For some reason, I always had trouble being nice to myself. I was my own worst critic, which I suppose was derived from a deep lack of self-worth, of never being enough. Once in codependent recovery, I learned my way out of that…mostly. But you’re never done, right? I still stumble on some of the deeper-set stones in my path. They don’t throw me off the path anymore, but I might still stub my toe, feel some sharp pain. Thankfully this is a program for life; and I just keep learning.
Today I heard something in a meeting I’d never run into before—the notion of my “future self.” It really resonated with me. Sometimes it only takes a different perspective; a different vision to click into place to allow me to work something out and change my behavior. Visualization is a powerful psychological strategy used by all kinds of people, especially in sports.
Golfers visualize their game before they hit the first tee box. Jason Day even closes his eyes before each shot, visualizes his swing, his ball flight and trajectory, and where it lands. Then he walks to his ball, sets up and swings with the most possible confidence. It doesn’t mean every shot does exactly what he wants it to, but it probably means he’s successful a higher percentage of the time than if he doesn’t visualize. That would be an interesting thing to ask him! But I digress…
If I can’t do something nice for myself today because I’m feeling down about myself, it helps me to visualize my “future self” almost as a different person. I’ve always been someone who would jump to do things for others, even if it meant not doing something good for myself that I had already planned; sometimes even if that thing meant I wouldn’t be able to meet my own responsibilities. This meant my life was controlled by the actions of others, even when they didn’t really relate to me.
A lot of why that was true is clearer to me now thanks to the program, but it’s I still have twinges up there in that complex mess of wires that is my brain. I can use every hack I can get. This one I like. Maybe it will resonate with you, too, maybe not. Take what you need and leave the rest.
For Short-term Future Self
- Do the dishes tonight so you don’t wake up tomorrow morning to a dirty sink. Pre-make 5 healthy lunches on the weekend to take to work for the week. Think of a few ways you can eat healthier and then take action.
- Set up and keep a simple budget using an Excel template to make sure your expenses don’t exceed your income at the end of the month.
- Say you’re sorry for anything mean you said or did to someone today, as soon as possible. Turns out that being nice to others is also being nice to your future self. And some of us don’t have a lot of experience with amends. If you’re one, here’s some help.
- Work on staying in the moment for more and more time each day. Boy, will your Future Self love you for this one!
- Spend 30 minutes a day alone, with no distractions. Try to meditate, or at least let your mind wander. See what comes up that you can deal with, discard, or schedule to deal with another time. Or just breathe.
- Value your sleep above everything else but eating good. Look for ways to improve your sleep, if you have sleep troubles. Here’s some great information from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). If you have concerns, talk to your doctor.
For Long-term Future Self
- Allot 30-60 minutes every day to do something you love that is also good for your mind or body. Paint or draw a picture of how you feel, or how you’d like to feel. Go to a meeting. Read a book. Cook something you’ve never eaten before. Take a walk. Put on some music you loved at some prior time in your life and dance. Look through a scrapbook you haven’t opened in years. Go to the gym or join an online class from home.
- Divert a minimum 20% of all income (when you receive it) into a savings account to pay for next year’s income tax. Make sure it’s a free account! There are plenty out there!
- Learn to listen more than you talk. And really listen. This was a biggie for me. Sometimes I get on such a roll! But the more recovery I do, the less I feel the need to speak. Listening brings such amazing gifts, the biggest of which is the enrichment of all my relationships.
- Start contributing to a registered retirement savings plan to help finance your life after you can’t work any longer. If you’re self-employed, look into a SEP IRA. I started mine very late in my life. Unfortunately, the Future Self I am today can’t make up for the lack of Prior Self to doing this.
- Keep your expenses low now to help you save more of your money for future emergency needs. Here are some tips on how much you might need to save.
- Make and keep all necessary medical appointments. Take all important medications consistently. Create tools to remember which ones and when, if you need to. Floss twice a day, along with brushing.
These are just some ideas; improvements I’ve experienced in my life and could have done a lot sooner, if I’d thought about Future Self way back then. I owe it to working a wonderful codependent recovery program. I’m grateful to the Prior Self who walked into a meeting room six years ago and started working on helping me be healthier and have serenity. Because I am, and I do. I know my Future Self will love the me today even more because of what I’m learning to do better each day for her.
Maybe thinking about your Future Self will help you, too. Godspeed. I’d love to hear of any things you do with your Future Self in mind.