Be kind to yourself, now, and in the future
You’ve been on a journey. You’ve had your ups and downs. You’ve learned, you’ve loved, you’ve failed, and you’ve succeeded. You’ve lived.
Everything you are now, you owe it to your past self — your skills, your knowledge, your habits (good and bad), your health, your connections, your wealth, and your happiness.
Perhaps you could even write a letter to your past self to express your gratitude for all the benefits you are reaping now.
Of course, you could also express your disapproval for the bad behavior, the bad habits that you engaged in, for which now, you have to pay the consequences — all that partying, the junk food, the wasted time binge-watching tv, etc.
You should actually write that letter as a mental exercise. It would be surprisingly revealing. Refer to him/her in the third person. S/He is not you, he is somebody else. Think of him as a friend you used to look up to, as an old role model.
You’re probably thinking: “What’s the point of all this?”
The point of this mental exercise is to realize than in 5 years, there will be a future you and he’ll have to live with the consequences of the decisions you are making right now.
That future self is not you. Think of him as a Junior friend, as somebody who looks up to you and listens to your advice.
Everything that you do now will affect him. It’s a big responsibility. You don’t want this guy to be disappointed. You don’t want him to suffer because you are lazy, undisciplined, or irresponsible.
You don’t want to fail him.
You know exactly what you have to do and what you have to avoid.
This exercise, of thinking about your future self as a third person, is not just a psychological trick to make you behave. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that who you are now, and who you were 5 years ago, are two completely different people. Physically, mentally and spiritually.
If you were to meet your past self, you would see many similarities but also clear differences. When I think of myself 10 years ago, I realize how naive and stupid I was. I don’t even like the guy. But I like that, it’s actually a good sign, it means I’ve improved.
Everything in your body renews itself every 7 years, so you don’t share even a single cell with your former self. You have a completely different heart, eyes, lungs, and brain. How can you be the same person?
You might think that your memory connects you to your past but research shows that this is mostly an illusion. All those memories you have about your childhood are mostly fabricated.
Not only your memories are an illusion, but also your idea of “Self” has also been questioned by science. The illusion of continuity is a trick of the ego to conform you into the idea of a long-lasting self.
The self is a fallacy, a construct of the mind, useful at times but, very misguiding in general. The sooner you realize the self is an illusion, the sooner you’ll start to heal.
You — 5 ≠ You now ≠ You + 5
If you understand this equation at a deep level, you are on your way to freedom and to achieve anything you want.
You know what you have to do.
The reason you don’t do it is your ego.
Your ego is a parasite that lives in your mind and whose mission is to screw you over.
He is cagey, manipulative, subtle, and ruthless. He will take you the wrong path because he wants you to fail. The more you fail the happier he gets. He is your biggest enemy.
Think of him like that manipulative friend you had back then, that bad influence in your life. The one that made you smoke, drink, be lazy and sabotage yourself just to feel well about himself. You know who I’m talking about. That’s your ego.
Every time you try to reach a goal your ego is going to use resistance as a way of self-sabotage.
Resistance takes many forms — fear, laziness, self-doubt, insecurity, distraction — and has only one goal: to derail you from achieving your mission in life.
Examples of resistance:
- You start learning a language and a few months later you quit because you don’t see any progress — Resistance
- You start writing a blog but you can’t force yourself to click the publish button. Resistance
- You want to share your videos online but you feel vulnerable and don’t go through — Resistance
- You start a diet, lose some weight but sabotage yourself eating junk. — Resistance
- You try to quit smoking but after some days you fail. — Resistance
- You start exercising but after a while, you quit — Resistance
- You try to learn a new skill but you give up — Resistance
Resistance is a nasty beast, unless you tame it, it will destroy you.
Everything you have achieved in your life is despite resistance.
Every time you have failed is because of resistance
How to get rid of resistance?
You can never completely eliminate it but you can acknowledge that it’s there, observe it and then do the opposite of what it tells you.
In fact that it’s the trick, Let resistance be your compass:
- You’re afraid to share content online: Press the publish button
- You are feeling self-conscious about public speaking: Join toastmasters
- You are feeling uncomfortable about a difficult conversation: do it
- You don’t feel like running: Run
Do the opposite of what resistance tells you and you’ll be fine.
Your future self
Resistance doesn’t believe in your future self. Resistance wants you to stay exactly where you are. Your ego is afraid of change but you don’t have to listen to him. Your ego is the enemy. He is set out to destroy you but you are not going to let him do that, do you?
You have a responsibility for your future self and you don’t want to let it down.
Here’s what you have to do:
Promote good habits.
Meditation, exercise, healthy eating, morning pages, fasting, etc. Do this every day for at least 5 mins. Don’t let resistance get in the way and don’t let your ego talk you out of it. Every time you hear that voice in your head inviting you not to take that action you know you have to do it, don’t listen. Why would you listen to your enemy?.
Kill bad habits
Your ego is constantly putting a spoke in your wheel, encouraging you to develop bad habits. When you give in once, it’s easier to do it again and again. These small victories only strengthen your ego who is now automatically making bad decisions for you.
Most bad habits come from short term thinking and pleasure-seeking, but those small pleasures come with a high price tag.
Do you really enjoy every cigarette you smoke? Or every drink? Or every time you watch bad tv?
No, you don’t.
You do it out of habit. You anticipate that it is going to be great but then most of the time it is disappointing. But you still pay the price.
So, why do you do it? Because your ego tells you so.
Every time you feel the desire of engaging in destructive behavior ask yourself: will I feel better or worse after this is over? If the answer it’s worse then don’t do it. Simple, right?
There is a gap between desire and action, in that gap is where you can make a good decision. Make it a game, beat resistance, you can win. Remember that pleasure is overrated.
Think long term
Make long term goals. Where you want to be in 5 years. Think about your future self. You’ll meet him/her and you’ll have to answer some questions.
Break those goals into yearly, monthly, and daily goals. No matter how high you shoot by dividing them into smaller tasks you’ll realize they are very achievable.
Learning a language, for example, it’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, but depending on what level you want to achieve, it could be done with just 30 mins a day if you focus.
Do this consistently and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.
Don’t look at the top of the mountain, just focus on your next step.
Often we feel overwhelmed when thinking about big projects and that feeling makes us quit. Every task, every project can be achieved by taking tiny steps in the right direction.
That’s a very important concept: direction.
If a pilot plans to go from NY to London, she has to point the nose of the plane in the right direction. A mere one-degree deviation will send the plane to Africa or Russia.
Deviations are bad habits, laziness, procrastination, and distractions. You might think it is not a big deal to browse social media for 20 mins but, do that every day and you’ll end up in the wrong place.
The 3-way fork
You find a 3-way fork in the road. You can go straight, slightly to the left or slightly to the right.
For the first few miles the paths seem always identical, they are angled at just one degree from each other. But the further you go, the further they spread.
After 1000 miles, the distance between the paths is 350 miles.
If the angle was 5 degrees, the separation would be 1750 miles.
This is just a metaphor about life. It means that if you stir your life ever so slightly in the right direction the compound results will be huge in a few years.
Likewise, if you stir in the wrong direction you’ll find yourself in a slippery slope.
But what is 1 degree +?
Spending 5 mins a day in something positive and productive — reading, writing, exercise, meditation-
And 1 degree -?
Just one drink, one cigarette, 10 mins on your phone, tv every day.
Take baby steps and the results will compound to a different person altogether. Just one less cookie, one less cigarette or 5 mins writing will make a huge difference in your life when you do it every day.
Obstacles in the way
You’ll find many obstacles along the way: self-doubt, lack of motivation, insecurity, shiny objects, distractions, and many others. All these have been planted there by your ego, ignore them, and carry on your duty.
Without waves, surfing is no fun.
You are nobody until you have critics. Welcome them into your life, consider them a mark of progress. Collect them but never actually listen to them.
Some of them are well-meant, they want to protect you. Others are just venting out frustrations or are just jealous that you, unlike them, are trying to do something with your life.
To avoid critics, distractions, and influences, don’t share your work with anyone that doesn’t need to know.
Share your work online, find your crowd but don’t talk to the “normies”, they wouldn’t understand. Some people are too far gone. They have digested too much of the official propaganda and now it’s too late. They can’t be saved. Meet them socially if you must, but never discuss any of your projects with them.
Then, you have the trolls. Again this is a good sign. You need trolls as flowers need manure. I just found my first troll online and was quite pleased about it. Shame I had to block him. Never mind, hopefully, more will come.
It’s important to develop a thick skin, don’t take anything personally, and don’t engage with them.
The best way to become a better you is by eliminating what is toxic in your life. That’s via negativa.
What you remove is more important than what to add to your life.
Smoking, drinking, TV, phone, social media. Nothing improves your chances of success like eliminating bad habits.
Nassim Taleb says in his book, The Black Swan, all the progress achieved by cancer research could have been surpassed by eliminating tobacco. Simple solutions are often more effective.
Very often there is no need for positive action, just try to avoid harm.
- No need to go to the gym, just walk everywhere and use the stairs.
- No need to go on a diet, just avoid soda and sugar
- No need to be smart, just avoid being stupid
Cut the crap and your future self will thank you.
Lose your identity
Trying to cling on to your past identity is one of the worse things you can do, it’s the biggest block to success.
Buddha told a story about a man who built a raft to cross the river. When he reached the other shore, he wondered if he should keep the raft that had been so useful to him. Buddha’s answer was to let go. Just because something has been useful in the past doesn’t mean it will be in the future, in fact, it will be a burden.
You have to kill your own self in order to become the new you.
When you are trying to improve, people around you will start to notice, they’ll tell you you’ve changed and your ego will react. You will meet resistance from yourself and others, but you must to stay the course and build your new identity.
Motivation is for losers. You don’t need motivation when you know what you want.
What you need is commitment. When you commit to improving some aspect of your life, you just do it. If you feel you are lacking in motivation maybe you are doing the wrong thing.
When you build habits you don’t need motivation.
Every day I wake up at 6 am and go cycling for 3 hours. Do I need the motivation to do that? Do I perk myself up by listening to Tony Robbin’s tapes? No way. Do I feel like doing it every single day? No way. Every day, my ego finds excuses: I’m tired, it’s cold, it’s raining, still dark, etc. But I never listen to it because I’ve made a commitment to myself and I will keep it no matter what. I don’t have a strong will, I just know that if I give in I will regret it, and that will make me feel miserable. It’s an easy choice: 5 mins of pleasure or the whole day of satisfaction. It’s a no brainer.
The worst culprits when it comes to time wasters are: your phone, social media, Netflix and chat apps. Switch off all your screens when you are working and don’t allow yourself to waste any time until you have achieved all your objectives for the day.
30 mins wasted a day adds up to 175 hours a year. You can go a long way with that time if put to a proper use.
When my current self looks back, he can see the highlights of my life, some good, some bad but memorable stuff anyway.
I remember when I got married, when my son was born, when I started a business and fail, when I tried to become an air traffic controller and failed, when I tried a side hustle and… you get the picture.
All these moments were memorable, they will live inside me forever. I am grateful to my past self for trying, for breaking the routine and making some changes, for being bold, for having guts.
But then, there were also long periods in which I didn’t achieve anything, I didn’t fail either, I just didn’t even try. I just went through the motions. Weeks, months and years that went by without nothing to show for it.
It’s a scary thought.
I guess I went to work, came back, had dinner, watch tv and then repeat the cycle 10.000 times. What a waste of life.
I didn’t try anything. I didn’t fail. I didn’t live.
And that’s the biggest failure.
I wish I have more memories, more highlights, more failures. They say, no news is good news, but I disagree.
No news means no life.
All these empty years in my life are just blank pages in my diary, waiting time at the dentist, elevator music. I might as well have been dead.
When I reach the end of the road I will look back and celebrate the victories and the defeats. But for the blank years, I got nothing, like, I haven’t actually been there at all.
Even if I die at 80 I would have only lived 20 years maximum. What happened to the rest? Watching tv, taking it easy, routine. Nothing
What’s gone is gone. No point of crying over spilled milk. But what about what’s left?
I want my future self to have more things to remember, I want to have memories and regrets, joy and pain, successes and failures. I want him to remember, for if you don’t remember, you might as well have been dead.
You are here for a reason. Your future self will be your judge. Are you going to disappoint him?
Your future self is not you, it’s a different person. He hasn’t even been born yet.
Everything you do, or don’t do, will affect the outcome. Everything is important. Don’t lie to yourself, don’t think you’ll get away with one or that you’ll make up for it next time. That is your ego talking and deceiving you.
Small actions amount to huge results. It’s easier to stop a time thief right the moment before it starts.
Use the gap between desire and action. During that gap is when you can say no. The more times you say no, the more victories you collect and the weaker your ego will become. Avoid the slippery slope of just a little bit, only for today.
Don’t drop your guard, the moment you do, you’ll lose all the progress you’ve made.
Stay strong, don’t do it for yourself, do it for your future self. He/She will be very happy to meet you in 5 years’ time.
Double down when you have set your goals, acquire good habits, and put the hours. Get rid of everything that is not helping you and focus only on your mission.
You are here for a reason and you are the reason. Don’t fail. I know you won’t.
See you on the other side.