How To Gain a Clear Picture of Your Future Self

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.


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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

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to 3-2-1 Flying Fridays! The only weekly post that is completely unaware of how awesome it is.

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 something special (maybe). 

As a bonus I’ve finished with one joke that’s so bad, it’s good!

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) The only way to gain a clear picture of the person you are meant to become is to stop fighting who you already are(Click to tweet

2) The most important psychological trait you can develop is self-awareness. The caveat is, it doesn’t work without self- acceptance. It’s the combination of the two that leads to genuine change/growth in an individual. Self-awareness without self-acceptance leads to self-absorption. (Click to tweet)

3) Anger is a useful cue to zoom the lens out and foster greater perspective. (Click to tweet)


2 x Quotes:

Friendship means we are willing to carry things for other people that they won’t carry for themselves. We hold in our packs a version of our friends at their brightest and most creative that can be shown to them when they are in a slump. We carry memories of the times we laughed, did silly things, failed and succeeded. We store all the depth of the ways we have walked side by side on the path as well as the times we waited at an intersection while they took a detour and vice versa. Then at just the right moment, we unpack the brownies we’ve carried so far and celebrate our friends… There are some things worth the extra weight and friendship is one of them.”

— Wynne Leon (Source: https://pointlessoverthinking.com/2022/02/09/backpacks/)

“We ought to do good to others as simply as a horse runs, or a bee makes honey, or a vine bears grapes season after season without thinking of the grapes it has borne.”

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations (Source: https://pointlessoverthinking.com/2022/02/05/marcus-aurelius-on-humility-and-duty/)

1 x Thing:

This article by John Salvatier: Reality has a surprising amount of detail. The article was recommended by Tim Ferris in his 5 bullet Friday newsletter. It details the detail in the seemingly simple, and why it’s important to look for the details you wouldn’t normally pay attention to. Well worth the 5-10 min read! Here are a few quotes from the piece:

This means it’s really easy to get stuck. Stuck in your current way of seeing and thinking about things. Frames are made out of the details that seem important to you. The important details you haven’t noticed are invisible to you, and the details you have noticed seem completely obvious and you see right through them. This all makes it difficult to imagine how you could be missing something important.

The direction for improvement is clear: seek detail you would not normally notice about the world. When you go for a walk, notice the unexpected detail in a flower or what the seams in the road imply about how the road was built. When you talk to someone who is smart but just seems so wrong, figure out what details seem important to them and why. In your work, notice how that meeting actually wouldn’t have accomplished much if Sarah hadn’t pointed out that one thing. As you learn, notice which details actually change how you think.

If you wish to not get stuck, seek to perceive what you have not yet perceived. 


1 x Joke:

When does a joke turn into a dad joke?


When it becomes apparent.



PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 04/02/22

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You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

3-2-1 Flying Fridays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to 3-2-1 Flying Fridays! The only weekly post that doesn’t know where it’s going.

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 something special (maybe). 

As a bonus I’ve finished with one joke that’s so bad, it’s good!

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) Increasing self awareness means taking the auto pilot out and hand flying the damn thing. It is a skill you must practise by actively bringing your focus back to the present moment over and over again. Not only to develop self awareness, but maintain it. (Click to tweet)

2) Before we act we must accept. Before we accept we must become aware. Step one, therefore, is the practise of presence moment awareness. Step two is the practice of universal compassion. Step three is taking action in alignment with your values. Awareness > Acceptance > Action. (Click to tweet)

3) Instead of trying to work out how you can get what you want, maybe you should seek to understand why you want it? Through understanding it’s possible you’ll drop your desire altogether. (Click to tweet)


2 x Quotes:

“The nature of rain is the same, but it makes thorns grow in the marshes and flowers in the gardens.”

– ARAB PROVERB

Self-observation—watching yourself—is important. It is not the same as self-absorption. Self-absorption is self-preoccupation, where you’re concerned about yourself, worried about yourself. I’m talking about self-observation. What’s that? It means to watch everything in you and around you as far as possible and watch it as if it were happening to someone else. What does that last sentence mean? It means that you do not personalize what is happening to you. It means that you look at things as if you have no connection with them whatsoever.

– ANTHONY DE MELLO

1 x Thing:

This article on Medium by Darius Foroux: Ask Yourself These 20 Questions to Improve Your Self-Awareness. A few of them include:

  1. What am I good at?
  2. What am I bad at?
  3. Who are the most important people in my life?
  4. How much sleep do I need?
  5. What’s my definition of success?
  6. What makes me sad?
  7. What makes me happy?
  8. What type of friend do I want to be?
  9. What do I think about myself?
  10. What things do I value in life?

His advice after answering these questions? “Double down on the advantageous stuff and start eliminating the harmful stuff, as much as you can. Do more things that make you happy or things you’re good at. Avoid things that make you unhappy or things you’re bad at. That’s it. That’s knowing yourself.”


1 x Joke:

As we walked into the elevator the other day I asked my wife is she wanted to hear a good elevator joke.

She replied, “Not really.”

I said, “Are you sure? This one works on so many levels.”


PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER:

3-2-1 Flying Fridays – 14/01/22


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You can find more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

You can also find him on Medium at: https://anxiouspilot2.medium.com

Or on Twitter at: @AnxiousPilot

Tuesday’s Top Tip

You know how we’re always doing one thing but thinking about something else?

Like ALWAYS.

You know how this is an example of mindlessness not mindfulness?

Well I have a little hack for you today.

And it’s going to sound silly but I swear it works. 

Here it is:

When you’re doing something articulate it.

You don’t have to say it out loud of course (unless you want other people to think you’re lunatic) – in your head is fine – but be clear about what it is you’re doing in any giving moment.

For example, I am sitting down to read. I am walking to the shop. I am drinking water. I am eating lunch. I am sitting on the toilet. I am writing. I am exercising. I am brushing my teeth. I am scrolling on Facebook. 

You get the point.

The beauty is, not only will this make you more mindful, it makes you more aware.

I am having another beer. I am having another chocolate. I am throwing away another piece of plastic.

The idea is not to stop you from indulging in negative habits but to simply make you more aware of them. This, in turn, makes you aware of what you should be doing. That’s often enough to steer you in a slightly better direction.

So that’s it.

Todays top tip is to simply say what you’re doing as you’re doing it.

It’s an awesome mindfulness hack.

You’re welcome.

Previous Top Tip

3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post that minces its words while eating…

Following a 3-2-1 approach (this week), it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 things I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that has helped me grow.

As a bonus I’ve finished with 1 joke that’s so bad, it’s good.

Let’s begin!

(As a way to give credit and to say thank you, I’ve linked back to any posts that have inspired my thoughts. I’ve linked back to any quotes I’ve found as well.)


3 x Thoughts:

1) When you compare yourself to others you reject who you are.

2) Kindness is not avoiding conflict at all costs. Kindness is not telling white lies so you that never have to hurt someone else’s feeling. That’s not kindness, that’s cowardice

3) When you hold the door open for someone you shouldn’t do it expecting a thank you in return. Holding the door for someone so that you receive thanks is not a selfless act. It’s selfish. You’ve just made it about validation. So you can feel like a good person. That’s the wrong reason to the hold the door open for someone. You should hold the door for someone because you believe in kindness. Because you believe in upholding those standards for no other reason than you believe it’s right thing to do. When you expect thanks in return – when you place expectations on other people (strangers in particular) – you set yourself up to feel resentful if they don’t. Worse, you end up believing you’re better than they are. This is dangerous. True acts of kindness don’t come with expectations for something in return.


2 x Quotes:

“You must find the courage to leave the table if respect is no longer being served.”

– TENE EDWARDS

“The three most difficult things for a human being are not physical feats or intellectual achievements. They are, first, returning love for hate; second, including the excluded; third, admitting that you are wrong.” But these are the easiest things in the world if you haven’t identified with the “me.” 

– SJ ANTHONY DE MELLO


1 x Thing:

1) This Freakonomics Radio podcast episode: The Downside of Disgust with Stephen Dubner. “It’s a powerful biological response that has preserved our species for millennia. But now it may be keeping us from pursuing strategies that would improve the environment, the economy, even our own health. So is it time to dial down our disgust reflex?  You can help fix things — as Stephen Dubner does in this episode — by chowing down on some delicious insects.” Personal notes below.

  • The core of disgust evolved from a system to avoid pathogens. Something in our brains already knows not to eat poop or vomit (not the case for dogs). 
  • The word yuck is derived from the sound of vomiting. Like a pre vomit sound (retching)
  • Moral and social disgust has evolved from food disgust. 
  • Should we dial down or up our disgust (since it’s part of an ancient response system)?
  • One of the most effective hand washing campaigns ever used to teach people in Ghana – shows a women coming out of the toilet not washing her hands and then preparing and feeding her children food she had contaminated with her own faeces. It’s believed that eliciting disgust from viewers is a much more effective way to teach people about hand hygiene as opposed to simply relaying the science as to why it’s important. 
  • Example of where it would be useful to dial down our disgust response for various environmental/economics political reasons? Getting people to eat more insects. There are millions who could benefit from the protein that insects provide but are nonetheless disgusted by them. This would be useful because meat is much more resource intensive. 
  • You don’t eat insects? There are an average of eight insect fragments in a chocolate bar (this is acceptable as is a small amount) salads, tin tomatoes, peanut butter, beer, wine – yes all contain their fair share of insect fragments 
  • Of course not many people knowingly eat insects or are willing to eat them in toto 
  • How to get people to do so? With incentives to begin with? Then using Mirror exposure effect: the more exposure you have to something the more you like it (acquired taste). It’s proven to work.
  • The problem is getting over the “disgust hump” People don’t realise they will cease to be disgusted once they get used to something. It’s worth remembering that Sushi was once held with a similar position in Western society a few short decades ago. Now it’s loved by the western masses. Insects could end doing the same. 
  • We have made big changes in what we find disgusting regarding our beliefs – eg. slavery. Could it really be so hard to make insects appealing?


1 x Joke:

So my son was running around without a nappy on the other day when he came charging toward me.

He shouted, “Daddy! Daddy! Look at my balls!”

Sure enough, when I looked down, there they were.

Hanging out for all the world to see.

Them, along with a pair of massage balls he was holding in his hands…

(You really can’t make this stuff up).


Thanks ladies and gentlemen. I’m here all week! I sincerely hope you all have a great week ahead. As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. Please let us know below.

One bonus question to finish:

What boundaries can you set with your Smartphone in order to live more mindfully?


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 01/02/21

Tuesday’s Top Tip

There are many people who believe that life is meaningless and argue, for that reason, what’s the point? Why bother?

I have two responses.

The first is why not?

If life is meaningless then you have no reason not to put yourself out there. No excuse not to be courageous. If it doesn’t matter then why wouldn’t you take risks? Why wouldn’t you want to see if you can achieve your dreams?

To simply say there is no point so why bother is a cop out. It’s a poor excuse and you know it.

Here’s the second more important thing I would say.

Life is meaningless because meaning implies understanding. Whatever life means. Whatever the why may or may not be. What it is… is beyond our comprehension. It is therefore beyond meaning. Ergo, it is meaningless.

However!

It’s preciously because life is meaningless that we must give it meaning. That’s how you guard against nihilism. That’s how you stop from falling down the rabbit hole.

Life is chaotic which is why we must strive to give it order, no matter how trying the circumstances.

To live is to suffer, it’s an unavoidable aspect of Being. Which is why we must suffer with purpose. It’s why we must seek to alleviate the suffering in others, however small, it whatever way we can.

That’s how we find balance. That’s how we stop from falling into the abyss.

The truth is your life holds as much meaning as you give it. The answer to this dilemma – whether it’s true or not – is to give your life as much meaning as you possible can. To fill every corner of your precious existence with it.

If you do, you will no longer be concerned with what the meaning of life is. You will understand that the question doesn’t matter. You will understand that your life does and that this is enough.

Previous Top Tip

Tuesday’s Top Tip

Is life really so bad?

Is life really so fucked up?

Ok, yes, it is quite fucked up.

Still.

Is it not also rather pleasant?

Is it not also incredibly beautiful?

Is it not also extremely miraculous?

When you stop regurgitating the bullshit narratives fed to you by society over and over again in your mind.

When you consider that we live in one of the freest, safest and richest periods in human history.

When you simply put down your phone and look.

Do we not, in fact, have a great deal more to be grateful for given the odds of our very existence are so infinitesimally small?

You know the answer to this question of course.

The problem is you keep forgetting don’t you?

Which is why you’ve got to keep reminding yourself of how truly fortunate you really are.

It’s why you have to practise gratitude every opportunity you can.

It’s why you have to make being thankful a way of life.

Previous Top Tip

Ripples In The Pond

I dropped a pebble in a pond the other day and watched as the ripples reverberated outwards. 

Then I started thinking. 

When the water is calm the ripples travel unobstructed. It’s clear as day.

Yet when the waters are rough it’s very difficult, if not impossible, for us to see them. 

Yet they do.

They must.

The same way the water in your bathtub must rise if you place an object in it.

This made me realise – even the smallest acts of kindness and compassion have ripples that travel further than any of us know. We shouldn’t underestimate the impact that small acts of love can have. And just because we can’t see the impact, it doesn’t mean there hasn’t been one.

There has to be.

If you drop a small pebble in turbulent waters you will still make a splash. It will make a difference. Small acts of kindness will move more water than meets the eye.

We‘d do well to remember that all water in a pond must move to accommodate the smallest pebble.

We’d do well to remember that if all of us place enough pebbles in the water, we might just move the ocean.

In Honour Of A Boy I Never Knew

I found out today what you did.

I never knew you and yet you were so close.

Just four floors above and yet you might as well have lived on the other side of the world.

We must have passed many times, side by side in the elevator and yet, I never noticed.

Did I smile?

Did I show you kindness?

Or did my preoccupations blind me from seeing you?

I’m sorry if you thought the world didn’t care. If the world didn’t pay attention.

I shed a tear for you today.

I never knew you, but I’ll never forget you. I’ll never forget how you must have suffered.

I want you to know your life was not in vain.

In your honour, I will be better.

In your honour, I will strive to keep my eyes and my heart open.

To really see the people I pass. To see the people I don’t know but are every bit a part of this shared world.

In your honour, I will be kinder.

In your honour, I will strive to be the best version of myself.

In your honour, I will love my life to fullest extent possible.

In your honour, the boy I never knew.

May you rest now in peace.


Those who have never experienced the darkest corners of their mind, will never be able to understand why someone would contemplate suicide. 

I myself can’t, but from experience I believe I can, at least, appreciate how it might lead there. 

To those who might label them as selfish – who are quick to judge – I would ask you to think for a second and consider this. 

If a man were burning alive and you handed him a loaded gun, would you judge him for shooting himself?

Living with a depression that drives people to take their own lives is something very few of us will ever be able to comprehend.

What I can say with some degree of certainty, however, is judgement won’t help those in the battle to save their own lives.  

They need our love, compassion and understanding. 

They need our help.

Be kind and if you think someone might be suffering, reach out. 

Something as seemingly simple as asking for help is anything but easy when you’re drowning. 

You never know just how powerful a lifeline you might be offering.

To those who are suffering, who don’t know how to ask, who can’t seem to find the strength, please know there are people waiting to embrace you when you do.

There are people who still love you and know you have what it takes to come back from the brink. 

If you can find the courage, I’ve left a list of links below where you can seek help.


HELPLINES, SUICIDE HOTLINES, AND CRISIS-LINES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Local Websites And Emergency Contact Numbers

https://www.befrienders.org

https://www.samaritans.org

https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/international/global-mental-health

(FYI I wrote this back in May after finding out that a young boy, just 16 years old, committed suicide by jumping from the balcony of his apartment in the high rise above where we live. I wanted to share it again in an effort to spread awareness and remind myself why mental health is such an important issue – especially this year. We need to make sure we are looking after ourselves and each other now more than ever. Wishing you all peace and love on this years World Mental Health Day. AP2 X)