I read a blog post somewhere, I think it was on Wil Wheaton’s blog, about being kind to future you. Since I read this near the beginning of this year, I decided that it was going to be my sole New Year’s Resolution. Of course it was cleverly concealing the fact that it was multiple resolutions packaged as one. And of course that meant that not all would go according to plan.
So what does being kind to future you mean? Well in the post, if I recall correctly, Wil said that in order to be kind to our future selves, we would need to do things that may not be palatable or high on the priority list right now, but in the future we would be glad we did it. And sure that includes things like saving for retirement. But it doesn’t have to be our future 90-year old selves who will thank us. It could be as simple as not eating that bag of chips now because tomorrow morning you will wish you hadn’t when you’re feeling queasy from all that grease. Or going for a workout that you don’t feel like now, but will give you energy and make you feel good, halfway through the workout. And of course take you one step closer to being healthy or losing weight, again helping your future self.
While there are countless ways to be nice to future me, the biggest problem I have is remembering to do this, and prioritizing doing stuff for future me, when present me is taking up all my time. In the moment I have obligations and things to do and instagram feeds to catch up on and tv shows that have new seasons. Where is the time to do all this and also do things for some nebulous future self that I can’t imagine or have empathy for?
I may not be able to clearly visualize my future self or what she will want. But something that is crystal clear to me - my past self. And in the present, quite often actually, I am pretty vocal in telling my past self what I should have done, or should not have done. I shouldn’t have eaten all those bars of chocolate and those boxes of doughnuts. I should have gone for more walks. I wish I had taken the chance and sent those emails to people I wanted to work with. Or written that short story, or those blog posts. The list of things I wish I had done is long, and repetitive. It always revolves around themes - taking better care of my health, writing more and especially the things I am afraid to write, taking chances for my career, learning skills that could be of use to me now. Its not that hard for me to know what I wish my past self had done. And I am like an annoyed big sister, wanting to slap some sense into a bratty, lazy younger girl who just wants to have fun and not worry about the consequences.
With that line of thinking, its not too hard to know what my future self would hope I do. What she would appreciate. Less TV now, go to bed and workout in the morning. Write the stories even if its scary. Reach out to those people even if they reject me. Put the chocolate away and grab some fruit. Sure its kind of like a constant nag has taken up residence in my head, but I bet I will look back and be glad.
This reminds me of a scene or rather a song and a scene from the best movie I saw this year, on 2nd January. An Indian film, called Dangal. About a female wrestler, a family of wrestlers actually, and how they got to be among the best in the country. And early on in their training, their father and coach set down some strict rules about how they could behave, what they could do and what they could and couldn’t eat. And the girls, being young, naturally rebelled. And there is a funny song about this in the movie. A little later however, there is a scene. Where the girls are at the wedding of their friend, not much older than them, who berates them for being angry at their father for pushing them, for giving them a goal to look forward to. Which is in stark contrast to her, because she is being married off, at a ridiculously early age. And the girls realize, that instead of complaining about their father, they should thank him. He was doing them a huge favor, by believing in them, by giving them something to aspire to.
And that’s really what being kind to your future self is about. The hard work in the present is a present to your future self, who will thank you for better health, improved skills, greater opportunities that come at the expense of a few missed tv shows, some unhealthy snacks that you forget the taste of minutes after eating, some discipline and new habits that seem onerous at the moment but will seem like nothing when you look back with pride at what your past self accomplished, the life she created for you.
So whether you are aspiring to be a world-class athlete, or just want to be better at work, or excel at a side business, or want to lose those last stubborn 15 pounds, decide today to do something that your future self will thank you for.