Friday, December 17, 2010

Picture Perfect - Striving Towards Your Future Self

Be the here and now
Do you ever look in the mirror and imagine what you might look like five, ten or fifteen years down the road? Do you have an in image in your head of what you should look like and what you should be doing? 

Or maybe you look in the mirror and compare what you see to past assumptions of yourself. Even if you don't recall doing this, we all tend to place some sort of expectation on ourselves. It's natural to want to map out the future, but it rarely goes goes according to plan. The same can be said of how we strive towards our future 'self.'

I started thinking about this when I came across a blogger-friend's post the other day that really caught my eye. Grace is the creator and author of Grace, What Are You Doing? and she always has something insightful to share. After reading her posts I'm continually amazed at how eloquent and meaningful her words are. Her post titled "Decisions, My Future Self & The Value of Being Disturbed" addressed the idea of imagining your ideal, future self and what it takes to get there. Humorous and touching, the post inspired me to reflect on living in the moment with your present 'self.' Whether you're a college student, post-grad, or young professional "trying to figure it all out" (with no clear idea of what "it" is), I hope you can relate to my words of advice.

Even before many of us arrive at college, or wherever the next phase of your life takes you, we tend to have a forecast of expectations: You're going to join these clubs, take those classes or volunteer for that charity group...the list goes on and on. I don't want to present the argument that we do these things simply as a means to end--after all, getting involved is enriching and personally rewarding; but we also participate in activities with our future self in mind. Someday that volunteer work will come in handy when you're applying for the Peace Corps and all those hours spent studying German literature will make you a Friedrich Nietzsche expert. Whatever it may be, your future self will thank you.

Likewise, the same thought and care should be reserved for your present self. Sure, we all have to make sacrifices, but it's living in the moment that makes life memorable. Think back a few years, to the you before college or before having a "real world" job. Did everything go according to plan? Probably not. Are you now the exact replica of the person you thought you would be? Maybe....but there are sure to be at least a few differences. That's just the way life goes. It throws you a curveball when you expect a fastpitch, and it's only in retrospect that it becomes clear (or watching the slow-motion playback ;). 

Why not take a flying leap into the present?
I for one never imagined that I would have to move home for awhile once I graduated from college. It would be one of many surprises. I had created an image of myself where I had a full time job right out of college (that I loved), I was financially secure and had no fear in taking on the world. Fast forward four years later where I learned that having a college degree came without the promise of success. 

Did taking on the world scare the hell out of me? You bet it did, but I wasn't about to let it stop me. These and other experiences have given me cause to believe that living in the moment--and for your present self--cannot be overlooked. You might get hit by a bus tomorrow (I admit that's a terribly morbid thought) or perhaps the sky will come falling down--either way, wouldn't it be better to face these circumstances knowing you'd lived life to its fullest? I like to think so.

So as you go out into the world, do keep your future self in mind; Do set expectations for yourself and do strive to meet them. Be realistic about them, though, and keep in mind that who you are today is just as important as who you'll be tomorrow

Why be picture perfect when it's the imperfections and individual characteristics that make people interesting? The future will come faster than you think it will. Slow down, take a look around you, and enjoy the present while it's here.