- Nikhil Dhawan
How To Become The Future-Self You Want To Be
Let’s play a quick game. The purpose is to evaluate what your habits are today, what you want your identity to eventually be, and exploring what priorities you can change to get there. Try having a pen and paper handy for this game; although it’s not required, you’ll gain the most by writing your answers.
Habits What is your regular daily or weekly routine? Jot down what a typical day in your life looks like. Now start assigning values (+/-). Which of your habits are serving you? Are there any that might be hurting you? If your current habits remained with you for years to come, would you become the person you want to be?
Identity Start to think about your big-picture identity. When you close your eyes and imagine your future self, who do you see? What does that person value? Are those values in line with who you are today? If there is a disconnect between who you are today and who you want to become in the future, then keep going.
Priorities Now, using the future self that you imagined, think about that person’s priorities. What will it take to become that person? Are there priorities that your future-self has that your current self doesn’t? Pick the one you want to start building habits around today.
Taking Action Look back at your answers and evaluate if your current habits are in line with what you value and who you want to become. If so, then this exercise was a great way to reaffirm that you’re on the right track! If not, then let’s take action immediately.
Take a post-it note and write down one habit that contributes to your chosen priority. Stick that post-it note somewhere you’ll see every morning. Now, here’s a tactic that I recently learned to get the ball rolling. In his best-selling book, Atomic Habits, author James Clear talks about tangible ways of creating new habits and getting rid of old ones. If you’re determined to add this priority into your life, you can make it happen using the following strategies. James Clear refers to them as “The Four Laws Of Behavior Change.”
“Many people think they lack motivation when really what they lack is clarity. It is not always obvious when and where to take action.” -James Clear (Atomic Habits) 1: Make it Obvious: stick the post-it note on a mirror or refrigerator so you can see it first thing every morning. Then decide when and where you will perform that behavior on that day. Create the environment ahead of time, so it becomes extra apparent. For example, I will sit down comfortably, close my eyes, and focus on breathing first thing in the morning in the living room. To create the environment, I keep my meditation pillow and yoga mat in plain sight.
“It is the anticipation of a reward — not the fulfillment of it — that gets us to take action.” -James Clear (Atomic Habits) 2: Make it Attractive: the way our brains are wired, we’re more likely to find behaviors attractive if we get to do one of our favorite things at the same time. Stack your reward immediately after the habit you’re trying to create. For example, after I breathe consciously, I will make myself ginger tea. I usually start my morning with ginger tea, so now it’ll be my reward for completing my task.
“It is human nature to follow the Law of Least Effort, which states that when deciding between two similar options, people will naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work.” -James Clear (Atomic Habits) 3: Make it Easy: think about why we binge-watch television shows; it’s so easy when one episode creeps into the next. What if we used that “lack of effort” to our advantage and made our good habits easy to access? Make your goal so easy that you don’t end up skipping two days in a row. Try the rule of two! For example, I will breathe consciously for 2 minutes every morning. After the two minutes are complete, force yourself to stop. Chances are, you’ll enjoy what you’re doing; technically, you’re allowed to continue if you want to, but don’t hold yourself accountable beyond 2 minutes. If your goal is about reading or exercise, it could be that you’ll read two pages of a book or do two push-ups. Keep it simple.
“In a perfect world, the reward for a good habit is the habit itself. In the real world, good habits tend to feel worthwhile only after they have provided you with something.” -James Clear (Atomic Habits) 4: Make it Satisfying: if something satisfies you, you’re likely to want to do it again. Imagine eating a great meal; it’s so gratifying that you crave it over and over. In the same way, we can create habit loops in our lives. Sometimes tracking your habit is satisfaction in itself. For example, after I consciously breathe, I will go back to the post-it note and make a tally-mark. Once you check something off a to-do list, it inherently becomes satisfying. The act of marking something as completed causes dopamine to be released in your brain. That satisfaction will make you want to do it again the next day.
Tying it all together: I will consciously breathe for two minutes first thing every morning. I will then make a tally mark to track my progress and finally make myself ginger tea as a reward.
Holding Yourself Accountable If you want to increase your chances of adding said habit into your life, try an accountability partner. Think of someone you connect with in terms of self-growth and send them a message right now (even if they’re in the same room.) Send them a picture of your post-it note, tell them when you plan to do it and what your reward is. Ask them if they want to start a new habit as well! Set up an accountability call 15 days from now, and have fun with it.
How to Become The Future-Self You Want To Be The truth is, nothing changes overnight; instead, it evolves gradually over long periods. To become that future-self, we have to start putting in the work now.
Our habits are the things we do day in and day out. The actions we take, not the things we say.
Our priorities are the things we think are most important or valuable to us. Again, how we spend our time is more telling than what we claim is essential.
Lastly, our identity is our set of beliefs. The reason it is so powerful is that it defines us. Our identity is our worldview, self-image, and judgments. It’s how we see our place in the world.
Using identity as a driving force, we can control our habits by prioritizing our actions every day.