Prepare Yourself, It’s Unlikely To Be Comfortable
An internationally acclaimed keynote speaker & bestselling author, grab a copy of Margie Warrell’s fifth book ‘You’ve Got This! The Life-Changing Power of Trusting Yourself’ (Wiley Publishing)
I attend a lot of conferences and regularly sit on panels. One of the more popular questions I’ve seen asked, and been asked, is “What advice would you give your younger self?”
It’s not a bad question. However, it has limited utility. After all, we can’t wind the clock back and change the decisions we’ve made, the actions we’ve taken, or (often more relevant) those we’ve failed to take. It’s why I believe a more useful question is to consider what advice our “future self”—us in the final chapter of life, with all those years of accumulated wisdom—would want to whisper in our ear if it had the chance.
Making the Right Decisions
It’s a question I’ve reflected on many times and have asked many people. A common thread of courage weaves through most of the answers:
- Trust yourself. You’ve got this!
- You don’t have to know exactly what you’re doing – just start.
- Keep faith, press on and stay patient as the dots connect.
- Refuse to give people the power to define your worth. You deserve better than you’re settling for.
- Why not you?! Back yourself and take the chance.
- Trust in your talents, believe in those dreams. You’re capable of more than you give yourself credit for.
- Speak up. Own your worth. People need to hear what it is you most want to say.
As human beings we are wired for avoiding failure, mistakes, rejection and criticism—not for risking them. In fact, our brains are twice as sensitive to what could go wrong as to what might go right. As Daniel Kahneman wrote in Thinking, Fast and Slow, “Potential losses loom larger than potential gains.” It’s why at the end of life, most people regret far more the risks that they did not take than those they did (something I discussed in this recent podcast).
It’s also why the advice most people would give to their “younger selves” revolves around being braver in what they say, do and aspire toward—daring to trust themselves more, to take the leap and to speak their truth despite the discomfort.
Which begs the question:
Where are you currently at risk of not heeding the advice your future-self would give you right now?
Of course, none of us can physically tele-port ourselves to a distant future date. However, you don’t have to time travel to tap into the wisdom of your “older self.” All you have to do to mentally wind forward the clock and imagine yourself at life’s end and consider what that wiser version of you would be urging you to at this point on your life’s journey.
Research published in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that people who are connected to their future selves are better able to save for the future, delay gratification, and make more considered decisions that help them live healthier, happier lives—with fewer regrets—than those who felt less connected to their future selves.
Taking a little time to simply put yourself in the shoes of your distant future-self —perhaps on your 100th birthday—can be a profoundly illuminating exercise. Try it and then ask yourself if you were viewing your life through the large lens of the person you will one day become, where might you steer your life differently than you are currently on course to do. More specifically:
- What new goals would you take on (however seemingly audacious)?
- What changes would you make (however inconvenient in the short term)?
- What chances would you take (however afraid you feel of falling short)?
- What conversations would you have (however awkward)?
Those who live the most rewarding lives aren’t those who know exactly what they are doing before they start out. Rather, they are those who are willing to pursue new undertakings despite the uncertainty and ambiguity. They are people who are committed, curious, and courageous life-longer learners, willing to continually unlearn what doesn’t work as they move closer toward what does.
Most of us have a tendency to over-estimate the risks, underestimate ourselves and discount the cost of inaction. So whatever decisions you are facing right now, I challenge you trust that you have all the resources you need within you to do whatever feels most aligned to the voice of your future-self… and then take one step (though two is also okay) in that direction.
Then tomorrow, repeat, and every day thereafter.
Your future self will thank you.