Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour

Ep. #60 Becoming your Future Self Today

July 06, 2023 Jean Balfour Season 2 Episode 60
Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour
Ep. #60 Becoming your Future Self Today
Show Notes Transcript

It can be really hard to do today the things that will help us to create our Future Self.

In this episode Jean shares recent insights she's had into how we can create our Future Selves and Follow our Bliss today - making it more likely that we will achieve our  goals and dreams of the future.

Jean Balfour
IG: @jean.balfour
LI: @jeanbalfour

Your Future Self - Hal Hershfield -
Future Me -
Atomic Habits - James Clear -

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Hi everyone, and welcome to making sense of work. How often do you think about your goals, dreams or ambitions? Maybe the role you want next or the type of working life you would like? This has been a really big feature of my life, both personally and in my work. I'm big on goals, plans, and vision boards. I do annual planning, monthly planning. I do long range. Where do I want to be in one year, three years, et cetera. So I may be sounding a little bit obsessive, however. There are two aspects to this part of me, this thinking into the future that I've been thinking about a lot recently. I recently had two weeks completely alone for the first time in my life I had lots of time to read and reflect and think. And I did a lot of thinking about the idea of what we are wanting to create in our working lives, particularly because that's what I'm interested about and I'm curious about how we can get better at bringing about what we want. And today in the podcast, I'd like to share some of my thinking around this and a few new insights and practical tips that I. Picked up from the reading I did while I was away for creating our future selves. Before we dive into this, as you know, we run a coach training academy and if you are curious about coach training and would like to learn more, you can now sign up for our free and on demand taster course. Here you get to see some of our materials and also to watch a recording of one of our mentor coaching groups. In action. So there's a link in the show notes if you are curious about that. It would also be great, and I would be really grateful if you could rate and review the podcast growing. The impact of any podcast is partly dependent on people's reviews, and I would really appreciate your support. So, as I said, two things have happened recently that got me thinking about this idea of future self. The first of these is reading a book called Your Future Self. More about that shortly, and the second relates to a quote that kept appearing in my life. And both of these led me to thinking a little differently about this idea of planning and preparing for the future. And in the podcast today, I'd like to share some insights from this learning. Let me start with insights from the book. The book was called Your Future Self by Hal Hirschfield hal Hirsch Field's book looks at research relating to why it is so hard for us to create the future selves that we so often dream of. The research cited in the book shows how we are often in very short term thinking, and even though we might think we are planning ahead and maybe preparing to be a senior leader or an entrepreneur or a coach in the future, or. Even that we want to be 10 kg lighter or have saved enough for retirement, it appears that we are not really programmed that way As much as we would like to think, it appears that when we're thinking about ourselves today, we think about ourselves in the first person we say. Hi about ourselves today, but when we think about ourselves in the future, we think about ourselves. In the third person, we think about they, that person over there, it's like our future self is a stranger to us. Now in the present, and we treat strangers differently. Like it or not, research repeatedly shows that we don't show as much empathy or compassion generally to people we don't know. And whilst this might not be right, and good and proper research on bias really keeps pointing to this. So if you think about this concept of your future self being a stranger, then we may be finding it hard to empathize with ourselves in the future. And therefore, we may not do the things today that will help our future self because they seem like they're another person. They're over there. Uh, let me give you an example that many people can relate to. So I might say that Gene today is committed to losing five kg. By December, I'll be five kg lighter, except that I find it incredibly hard to imagine Jean in December. It's July when I'm recording this. So I kind of see her as somebody over there. And of course that means that I'm not identifying with Jean. In December as much as I could be. So I don't quite believe that I'll be five kg lighter, and so the goal feels a bit unrealistic, so I might as well eat that pastry that's sitting there waiting for me today. Or you know, even sometimes tomorrow, if you think about how many times you've maybe had a. Extra glass of wine that looks so tempting and then woke up the following morning thinking, why did I do that? I always know I'm gonna regret it, but somehow, even tomorrow's future self, we find it hard to empathize with. Here's another example. If I know that I'd like to move towards being a senior leader, so maybe I say that in 10 years time I would like to be A C F O, a Chief financial officer. We most likely would look at the CFOs we know and see them as different, somehow see them as. Maybe special or maybe look at them through rose colored glasses. We may find it hard to imagine ourselves fully in that role, and therefore, whilst we really aspire to it, we can't quite feel it. We find it really hard. In the reality of today to see how even making small changes can help our future selves. So I invite you to think about this for yourself and to be honest, are you really able to imagine yourself in your future goals as I and. If not, what can we do about it? So just before I go on to the next piece, I want to say a little bit of an aside about the book. I will put a link to the book in the show notes for me. It was very good in helping me think about this topic, but it's very heavy on citing research and examples, nearly all of which are based in the us And I was hoping for a few more practical ideas on how to create your future self. And so what I've done is I've pulled these together from other examples I know and from other things that I've read and research I've read. Before I go onto that, I want to share a little bit about the second thing that kept popping up for me, and this is because it just kept coming to me, this quote from Joseph Campbell about the idea of follow your bliss. So Joseph Campbell in an interview said, follow your bliss and don't be afraid and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be. Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls. And his work, and this quote particularly is following me. It keeps showing up in my life. So several times recently, somebody's mentioned it to me in relation to my own work. A coach I'm working with shared it. And then as I was preparing for the podcast yesterday, I was reading a Deepak Chopra book and there was this quote, the same quote as that, and I was, I was a bit surprised. This was a book that I've been reading halfheartedly on and off. So here it was this idea of follow your bliss. So I decided to kind of sit up and take notice because I'm thinking about this idea of future self and, and I believe that following our bliss also helps us to create our future self. And as I was thinking about that, I, I had a bit of an aha that this idea of following your B Bless sounds like something we do with ease and there's no discipline involved. It's like we just jump into a river and off we float, but. Actually, if we look at both Campbell's lives and Chopra's lives, they're both lives where I think they did or do follow their bliss, but they're also incredibly active. So Joseph Campbell, for example, in his work, describes his passion for his work, which was really about exploring myth and legend across culture, and that he would work all the time, often weekends, and he was doing that because it was his blis and chara. Life also is the same. So he's modeling his life on spirituality and he puts all the work in and he talks about the work meditation, the self-reflection, the sitting down to write. So the connection that I made for this was this idea that if we want to follow our bliss and create our future life, we actually have to do something about it. We need to be thinking about how am I going to bring about the life that I want to be? Achieving. So I was talking a bit about a part of my life where I feel that I want to achieve something with a coach I'm working with recently. And she reflected back to me that I appear to be going round and round and round in circles. True. And um, and then it's like I'm waiting for some magic to happen suddenly for my future self to be here. And rather than creating it and making it happen, and. The area that I'm working with her on is this idea of writing and publishing more of my writing. So I, I feel I've got a, a lot of writing I want to do. It's something I felt very pulled towards. It's something I'm drawn to doing and I've been writing a lot for quite a long time. But I'm not doing anything with it. I'm not publishing it. I'm not getting it finished. And writing a book is a really big project, and I think cause of this, I feel the size of the project. I'm become overwhelmed and so I don't do things about it today that will help me future Dean, hold the book in my hand when I sit down to write. It feels great. I enjoy it. Um, I find myself in flow and find myself, I guess in my bliss, but there are always a hundred other things at me doing, and I don't give it the time and effort that's needed. I find it hard to imagine future Gene holding a book or seeing published writing today. And so of course I put it off and of course there are lots of other things stopping me, like fear and imposter syndrome and so on, but they're for other podcasts. It struck me that in order to follow our list and create the future life, it appears we need to put the work in. We need to make the time, create the space, and have some discipline to do the part. Of our lives to find that part of our lives that helps us to follow our bless that helps us to create that future. And we need to do this in a way that makes it real today, not something that's often a distant future. We need to put effort into imagining and planning our future selves today in the first person, so we are much more likely to achieve it. So how can we go about doing this? As I said earlier, I've pulled together a few ideas on how I think we can get better at creating our future self and following up bless and making it more likely that we'll achieve them. Let me start with this idea of the future self. So our future self might be tomorrow or six months from now, or 10 years from now. It doesn't have to be a long way in the future, and it might be an area we are wanting to improve on our. In any part of our lives, but for example, it might be about having more deep work or focus blocks during the day, or it might be about being the ceo. So as you think about that, notice the areas of your own working life or your own life in general that you want to change and create opportunities in and notice how you see them as over there as if someone else will make these happen. I think about myself in relation to deep work and focused work. It's always gonna happen tomorrow. And I never seem to make it a today thing because it's only gonna change if it's a today thing. So what we need to do is try today on for size. So in my case, if I try the idea of feeling committed to writing and I try that on today, and I imagine myself holding my book in my hand today, I might feel the excitement of that, feel the fear also, that goes with that moment and be more inclined to do something about it today because I'm thinking about it today. If your goals are to be a successful coach or a senior leader, or to feel proud of how your kids have turned out, see If you can feel into that experience today. Visualize yourself now talking to a large group of employees or writing notes after a coaching client has left and, and you have that feeling that you've done good work together. Feel into the experience now and then notice what shifts inside you, and then think about what might I need to do today in order to be that person now. And in the future, how can the. One starting point for this is to create a very clear and granular picture of your future self. Create a picture that pulls you into the first person and says, I am this person. Starting to use that first person present moment. And the skill here is not just to imagine the future in the future. But to imagine it as, as if it was real today. Because if we're going to make that connection to today, we are more likely to make it a reality. So let's play with the CFO example that I was sharing earlier. The, the question the becomes, who do I need to be today in order to make the CFO I want to be in 10 years more likely. How can I create a first person in the moment, CFO here rather than over there? And what inputs or even sacrifices might I need to make today in order to be that CFO in the future? And we can ask ourselves questions like, when I am the ceo, how will I feel? Maybe I'll feel confident or proud or humble. How can I feel that today? How will I be acting? How can I embody that today and so on? How will others respond to me? What kind of leader will I be? How will I coach others coming up behind me? How will I dress? What will my working day look like? And so on. And then we can begin to feel those emotions and embodies those behaviors today. Now, of course you can't be the CFO today, but you can begin to, for example, of observe leaders you admire and consider how you would go through the day embracing their behaviors. Maybe, for example, you see that they're very good at helping others, so. Solve problems. And so you think about how can you do that today? And you start to feel into your confidence and power as a senior leader and start to feel that today. And one of the keys here is about using the first person language with yourself. I am, I feel so moving from, I see myself over there like a stranger, and I see myself as here as that new person. James Clear in Atomic Habits also talks a bit about this, and he talks about how we can use intrinsic motivation to help us with it. And he puts a slightly different slant on it. So he talks about the idea of identity and how we see ourselves, and he suggests we move. From a goal to who we are. So rather than from what we want to achieve to who we're gonna be. So if I think of my goal to publish a book instead, my goal is to be a writer, to say, I am a writer. The goal for our CFO is maybe not to get the title cfo, but to say I'm a leader in finance. And then we reflect that. We embody that I am statement. And then with all of this, we can start to make small changes today to embody the person we want to be. So in my case, that means just writing every day. Even if I only get 15 minutes, and the more I've been thinking about this and embodying this, the more I've done it. And I'm surprised actually by how much comes out of that if I just write for 15 minutes. And of course, many times I sit down to write for 15 minutes and suddenly it's probably five minutes, and I've really become immersed in it. If you're thinking about. Becoming a leader. For example, you might embody being a leader in the weekly team meeting, so you might consider how to help others in the team. You might think about, am I contributing in a way that's leaderful? You could also, if you are thinking about being a leader in the future, observe your boss or other leaders, as I've said, but also consider how you would approach situations that they're facing and begin to think into that today. There's a couple of other sweet things that you could do related to future self. One is that you can write your own retirement letter, so imagine that people are sharing insights about you at the end of your career, and to write down what you hope they will be saying about you as you look back at your career. And then another lovely thing you can do is to go to the website, future I'll put a link in the show notes and send a letter to yourself which will be sent back to you in the future. So basically you send a letter to yourself from your future self. And again, you could write this in the first person are using the identity, and then on site it's all free to use. They will send you that letter back on the day that you program into their system. And what about this idea of following our bliss? So I think we can use all of the same principles. If your bliss is to be a coach, then you can embody a coach. And even if you can't work full-time yet as a coach, you can take every opportunity to be a coach. You know, I, I love my coaching work and it. Goes into every aspect of my my life. And so because our blis often has a pull to it, we can feel pull to it, and we can embody that all the time, helping us move towards our future self. For my own bliss, there's one thing that I've seen and that it's often that I like to write on a Sunday morning, and this is my time. Writing is work. It never feels like work because I'm sitting down doing what I feel very drawn to do very much in the bliss. There's other things that I could be doing, but I'm enjoying that. So following your bliss doesn't mean having to leave your day job. It can be really about finding moments. We can also see how other bits of our life are our blessed. So preparing for this podcast is writing actually, and it feels like it's there. So looking at how we are demonstrating that, for example, if you are not yet a leader, but you feel very drawn to leadership, look for ways in your personal life that you are leading or that you could be leading. Maybe you are involved with something to do with your kids or maybe a voluntary grief that you're involved in. So, When you have that still small voice leading you in a direction, telling you some bliss is over there, make time for it, even a Sunday morning. But find time and make time for those projects because your future self will be really grateful that you did it. This journey to our destination can sometimes seem really long and a long way in the distance. So in order for us to sustain it and make it happen, we really, I believe, need to think about the present moment and to look at what's possible today. 10 years is a long time away, but every tiny set I may today towards that counts. So I really encourage you to focus on doing something every day that brings you closer to your future self, no matter how small. And I know from my own experience that by doing this, we begin to embody that person today.