Career and personal growth are a sort of fight we should take, no matter how hard and what are the odds. Like everything goes in war and love. Yet, our future self is the least likely person to mobilize all of our energies. Why? What we can do to overcome this?
Like most of the things I do, this article started by mistake. I was writing yet another course when I wrote wor = work and war. Cool typo.
I am still playing casual games while watching TV and helping my kids with homework. Not very inspiring, yet this is the reality. So I am playing this game where most of the players are oldtimers. It has a very strange interface and a retro sensation very different from anything we play right now. Suddenly I find out that many guys in my clan used to be alcoholists and are now recovered. And you know me: very polite but incapable of maintaining a distance. So they tell me all sorts of crazy personal stories.
For example, a guy, who is my mentor in the clan and who plays x100 more than I do, tells me his story. He grew up on a farm, where he hated everything. Not everything actually, cause he loved horses and machines. He ran away very young. Started to work on a river. A girl he met there taught him to read. Then he became an addict. He recovered. Now he is a pilot on the river and has a prospering landscaping business. He told me that everybody can change, just not many people want to change… This made me think…
Do you love your future self?
This is a fair question. We may like or dislike what we are right now. Some things can change, but not everything. And then we will be different. If we change properly, we can become better human beings as we choose. Yet… Do we love our future self? I mean, do we really love our best possible future self? Are we going to risk everything for that guy?
It is easy to love our kids. In a way, they are our future, only they are very real and cute. Nature itself took care of it. There is a long bonding and after the bonding. the kid becomes more important than life itself.
Our best future self is abstract. We cannot hug it. We might have a hard time imagining it. Why should we care about what happens to THAT person? Its not exactly us. Quite likely that most of the cells we have will be replaced by then. The memories will be modified and reframed. And if we want it to be better, it will definitely be different. Why should we care?
The gift they call present
Some more third screen time, while helping with homework.
“Yesterday is history,
tomorrow is a mystery,
and today is a gift…
that’s why they call it present”
― Master Oogway (Kung-Fu Panda)
Our present is a kind of a gift, but what kind of a gift is it? Is it a gift we get for being good in the past? Is it a gift we create for our future selves? Maybe it is something to enjoy, no matter where it came from? Or possibly we should be thankful for the gift, no matter if we love it or not.
When I was a kid I got a set of rubber Indians. It was a gift. All Soviet kids apparently loved that. And the person that gave me the gift was very proud of it. I really hated it. It was stereotypical, with violent innuendo, and not very good craftsmanship. I kind of felt that I need to enjoy it. I thank the person, I opened the set, I honestly try to enjoy it, and I still hated every moment of it.
Basically whether or not we like a present is a part of the story we tell ourselves, but also a part of our esthetics. We cannot force joy into a present…
Look at this tree, Shifu. I cannot make it blossom when it suits me, nor make it bear fruit before its time.
― Master Oogway (Kung-Fu Panda)
Do you really believe in change?
Ah, yes. But no matter what you do, that seed will grow to be a peach tree. You may wish for an apple or an orange, but you will get a peach
― Master Oogway (Kung-Fu Panda)
We do not really believe in a change, so why bother? Many years ago I read a short story. I do not remember the exact sutra, so I will quote from my memory.
Buddha was explaining the nature of the bodhisattva to his students. “Those who are destined to find the truth will find it, those who are not destined to find it will not see it no matter what we do”. “So why should we keep trying?” “Two reasons actually. For those who are destined to find the truth, we may make their journey shorter and nicer. And for those whose destiny is not yet decided, we open the path to the truth.”
Basically, we should be fighting very hard not for a certain result but simply to improve the odds yet a bit more. We do something hard today, we sacrifice, out of love and compassion to something which is possible but not certain in the future… Because we should better believe in it.
Build relationships with your future self
One of the powerful methods to love the future self starts with establishing a meaningful relationship. We imagine our future self being and start discussing various daily issues. The future self has the qualities we want to remain in us, as well as the qualities we want to change, and the qualities which are likely to changes whether we want it or not.
If our future self is a 70 years old person, we can imagine him to be somewhere between us and a cool 70 years old person we know, not a boy… He can be in good physical shape, but he will be closer to Zeus than to Apollo. Master Oogway is a possible future self, but he is still a bit too wise. Master Shifu from Kung-Fu Panda is more likely, and Mr. Ping from the same franchise is yet more likely.
We want our future selves to be very likely and credible because we want to build a deep emotional relationship with them. And then we can visualize them several times a day until we are ready to fight for THAT PERSON, real or imaginary. To be honest, we have an unreal image for our real friends and relatives anyway.
Win some and lose some
The path towards our best future self should not be too easy, but it should not be too hard. It should be ambitious enough to fight for whether we win or lose. Occasional success and failure situations are unavoidable and the image of our future self should motivate in both cases.
We fight for a person we love, as long as we know that the fight will change something. An abstract fight that cannot change anything is not very inspiring.
To be honest, the fighting does not feel like fighting. We want to do something undesirable, yet we replace it with desirable behavior. Want to eat something sweet? Eat a carrot!
Does this really work? Occasionally, not always. If you desire the change, the future self is compelling, the substitute behaviors are clear and you have some supporting friends, the chances change in your favor. But we cannot ask for more when dealing with the future, can we?