Your personality, skills, likes, and dislikes change over time — but that change isn’t out of your control. What can you do to become the version of yourself that you most want to be?
Start by acknowledging the differences between your past, current, and future selves. Next, imagine your desired future self: Set goals that are as clear and specific as possible to maximize your chances of achieving them.
Finally, develop (and re-develop) an identity narrative consistent with the person you want to become — and share that story with others! Your identity drives your behavior, which over time creates your personality. So start acting like the best version of yourself, and you will become that person.
Change is inevitable
Despite awareness that our past self is clearly different than our present self, we tend to think that who we are right now is the “real” and “finished” version of ourselves, and our future self will be basically the same as who we are today. Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.
Change is inevitable, but it’s not out of your control. Below, we provide three strategies to help you become your desired future self.
Step 1: Distinguish Your Former, Current, and Future Selves
As a rule, people tend to place extreme emphasis on their present selves. We tend to cling to our current identities and speak in incredibly definitive terms about who we are now.
The truth is, you’re not the same person you were in the past. You don’t do things the same way you once did. You no longer want what you once wanted. Instead of labeling yourself and focusing on who you are today, recognize how much you’ve grown and changed from your former self.
You can train yourself to see even short-term growth by measuring progress on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. Just ask yourself: What wins have I had in the past 90 days? Once you start to distinguish between your current and former selves, it becomes possible to view your future self as a different person as well.
Step 2: Imagine Your Desired Future Self
It’s much easier to default to the present than to imagine a different future. But if you don’t take the time to imagine who you want to be, then you’ll reactively become whatever life drives you towards.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” ― Albert Einstein
You can’t effectively grow without a direction to that growth; you need a clear goal to shape the process. But the idea alone wasn’t enough. you to turn your idea into a measurable outcome and then you can reverse-engineer a process for reaching that goal. Having a clear goal enabled me to ask useful questions to the right people.
Put simply, your behavior in the present is largely shaped by your view of your own future. If your future is clear, exciting, and something you believe you can create, then your behavior in the present will reflect that.
So, who is your future self? Only you have that answer to that question. The first step is imagining your future self. Your future self is not someone you discover, but someone you decide to be.
One way to begin that imaginative process is through journaling. Start by asking yourself: What are one to three things I could do today to make progress toward my future self? Any action you take will likely be outside your comfort zone, since your current comfort zone is determined by your current personality. But if you push through that initial discomfort, you’ll become more psychologically flexible, and over time, grow into the person you want to be.
Step 3: Change Your Identity Narrative
Identity is far more powerful than personality. Identity drives behaviors, which over time, become personality. Your personality — the sum of your consistent attitudes and behaviors — is merely a byproduct of identity.
Your identity narrative is the story you tell about yourself: past, present, and future. If your identity is rooted in your past and present alone, that fixed mindset can make personality feel permanent. But if you focus on envisioning your future self, instead of fixating on your current self, it becomes possible to change your identity narrative.
Telling people who you want to be is incredibly powerful because it will compel you to make your behavior consistent with your new story. If your identity narrative is rooted in the past, your past will determine your behavior. But if you intentionally decide who your future self will be — and find the courage to share that vision with others — it becomes possible to actively transform into that desired future self.
So, let your desired future self be the thing predicting your current behavior — not your past.
Your behavior signals back to you the type of person you think you are, solidifying your identity and eventually becoming your personality. It is your behavior that creates your personality, not the other way around.
Become the version of you that you most want to be
Start acting like your future self, rather than your former self. Embrace uncertainty and change. Embrace learning and failure. Never be defined by “now.” Engage in deliberate practice so that over time, you’ll grow into your own ever-evolving story. Take action, and invest in building your future identity.
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