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Episode 59: Becoming Your Future Self

This podcast is about one of the fundamental things of becoming your future self: challenging and changing your beliefs.

You’ve probably heard the saying “If you always do what you’ve always done you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

You’ve probably also heard the saying “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

Both of those sayings speak to the concept that if you hang onto the beliefs, habits and thoughts that you have right now then nothing is going to change.

Both of those sayings speak to the concept that if you hang onto the beliefs, habits and thoughts that you have right now then nothing is going to change.

In other words, if you want to become your future self, you have to start thinking and acting differently.

It SOUNDS easy, but your brain wants to hang onto your current beliefs, habits and thoughts because it invested a lot of energy in creating and habitualising them. 

That’s why I want to talk about this exact topic today in the podcast.

Let’s start with an understanding of what beliefs, habits and thoughts are, and then to talk about two methods to change them so that you can become your future self.

Definitions

Before we get into definitions of beliefs, habits and thoughts, let’s recap how the brain works, because this is a beautiful way to illustrate the difference between them.

When you first learn how to do something it takes a lot of focus and energy – in other words, it takes a lot of conscious thinking. 

Your brain loves learning things quickly and properly so it can turn the steps into automated habits that run on autopilot. Your brain uses your thoughts as motivation and instructions to get you to take the right actions.

When you practice those thoughts and actions repeatedly they become a habit.

And when something becomes a habit, your brain can switch into autopilot and save energy. 

In the recesses of your mind there is an unconscious thinking process going on to instruct all the thoughts and actions that will get you out of bed on time. 

You switch from conscious thoughts about what you’re doing into unconscious thoughts about what you’re doing. Your thoughts are still there, they’re just in the background, barely noticeable, quietly instructing what you are doing.

Here’s an example. When you are learning to drive a car, your focus is everywhere – put foot on accelerator, check mirrors, use indicator, change gears while depressing the clutch – and so on.  

But when you have mastered all those intricate steps, you can find yourself singing along with the radio as you drive and suddenly realise you are at your destination, barely remembering how you got there.

This process of forming a habit takes anywhere from 30 – 360 days, depending on the complexity of the habit. The average time to form a habit is 83 days.

And once a habit has been running on autopilot for an extended period, your brain notices the benefit or result of that habit.

From there, your mind forms a belief about that thing you’re doing.

Here’s an example. 

Let’s say that when you were a kid your mum woke you up really early in the morning. She’d say something like “Come on honey, get up, rise and shine! The early bird catches the worm.”

During this ritual your brain worked out the best way to think and act in order to get you out of bed early every day. That was reinforced by what your mum was telling you something positive about that habit.

Now if, as an adult, you are still getting out of bed early every morning, then you most likely have some beliefs about that habit and yourself. 

For example you might be saying or thinking things like “I’m a morning person” or “the morning is the best part of the day.” 

In the recesses of your mind there is an unconscious thinking process going on to instruct all the thoughts and actions that will get you out of bed on time. There is also the conscious recognition of the beliefs you have about that habit.

Watch your mind next time you get out of bed and notice what’s in your head as you get up.

So that’s the difference between conscious and unconscious thoughts, habits, and finally, beliefs.

One last nuance I want to mention is this.

Once you have formed a belief about something, your brain starts collecting evidence that your belief is true. 

Your brain filters out anything that doesn’t match with that belief. 

Your brain likes to be right. 

This is called confirmation bias. 

Changing beliefs 

Having said all that, I’m sure you can see how imagine changing your beliefs is a little bit complicated for two reasons. 

  1. You have a lot of autopilot going on. You have automatic habits and you have automatic thoughts that drive them or are caused by your habits. 
  2. You have confirmation bias. Your brain believes that what you are doing is right, is the best thing for you. And your brain hates being wrong.

What does this mean in terms of becoming your future self? 

It means you need a way to identify and then change those automatic patterns. AND, it means you might also need to challenge your perspective.

Might I just say at this point, that this is why coaching is so important. 

Most of us cannot see our own automatic thoughts and patterns. And we generally are stuck in our own perspectives. A coach can help somebody to do this work to see things differently to challenge their automatic thoughts and to become their future selves.

But there is still a lot you can do yourself to become your future self, so let’s talk about how to do that.

Begin With The End in Mind 

In his book the Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, Stephen Covey’s second success habit was to begin with the end in mind.

I want to talk to you briefly about what that means. It really means that to become your future self, you need to have a clear picture of what your future self looks like so that you know what you need to do to get there. You might want to listen to my episodes on creating a vision (#1) and on being specific (#14) both of which are relevant to this.

For now, let’s say that you have a specific view of how your future self look and feels. 

Maybe you can imagine your fitter self, or your richer self, or your more successful self, or your slimmer self, or your happier self or whatever it is for you.

I’m just talking about ONE area – pick one area of life that you’d like to change, and create a vision of your future self around that.

Once you have that idea in your mind of what you would like to be and what your future self looks and feels like you’re ready to do the work to start changing your beliefs so you can become that future version of yourself.

What Would You be Thinking?

If you want to become your future self, you need to start thinking differently. More like your future self would.

Let’s look at a few examples.

Let’s say that right now you feel like you’re overdrinking and that you want to eventually become a non-drinker. 

Right now, your thoughts might be things like:

“I’m only going to have a drink on Friday and Saturday this week.” 

Or, “I need to cut back on alcohol.” 

Or, “I feel so hung over and terrible I’m never drinking again.”

Now mentally propel yourself five years forward. Imagine that you are now your future self and that you’re a non-drinker. Pretend that you stopped drinking alcohol three years ago. 

What are your new thoughts about alcohol? 

Chances are, your non-drinking self is not thinking about alcohol at all, because you no longer drink it. It’s not even on your radar.

You’re no longer thinking about alcohol at 2pm, wondering if you’ll drink tonight or not, or whether you will be judged by others for not drinking at the party.

You will probably see other people slurring and stumbling around and think, “that used to be me. I’m so glad I’m a non-drinker. I have so much more self-control and I feel good about that.” 

Maybe your future self is quite happy to go out to a party or a dinner with others who are drinking, and when people ask if you want to drink your future self says “No thanks, I don’t drink.” 

And your future self would feel a sense of confidence, and conviction, and contentment about saying that because they really believe that it’s true.

Notice how different your future thinking patterns are compared that with what your current self thinks and believes. The dialogue is totally different. 

The same could be said about any other area of life. 

Let’s look at an example of a successful business.

Let’s say that you are struggling to get clients right now and your income is erratic.

You might be thinking, “I need clients!” or, “I wonder if I should run a Facebook ad!” 

Maybe you’re thinking “The market is saturated, nobody wants what I am selling.” Or perhaps, “That other person is so successful, maybe I should do what she is doing?” 

Or even “I wonder if I need to do more training courses.”

Now, what would your future successful business owner self be saying instead?

Probably the focus would be on quality of service and expansion.

Maybe you’d be saying things like “I wonder how I can serve my clients better.” 

Or “I would love to do a workshop on this topic that I’m really passionate about so I can share this with more people.” 

Or perhaps, “What could I do that would really help my clients to 10X their results?”

What’s interesting about this example is that both the before and after business person is striving for the same goals, but the language and feeling about the process is different.

Ok, examples aside, let’s talk about how to start taking action and getting traction with this.

In the words of Amy Cuddy, “our bodies change our minds.”

So I’d like to walk you through two ways to start becoming your future self, by tapping into the mind-body connection.

  1. Start Thinking Like Your Future Self

The easiest way to become your future self is to seed your mind with the thoughts of your future self. 

Let’s do a little exercise. 

Pretend that you are already your future self. Right now. Imagine being that person who has achieved what you want to achieve. 

Really take yourself to that place and imagine how you look, how you feel what your experience of life is every day. 

What would your future self be saying about this each day?

Notice that you will probably not be thinking about how great it is to be successful. That is the voice of your current self.

You’re probably passed that honeymoon period. You will probably be thinking about your next actions.  

Let’s use the example of body weight.

If you are currently overweight you might think to yourself, “I need to lose weight but I don’t know what to do.”

That may be a fact, but it’s unhelpful. 

So what would your future self be thinking and saying?

Maybe, “I need to schedule in three exercise sessions this week and block out my calendar”.

Or maybe, “On Sunday night, I’ll do my meal prep for the week.”

Perhaps you’d be saying “I love the way my body feels.” 

Or “Sorry, I don’t eat sugary foods, they’re not good for me.”

Your current self might be judgmental and self-critical. 

Your future self will more likely show self-compassion. 

So I want to offer that you can start speaking to yourself with compassion right now, because that judgement and self-criticism is unhelpful and will not support you taking action or achieving your goals. It will do the opposite.

In summary, consider the thoughts of your future self and say them, write them and practice them daily.

Start now. 

Start rewiring your neural pathways.

  1. Acting like your future self

Apart from the thinking work there are also the actions that your future self would be taking or not taking. 

Let’s talk about the business example. 

If you were successful in business as your future self what would be the actions that you would be taking each week?

Maybe you would use Monday morning as a big picture planning session. 

Maybe on Friday afternoon you’d be reflecting on what went well I need be planning the next week so you could totally shut off on the weekend. 

And maybe you wouldn’t be working on the weekend to be having fun instead. 

These are some of the things – the actions – that are successful business person might be taking.

What about the weight example? 

If you were at your healthy weight, the actions that you might be taking would be perhaps walking every morning when you get up as a not negotiable thing. 

Ask yourself now, if you were your future healthy self, what actions would you be taking regularly, as not negotiable actions that you were committed to?

Maybe at the supermarket you be walking past the junk food aisles because you don’t go there anymore. You’d be heading straight for the fruit and veg section.

Ask yourself now, if you were your future healthy self, what actions would you be taking regularly, as not negotiable actions that you were committed to?

Identify those actions and find a way to start now. 

Start rewiring your physiological pathways.

Summing it up

As you can see your future self is thinking and acting totally differently from how are you are right now. 

The starting point to become your future self is to simply work out what your future self might be thinking and doing and then, to start thinking and doing those things.

To do this, you will need to plug both the thinking work and the actions into your calendar as not negotiable.

You’ll need to make space for them.

This truly is a gradual, one at a time process. 

You can definitely fast-track becoming your future self, but you can’t do it all tomorrow it just doesn’t work that way. It’s too much for your brain to absorb.

Your brain takes time to create new habits – on average, 86 days. 

So the goal is to start with one thing or two things perhaps and turn those into habits stick with them consistently for 83 days at least.

Ready to become your future self?

Start the journey to become who you want to be! If you’re truly ready to break old habits and get out of the rut I encourage you to check out the Habitology membership.

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Two Secrets to Help You Commit To Your Goals

Commit to Your Goals | Melanie J White
With summer in the air, are you suddenly excited and committed to better eating, exercise and self-care habits?

There’s something so motivating about the warmer weather and sunshine. It helps us commit to the things that we want so badly – to look and feel great.

But for one reason or another, it can become a struggle to maintain in the long term. At some point, the excitement and motivation wanes.

What’s the secret weapon in maintaining good habits, once the initial excitement fades?

I’d like to share one powerful strategy that really works – “connecting your focus to your feelings.” 

Here’s how it works.

Being Open

Deb came to me with concerns about some ongoing health issues: bloating, lethargy, IBS symptoms and other digestive issues.

She knew what to do to fix things and in the past, she’d been a regular exerciser and a healthy eater, feeling fit and energized. But for a myriad of reasons, all of that had fallen by the wayside.

Even thinking of her past success wasn’t enough to help her get started. She was despondent and felt like she could never make the change that she could stick to for the long term!

After some reflection, Deb realised that she really wanted to make it work this time, because making these changes would lead to a happier, better quality life as she got older.

What she did next was what really sealed the deal.

Firstly, she committed to experimenting for just one week. Not one month, or six months, but one simple week. This was a chunk of time she felt confident she could commit to.

Next, she devised some food and exercise experiments for the week.

Experiments help you to avoid that feeling of failure, because you’re just testing to see if something works (or not). There are no expectations (or feelings of perfection) around experiments.

So for that one week, Deb was flexible and experimental with her choice of foods, eating patterns and exercise approach. She was delighted to find a few things that really worked well – that she enjoyed, that fitted with her lifestyle, and that she could confidently commit to in the long term.

Being Mindful

What really made the difference, in fact Deb’s key factor for success, was mindfully observing how her body responded to the experiments. She connected her focus (healthy habits) with her feeling (how her body responded).

When we met again, she was excited about discovering what works, but more so, that she was strongly connected with the consequences of her habits.

On the days she ate right for her body type, she felt comfortable, energized and light – with enough energy for exercise. On the days she ate too much or the wrong foods for her body type, she felt heavy, despondent and limited.

Deb was suddenly aware that simply being mindful of the consequences of her habits – the physical, mental and emotional feelings they created – made it far easier for her to find the motivation for choosing the better option, more regularly.

And as Positive Psychologists say, strong motivators are essential for successfully making long-term change.

Connecting your focus with your feelings is a simple approach and is a core of Ayurveda, which has been around over 5000 years.

Simply being mindful – being in the present and noticing the consequences of your actions in an objective, non-judgmental way – is a powerful secret weapon for long-term change.

What is ONE thing could you pay attention to this week?