If there’s one takeaway from 2020 it’s that we don’t know what the future holds.
So please don’t wait.
Don’t wait to live the life you’re here to live.
Don’t wait to act on your dreams.
Don’t wait to do what you want to do.
Don’t wait to dive into deeper more profound intimacy in your relationships.
Don’t wait to speak up.
Don’t wait to ask for what you want.
Don’t wait to be more you.
As a coach, one of my primary motivations is to help people live what I call regret-free lives. To not get to the end of the week, the end of the month, the end of the year, the end of their lives with regrets.
When hospice nurse Bronnie Ware asked her dying patients their regrets, their number one regret was that they didn’t have the courage to live a life true to themselves, that they wish they had let themselves be happier.
Let’s not do that! Let’s not get to the end of our day, our month, our year, our life with regrets; wishing we had spoken up more; wishing we had lived more in alignment with our inner desires; wishing we had lived more in alignment with our values. That kind of living adds up to a life full of regrets. I want more for you, dear warrior.
And so today I bring you one of my favorite tools for living regret free, for creating my best future. I call it the future self.
The future self
In order to use the future self tool, a basic understanding of the thought model and how our brain works is necessary. If you’re new to the blog, yay and welcome! I encourage you to head to www.smbwell.com/roadmap as I have a free guide for you directing you to the most helpful posts as you begin your journey and to start your foundation of emotional intelligence. This post will be super helpful and then return back after listening to some of the foundational episodes on the thought model and our brain’s motivational triad. That said, let’s dig in. The future self is an amazing tool.
Our brain, the amazing organ in our head, is the most efficient, super-powered computer in the world. Its’ main goal is to keep us alive while using as little energy as possible. One way it does this is to memorize programs of things that have worked for us in the past. It takes whatever task we’ve done and puts it on overdrive.
For example, each morning when I wake up I barely have to think about brushing my teeth. My brain has habitualized this action so that it requires very little energy for me to execute it. It knows to reach for the toothbrush, put on the toothpaste and to start brushing. I don’t have to pause and think through each step of how to brush my teeth and I certainly don’t consciously decide to brush my back left molar, then my front right tooth, then my top back right molar etc… My brain directs my hand holding my toothbrush through my mouth in a very precise way that requires little conscious thought.
This works well for brushing my teeth.
The brain also runs a program when I make my morning coffee. If every morning I had to think, do I put the filter or the beans in the coffee maker first? Do I push start or plug in the machine first? It would take me a ridiculous time to make coffee and use a lot of my brain energy. Not necessary.
For these daily mundane tasks, I’m grateful for the way the brain works. It is a highly efficient machine that looks at what has kept us alive in the past (everything since you are alive when reading this) and puts that action into overdrive.
Our brain looks at the past to prompt our present and future actions. It learns from how we’ve brushed our teeth in the past to determine our present and future actions.
This can work really well for things like making coffee and brushing our teeth. This does not work so well when we are setting goals or dreaming of what may be possible for us.
When we are evolving into that next best version of ourselves, the one that lives a regret-free life, we need to push pause on our brain’s automatic programming and give it a sort of software, or thought ware, update.
Humans are homo sapiens sapiens. We have the power to think about what we think about. This is great news as it means we have the power to override our brains. And overriding is what is required to live a life we love, a regret-free life.
Clarity is necessary
This is where the future self comes in. Today lets’ get clear on what stories you’re currently telling yourself about yourself, what you want to be telling yourself, and then crafting a future of where you want to go that’s not necessarily based on where you’ve been.
First, what do you tell yourself about yourself? Take some time here. Think about the stories you tell yourself about yourself. What I mean is, ask yourself where you’re using your past self and past experiences to determine what’s possible for you in your future. What kinds of things do you think or believe about yourself? Here are some I’ve thought and that I’ve heard:
I’m bad at communicating.
I’m overly emotional.
I don’t finish things.
I avoid conflict.
I have anger issues.
I have bad habits
I have a hard time with motivation.
I am a compulsive shopper.
I have trouble setting limits.
Good news warriors, all of these stories you’re telling yourself about yourself are optional. They are on the T line of the thought model. What I mean is all of these are thoughts, not facts, about yourself. Stories you’re choosing to tell yourself about yourself. None of them are facts. Examples of facts are I’m 49. I live in the United States. I have a husband and 5 sons. Facts are things everyone would agree with; they are provable in a court of law. Thoughts are sentences in our heads. “ I am a procrastinator” or “I am messy” or “I lack motivation”. Those are thoughts we’re choosing to think; stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.
When we think thoughts over and over, they turn into beliefs that our brain can find evidence to support. If I think the thought I’m bad at communicating, I don’t feel confident when communicating and the action I take is avoiding conversation or being tongue-tied in a conversation. Maybe I’ve had some poor communication experiences or maybe someone has told me over that I’m not good at communicating so that I’ve come to believe it. It still doesn’t make it a fact.
This is where our power as a human comes in.
Instead of looking to the past at what you’ve done and limiting yourself to that in the future, choose a different path. Choose to override your brain. Choose to have a thought ware update. How do you want to be? How do you want this year to go? What do you want to be like in a month, in a year, in a decade?
Choose thoughts to make that happen.
This is where the thought model is magical and hang with me as this is sort of graduate level thought model work; thought model 201. Usually, we use the thought model from top down, from circumstance to thought to feeling, to action to result we see in our life. CTFAR. Do you know we can flip that upside down? We humans have the amazing ability to think of a result, any result, that we want in our life and create that reality. I’ve done it many times and you can too, by using the future self.
What future result do you want?
Think of that, and move backwards up the thought model:
What would that future woman need to think to have that?
How would she feel?
What would she do?
Start today. Act as if.
This works if you let it work. If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you can’t.
How I used my future self
I’ll give you two examples of how this worked in big ways in my life and then multiple examples of how I use the future self every day.
First in my relationship with Paul, my husband. When I left my divorce I had a lot of thoughts and beliefs about what was possible in a relationship, let alone a marriage. My brain was full of fear and had lots of real life examples from my past of why a relationship was not a good idea for me. It reminded me of how opening myself up led to pain and financial ruin. If I listened to my brain, I would still be single and scared. If I allowed my past to determine what was possible for me in my future, I would not be in the greatest most fulfilling marriage.
Instead, I used my future self to challenge my brain to dream bigger. I asked myself how do I want to live my life? How do I want to feel in future relationships? What would a woman who believed in love and the best possible outcome for herself be thinking? I chose the thought (and actually have it framed on my wall) what if everything ends up better than I ever imagined. I challenged my brain to release the past and to jump to the future. I consistently chose thoughts that set me up to live a regret-free future and to dream bigger.
If I allowed my brain to use the past to dictate my present and future, I would either still be single or I’d be in a relationship with a man who didn’t respect or enjoy me. Instead I dreamed big. I asked myself how would my future self act in a relationship? That future self who was mature and non-reactive. I allowed my brain to dream up my best case future partner. I chose to believe that I would be in a relationship with a man who was emotionally intelligent. I decided to think that I would find a man who would be an outstanding male role model for my sons. I thought of my future self in a relationship with a man who would honor and cherish me, as I am, in all of my imperfections. Enter Paul. Are we perfect? Well, actually yes in our imperfections. I consistently look for what is right in our relationship and what I focus on expands. I continue to show up as the partner I want to be in the relationship and dream big.
I also used the future self in my business. When I was divorced, I was a single stay at home mom. Because of my past, I had the belief that women shouldn’t be in business. That women weren’t good business owners. Because of my limiting beliefs, I thought that life coaching wasn’t a profitable career and that no one would pay me for advice and training. Well well. While these thoughts were deeply ingrained in my brain and few people on the east coast even knew what a life coach was, I chose to jump. With help from my life coach, I opened my brain to dream of a future me who had a thriving, profitable business. I asked myself what would a future version of me be thinking, feeling, and doing to get the result of a full client schedule? How would my future self feel when she knew she got to wake up every day and help, support, and guide amazing women? I chose thoughts of what that future successful woman would think and boom, this year has been my most successful year yet.
I use the future self in smaller everyday ways too. This morning when my alarm went off and my brain said “Stay in the warm bed Susie”, I thought of how good my future self would feel in the shower after her early morning run. I thought of how proud she would feel thinking of how she woke up when she said she would. I used my future self last night when it was bedtime and my brain told me I needed some chocolate. I thought of how I would feel in the very near future when lying in bed, falling asleep, knowing I chose not to have the chocolate and, thus a better night sleep without sugar coursing through my body. I channel my future self in so many ways most days, big and small. When doing daily tasks, I think of my future self and how relieved she’ll feel when she sits down to dinner and knows she’s written the email she was putting off or made the call to the insurance company that she was dreading.
Oh dear warrior, where do you define yourself based on what you have or haven’t achieved in the past? Where can you use your future self to create the future your best dreams are made of?
What do you believe is possible for you?
If you want to change your life, you have to start by changing your beliefs about yourself.
Where can you start shifting those beliefs, start overriding the brain, in order to live a regret free life?
Where do you want to be next month this time?
Next year this time?
And hey, if you don’t have a life coach, I’d love to be yours. I couldn’t have gotten where I am today without the help of my life coach. She helped me identify the thoughts that were holding me in the past so that I could launch into my best future.
My signature program is opening next week. I’d love to see you in there. In it I help you investigate the thoughts that are holding you back in order to replace them with ones that support you in living a life you love.
Since I love you and I want you to live a regret-free life, how about this. You can register early for a lower price. Shhh…head over to www.smbwell.com/earlybird and sign up before it opens to the public. You are here to live a life you love. What you believe is possible is possible. Let me help you stretch into that magnificent future version of yourself. You matter to me.