I haven’t been myself lately.
The unrelenting madness at work over the past couple of years has taken a toll. I decided I needed some time to clear the storm clouds that had gathered inside my mind. I realised I’d been too close to everything at work.
So, I called the doc and went on long-term stress leave.
After a few weeks of playing with my children and otherwise ignoring the news and anything work-related, I deiced to sit down and address these clouds – the repeated thoughts about leaving my profession and Hong Kong – and map out a flight plan for my diversion.
When I did, two uncomfortable questions kept popping up. Those were:
- Who am I?
- Who do I want to become?
As fate would have it – after stewing on those questions for a while – I read a BBC article about the importance of imaging your future self. It noted, “a large number of psychological studies over the past decade have shown those who struggle to imagine their future selves as a continuation of the person that they are today, tend to be less responsible.”
This caused me to spill my morning coffee. I thought, “That’s it! The picture of my future self has become blurry. So long as my future self remains a stranger to me – so long as I think of him as someone different to the person I am today – I will remain rudderless in the present.”
After reflecting on this, I decided to follow the same article’s advice. Which was to write a letter to my future self 20 years from now describing what is most important to me today and my plans for the coming decades.
So, I thought long and hard about my values and wrote this letter. And then, I wrote a second one. A reply from my future self. I found it to be a powerful exercise. One that brought that picture back into sharp focus. That has allowed me to find my bearings again in the present.
Aside from clarifying my values, it helped me look at everything happening from a longer-term perspective – helping to understand another mistake I’d been making.
Everything that has led me to this significant crossroads in my life, I’ve been telling myself that it represents a diversion from the person I thought I was supposed to become.
But that’s not true. As my future self put it,
“The values that are causing you to reconsider your future aren’t taking you away from the person you thought you were meant to be. They are driving you back towards the person you already are – the person you’ve always been at heart. If you place faith in him, I promise that he will take you exactly where you want to go.
That’s because – if you do – you’ll see there is nowhere you have to go, no place you have to be, nothing you have to do. You’ve already arrived. You’re already exactly where you’re meant to be. You’re already the person you’re meant to become.
Your only problem is that you’re fighting him – you’re fighting who you already are. But he will win this fight. And you must let him. You must place your faith in the person you already are.”
After writing this out, I felt this wave of calm wash over me. I saw my future self smiling back at me. As if he knows this is the moment I’ve finally come to understand something vital for both his sake and mine.
It’s this thought – this insight – that I want to leave you with to reflect on:
If you want to gain a clear picture of the person you are meant to become, you have to stop fighting who you already are.
You can find AP2’s personal blog here at: https://clear-air-turbulence.com
You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com
Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot