“No matter how old you are, you can create an incredible life ahead of you by living from your future, imagination, possibility, and inspiration.” –Brooke Castillo
Future Self: Cracking the Transformation Code
One of the first things Holly Whitaker did in Hip Sobriety School (now Tempest) was to take us on a guided meditation where we visualized our Future Self in exactly one year. The details were left to each imagination but the spirit was joyful, victorious, celebratory. Maybe it was our first sober anniversary or a year of drinking less alcohol than we ever thought possible. Maybe we finished a book, landed a new job, entered a promising new relationship, completed yoga teacher training, or achieved a radically new level of well being. The leap was up to us but she asked us to write down everything we saw and felt—how we looked, what we were wearing, who was with us.
I absolutely loved that exercise because I could spend all day in meditative bliss. Not to mention my entire life has been one long plan for an improved model of ME—some of which worked out beautifully. Other things, not so well. As my friend Carol cried out the day she stumbled on an old diary and opened to the page saying how much she needed to kick her sugar and caffeine habits: “That was 15 years ago and I could have written it TODAY!”
Let’s take the vision of “how we would LIKE to be” away from our Inner Critic, who only uses it to berate and discourage, and turn it into a Future Self that doesn’t threaten or taunt us but rather guides, motivates, and inspires us.
As much as I enjoyed Holly’s guided journey into my Future Self, that lovely vision didn’t really stick. Or manifest for that matter. I followed her suggestion and posted mine on FutureMe.org (where you can send yourself an email on any date you select), but I didn’t want to open or read it the day it showed up. I knew that I would feel just like Carol: “It’s been a year and I could write this all over again TODAY!” Only this time with less faith in myself, less shining hope.
Maybe that’s why I dismissed the idea of Future Self until the day I spent cleaning house to non-stop podcasts from Brooke Castillo at The Life Coach School. Episodes 173 and 281 are all about what she calls “the most important relationship in your life”—the one you develop and nurture with Future Self. Brooke begins by having her students write a letter to and from their Future Self, a task that excites some and paralyzes others. She asks those who are completely lost and clueless to start with a letter to and from a Past Self. (Apparently, people have much less confusion going that direction and it tends to thaw out frozen imaginations.)
I fell in love with Brooke’s description of how brightly Future Self can shine as our North Star, guiding and supporting behavioral change and personal transformation. In the words of Sam Lamott, host of the How to Human podcast:
“I hope you are appreciating this effort, Future Self, because I really don’t want to do this today.”
SO MANY THINGS that our Future Self needs to manifest in blazing reality are going to require doing what we really don’t feel like doing. Yes, we would feel a rush of inner victory if we powered through and maybe even some amazing feel-good-chemical benefits. But we’re exhausted or discouraged or just not in the mood. It’s not the right time. There’s too much going on and it’s too hard right now. Tomorrow is better. We’ll start that exercise or yoga or meditation routine or give up that nightly drink (or two or three or five) tomorrow. Or better yet, we’ll make a plan tomorrow and start the next day.
Deep within our souls is a knowing that we can be more than we are right now. We can overcome adversity and break through blocks, heal ancient wounds, release trauma and toxic emotions, forgive ourselves and others, start healthy new habits, break through creative blocks, recover from addictions, and put an end to unhealthy or self-destructive behaviors.
It’s obvious that working with Future Self can be done in any number of ways.
Holly’s meditative approach is a great tool for revealing subconscious blocks and accessing our hidden and deepest wisdom. Before she ended the meditation, she asked us to fast-forward through all the things we did during that year, day after day, that enabled our Future Self vision to manifest. After “watching” our transformation unfold through choices and actions, we emerged with a blueprint of the many small steps we needed to take.
Most of us know what we need to do. We just have trouble doing it.
That’s why Brooke focuses on developing a living, daily relationship with Future Self through inner dialog and journal or letter writing. Especially when we feel stressed, conflicted or triggered, she asks us to consider what our Future Self would be thinking, what choices he or she would be making, and live from that place right now in any small way we can.
Since both women offered some brilliant ideas, I’m integrating what I love about each. I went back to visualizing Future Self in a meditative state and writing out that vision in detail, but now I read it every morning.
During the day, I follow Brooke’s suggestion about getting in touch with what Future Self would be thinking, doing, or choosing. Especially when I’m struggling, flailing, losing steam—when my balloon of motivation is deflating. When, like Sam Lamott, I don’t feel like getting out of bed for an early meditation, working out, hitting the yoga mat, or passing up that sugary treat. Along the path to solid sobriety, we all know the defeating thought will usually be, “I really want a drink right now.”
This morning I woke up feeling a little groggy with an “I need coffee” urge pulling me toward the kitchen. But then I thought about Future Self, who starts each day with a cup of herbal tea, lemon and a dash of cayenne pepper. Why? Because she loves her miraculous beautiful body, and she learned along the way that no amount of enjoyment, taste, or lift from coffee, even one cup, is worth the negative kick-back to her nerves and gut. It took some time for her brain to crave tea instead of coffee, but that’s exactly what happened. Oddly, and I do mean oddly, I truly enjoyed that tea this morning. It was piping hot and felt so good in my body and had just the right amount of ZING! from the lemon and cayenne to wake up my senses and bring me to life.
We train our brain to want what it wants—our cravings and even our addictions do not define us. They are not WHO WE ARE.
The beauty of working with Future Self is the constant alignment of Present Self to a greater, bigger, stronger, wiser, more actualized identity. Deep within our souls is knowing that we can be more than we are right now. We can overcome adversity and breakthrough blocks, heal ancient wounds, release trauma and toxic emotions, forgive ourselves and others, start healthy new habits, breakthrough creative blocks, recover from addictions, and put an end to unhealthy or self-destructive behaviors.
Looking around, we see millions of examples of people no smarter or stronger than we are who have done just that. Let’s start seeing our Self that way. Let’s take the vision of “how we would LIKE to be” away from our Inner Critic, who only uses it to berate and discourage, and turn it into a Future Self that doesn’t threaten or taunt us but rather guides, motivates, and inspires us.
No tool or approach is going to appeal to everyone, but I’m quite sure that some of us are going to be kicking big transformation butt by latching on to Future Self and riding that concept forward with our cowboy hats flying high. Let’s rock this!
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