you of yet another way to ensure you'll reach all of your goals because quite frankly no formula has ever worked for me. I've spent too much time making lists that never get looked at again until the end of the year when I end up rolling on the floor laughing at some ludicrous idea that popped into my head at 11:59pm on Dec 31st.
This year I'm going to skip the list making, mind mapping and magazine cut-outs of sports cars, yachts and private islands. Instead, I'm going to have a conversation with my past, present and future self.
Recently I watched the TED talk from David Goldstein 'The Battle Between Your Present and Future Self'and was intrigued by his behavioral time machine that depicts anticipated emotional reactions of the present and retired self. Depending on how much money was saved for retirement, the facial expressions of the present and future self changes. If the present self sacrificed a lot of happiness for the future, his facial expression was sad, but his future self was happy, and vice versa.
Why limit the behavioral time machine to retirement savings, why not use it as a tool for negotiating between your present and future self? Strike a healthy balance between enjoying your life now and setting yourself up for success and happiness in the future. Tie breakers can be done through learning from your past self as a gauge for potential success.
Put your gadgets down and use your imagination for a second. Pick a time in the future and visualize what your future self looks like, where they are, what they are doing, and who they are spending time with. Ask your future self some questions about how they got there. Your future self is not going to give you a big long list of the precise actions they took, they are going to tell you something about your frame of mind and help you focus on one or two things.
Now, think about your present self and how you can be happy and still become your future self. If your future self looks slimmer than you do now, then instead of the usual resolution to "lose 10 pounds in 2 months by cutting out all frappuccinos" the conversation may be to cut out one frappuccino per week and to take your dog for longer walks. You can look at your past self to bring realism and practicality to the equation and set your present self up for success.
I recommend not spending too much time talking to your past and future selves because that's how you become depressed about regrets and anxious about obligations. Only your present self can decide how much you are willing to sacrifice now to have the life you envision in the future. Keep in mind that your future is not guaranteed, right this very moment is. If you sacrifice all of your happiness today for some point in time in the future, you may regret it. It's actually one of the top regrets of the dying.
Conversations with my future self mostly focus on one thing, and that is to stop being so scared of failure. My past self quotes my mantra by Mark Twain: 'Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.'
I wish you much success and happiness in 2012 and beyond. Now go floss and brush your teeth before bed, your future self will thank you.