Sometimes, when you are faced with difficult decisions – or you go through challenging times – rather asking your mom, your best friend or even God, the best person you could consult is the future version of YOU.
For some reason, we tend to think of our future self as a much wiser and happier person capable of guiding us through a challenging "now". Don’t believe it? Try it! Picture your future self for a moment. Most people tell me that they see a content, stable, and much wiser version of themselves. If that exercise doesn’t work, just think of how you pictured yourself as an adult when you were still a teenager.
I came across this phenomenon during a challenging period of my life in which I tried to consult my future self. I was continuously troubled by a particular topic and just wondered for a moment what my future self would like to tell me if he could look into the past on this very moment now. For a short moment, I saw a 40-year old version of myself (very handsome, of course) talking to the "me in the now". Surprisingly, he came across very knowledgable in terms of knowing what is best for me.
My future self told me that I should move on and not let this topic keep me from pursuing my path. He told me that I don't know it yet, but that the experience I was going through was actually the best thing that had happened to me. He said that my current idea of happiness is actually incomplete and that I would still have to go through many more lessons over the years to come to fully understand what really made me happy in life.
My future self was effectively telling me that the number one topic on my mind was a complete waste of time. Up until then I thought I had every right to be worried about what I was worried about — but within an instant — my worry's right to exist had been obliterated. Moving on felt like the simplest and most plausible thing to do. And there I was, feeling stupid and ridiculed on the one hand, yet encouraged and enlightened on the other.
Why encouraging you might ask? Well, visualizing myself as a 40-year old, I saw someone who was happy, present and self-loving (have I mentioned handsome? Just kidding!). Not someone full of worry. So, when does that change occur? Exactly.
Needless to say, this was very eye-opening. The advise could have come from anyone – in fact, many people had told me that very same thing – but the fact that it was coming from a non-existing version of me from the future, gave the advise so much more credibility.
I found this a very powerful experience that got me thinking. What was this much wiser voice and where did it come from? Was it the aggregate of advises I had already heard from others? Was it what I was secretly hoping to hear and act on? Or was it an inner voice that knew what was best for me but that I was refusing to accept?
I came to realize that the voice of your future self is nothing else than the voice of your inner compass. I believe that everyone is equipped with an inner compass whose coordinates are our deeply anchored believes, ideals, principles and values. In moments of trouble, we don’t always see the path we should go, but we can make use of this inner compass to figure out the direction into which we should head.
As a matter of fact, these deeply held values are in our heart and not our mind — and is it turns out, thinking rationally during challenging moments is very difficult. In order to activate this inner compass and to see what these values in our hearts would like to tell us to do, you simply have to imagine yourself in the future looking back at the choices you are facing now. By thinking of your future self, you are taking distance from the rational mind and you let the inner compass speak for itself. The reason why this is so effective is because all the worries and hesitations of the "now" are situation dependent and will lose meaning in the course of time. In the long-run, our actions and decisions that will will turn out to be the right ones are the ones that we take based on our values.
Either way, the next time you need to decide whether it’s the right thing to relocate for your job or to buy that car you have desired to own for years, don’t look far for advise, activate your inner compass by looking inside yourself – your future self.