Our theme this week is Create Your Future Self. It comes on the heels of last week’s theme of Perspective.
I ended last week’s post with a quote by American businessman, Harvey Mackay. He said, “When you wake up every day, you have two choices. You can either be positive or negative; an optimist or a pessimist. I choose to be an optimist. It’s all a matter of perspective.”
Mackay’s idea was a great statement on the power of positive thinking and having the right perspective. It is a concept that many people have written or talked about through the years. But notice that, in essence, he is saying that he chooses who he is going to be. He decides who his Future Self will be.
The concept of creating your future self comes to me from Dr. Benjamin Hardy. I have followed him online for a couple of years now. Dr. Hardy is an organizational psychologist and author of books on personality.
The book in which I first read about the concept of our future self was The Gap & the Gain, that he co-authored with Dan Sullivan. The book that I am reading now and from which I took a lot of the ideas and quotes from for my podcast and video episodes this week is called Personality Isn’t Permanent: Break Free from Self-Limiting Beliefs and Rewrite Your Story. I highly recommend you check out both books, as well as his newest book on the future self concept, Be Your Future Self Now. (That’s the next one I will be reading!)
Not Stuck in One Place
The first key point from Dr. Hardy about our future self is that we are not stuck as who we are. As the title of the book suggests, our personality is not permanent. We can choose to be however and whoever we want to be. Dr. Hardy says, “That’s the truth of personality. It’s not innate but trained. It can and does change… You are not caused by your past. Your personality isn’t permanent.”
He talks about how the results of a personality test that he took when he was young almost ruined the life he was living and wanting to live. He thought that he was stuck in whatever the personality test said he was.
However, the more he studied psychology, and personality in particular, the more he realized that our personalities are not fixed as one thing and one thing only. We are constantly evolving and changing over time, learning to be so much more than we already are.
He often points to the work of Dr. Carol Dweck in her groundbreaking book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Dr. Dweck talks about fixed mindsets & growth mindsets.
People with a fixed mindset feel that they are a certain way, so that is why things happen to them or for them. “I get good grades because I am smart.” Or, “I am smart, so I get good grades.”
People with a growth mindset feel that they are who they are at the moment, but that they are always evolving. “If I keep working, learning, and trying new ways to do things, I can grow and develop. Mistakes are just a part of learning. They don’t define me. They help me learn and become even better.”
People with a fixed mindset see themselves as a product of their past. They are who they are, and there is not much they can do about it to change.
People with a growth mindset understand that their growth mindset is a key to becoming their future selves. It allows them to see a different future for themselves if they put their mind to it and they work to achieve it.
Dr. Hardy says that successful people don’t allow themselves to get trapped in a fixed mindset. They push the envelope to become better and more than they have ever been before and ever thought they could be. They focus on the future instead of the past.
Sure, they understand that what they have done so far has helped get them to where they are now. But they are not chained to it. They subscribe to the theory that what got you here won’t get you there.
As I have said numerous times through the years, successful people set goals. But the difference between successful people and unsuccessful people with regards to goals is that successful people take action on their goals. They go out and do all that they can to achieve their goals.
Dr. Hardy states, “This is how successful people live: They become who they want to be by orienting their life toward their goals, not as a repeat of the past; by acting bravely as their future selves, not by perpetuating who they formerly were.”
Teach and Model it for Your Kids
Not only are these messages important for you personally, but they are also important for you as a teacher, coach, and parent. It is important for us to understand and then work to become our future selves. It is equally important (and maybe even more important) for us to teach our kids this concept.
Too often, kids believe they are stuck. They are who they are, and there’s not much they can do about it. They feel a lack of control in their lives.
By showing them that they can design their own lives and become who they want to become, we help them stretch, grow, and develop in ways they may not have thought possible. We help them see that they can be so much more.
Some people take this to an extreme and tell others that they can be whatever they want to be if they just work hard at it. While I would love it if that were true, sometimes certain genetic and natural talent limitations will keep people from achieving some of the things they would like.
For example, I was never going to play hockey in the National Hockey League. I loved my Chicago Blackhawks and NHL hockey when I was a young kid. I got really good at floor hockey in PE class and street hockey with my friends. However, I never learned to skate until I was a 11 or 12-years-old, and even then, I only did it a few times.
For me to become an NHL player, I would have had to put a whole lot more work and a whole lot more time into it, and I would have had to start a lot younger than I did. Even if I had done that, my genetics and my natural talents limited how far I could go with it.
But that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t still become a whole different version of myself in my future. Within the limitations of genetics and natural abilities or talents, the world was wide open for me to decide on what I wanted to be as my future self.
Once I figured that out, the key would be to do everything I could to become that future self. And one way to do that would be to start living as my future self—start behaving the way the future self I wanted to be would act.
Even at age 62, I can do this. I can determine that in five years, I would like to be a certain way or a different person than I am right now. I need to start living in such a way that I become that person that I want to be.
For young people, it is even more important that they understand this concept. They have so much more of their lives ahead of them. If there is something they want to do or some way that they want to be, they need to figure out the path to get there and then start working to travel down that path in the best way possible.
For many of them, they just need a nudge, an encouraging word from someone who they trust to help them start down that path. Teachers, coaches, and parents should be some of the voices for the young people in their lives, helping them figure out how to get where they want to go in life.
Not Just for Individuals
For those of us who coach, this also applies to our teams. Not only can we help our kids become their future selves, but we can also help our teams become their future selves.
After all, teams are made up of individuals. If the individual players are doing all that they can to become the best version of themselves in the future, then their teams can become the best versions of themselves, too.
It is up to the coaches and players to figure out what that best version of the team would look like. They need to intentionally design their team and their future team experience.
They also need to discuss how to achieve it. They need to figure out the steps necessary to become the team they want to become. They are, in essence, developing an action plan for future team success.
Once they have figured out who they want to be and how they plan on becoming it, they need to work as hard as they can to become that team. They need to commit to working on all of the steps they said they need to follow to become the best that they can be.
The better they each become individually, the better they can become as a team. But that will only work if each of them are committed to, not only their own individual improvement, but also the team’s improvement. When players commit in this fashion, the magic of becoming a great team in the future can happen.
Becoming your future self is a constant journey. Ultimately, you never arrive at your future self because once you have become your future self, there is always another future self out there waiting for you to discover and become. We can always grow and become something more than we are at this moment.
In conclusion, let me leave you with this final quote from Dr. Hardy: “The question is: Who are you going to be? And how specific and intentional will you be in that creating process? You’re the one who decides who you become. Not some personality test and not your past… As a human being, it is your responsibility to create yourself through the decisions you make and the environments you choose.”