Why and How to Plan For Your Future-Self With Planned Goal-Setting
Even 30,000 years ago, human beings were thinking about securing their future. Archaeologists found that human beings from the Kalahari Desert might have used beads made out of Ostrich eggshells to exchange with other villagers as an insurance policy.
As deserts can be unpredictable with droughts and storms, this was a good strategy where they could depend on their neighbor to help them out during tough times.
This post explains: why it is important to work for your future self, common mistakes made in the past. Then an explanation of how to choose realistic goals, the importance of “why” when setting a goal, and “how” you will achieve it. Finally about not letting the fear of failure stop you.
After thousands of years, just like the bead trading desert dwellers, we still plan for our future-self, but luckily, we have much more sophisticated tools and success is more dependent on our own behavior.
You might wonder, why you should work for your future-self. Let’s can dive into that question now.
Why Work For Your Future Self
In a recent interview with Tim Ferris, Elizabeth Gilbert mentioned doing a nice thing for your future self. She mentioned she does not like flossing but still does it and thinks that she is being nice to future Elizabeth.
This is the kind of approach also discussed by Jordan Peterson. In this video, he mentions that you can have what you want in life but first you have to think like someone who is worthy of receiving it and you have to take care of yourself.
The goal-setting program that he talks about asks you to point out what career, romantic relationship, family, and health goals you would want to achieve in five years.
You are also asked what would you want to get away from. This would include all the negative behavior and addictive nature that has made you stray in the past.
With a positive goal to achieve and negative behavior to avoid, you are more inclined to find positive emotion in your goals. This positive emotion can in turn make you work harder on the steps that are required to achieve the goal.
When you decide your own goal and it is meaningful, you will feel autonomous, competent and there will also be a sense of connectedness to others.
I have explained this in more detail in a previous post of mine: Interest and Value-Based Goal Setting Can Bring Fulfillment.
Now that you know why you should work on your future-self, we need to look into the past (only for a positive reason)!
What Has Stopped You in the Past?
Before immersing yourself in pursuit of a future goal, you should have a detailed look into your past behavior.
If you have achieved goals consistently then you do not need to mold your behavior. Most of us have struggled in the past though. The reasons for not achieving goals can be:
- Not choosing realistic goals.
- Choosing impulsively – not thinking about why.
- You did not plan how to achieve it.
- Fear of failure stopped you.
I provide the solutions to these problems below:
Choose Realistic Goals
I want to be the owner of Tesla but I do not think I am on the path to own it any time soon. I am 36 and I do not think that the 40 odd years I have left are enough to dethrone that Elon Musk guy.
We can fantasize about amazing things but we also need to be a bit practical. We need to have measurable and attainable goals.
SMART goals have been tried and tested in different situations. This framework consists of 5 points: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timebound.
If your goal is not specific, you will choose actions according to your mood and won’t be able to push yourself.
It has to be attainable and realistic like me wanting to own Tesla might not be a good goal!
Giving yourself a timeline helps you keep a check on your progress. An unlimited timeline would make you give in to distractions more easily.
If being distracted is an issue for you. I have discussed the solutions to handle it here: how to manage distractions.
Don’t Be Impulsive – Think About Why
Research shows that goals that are in line with your interest and value will motivate you to work harder and you will be able to pick yourself up from failure or hard times in a better way too.
This means that you should avoid forced goals and not be impulsive about them.
Let’s say you have a goal for creating an online business, you need to think about why you want to do it. Maybe you want to spend your time in a more productive manner and you value the fact that pursuing such a business will make you utilize your creativity. This is the kind of long term goal which you would be happy to pursue and it will bear results.
Now Plan the “How”
Most goal-setting theories focus on concrete and short term goals. If you are trying to start a blog, you will have a short term goal to write thirty posts in the first month. Now scientists argue that broad long term goals that are not as concrete also play a huge part in goal attainment.
So, on top of the short term goal mentioned, you can have a long term goal: “Create a blog which earns me $ 2,000 a month by next year”. This kind of long term perspective will make you think of your blog as a product instead of just focusing on the posts.
Maybe you need to buy a better theme which loads your blog fast. Maybe you need to take a graphics course so the overall design quality of the blog improves.
This is why you need to focus on both short term and long term goals. You can treat this as a hierarchy. With both levels of goals helping you achieve your target.
Fear of Failure – Be Detached to The Outcome
In his book, 10% Happier , Dan Harris mentions his ordeal while working at CNN. He was doing pretty well for himself as a host when one day he had a breakdown on camera.
This incident led him to look inwards and he started working on his spirituality, he became too zen for some time. Eventually, he figured it out that the key is to work as hard as you can but detach yourself to the outcome:
“Striving is fine, as long as it’s tempered by the realization that in an entropic universe, the final outcome is out of your control”
You should try and put all your energy in your goal but you cannot worry about multiple negative scenarios that can occur outside your locus of control. So, you need to strive for the right things.
“When you are wisely ambitious, you do everything you can to succeed. But you are not attached to the outcome – so that if you fail, you will be maximally resilient, able to get up, dust yourself off, and get back in the fray. That, to use a loaded term is enlightened self-interest.”
Working for your future-self requires hard work but it is also a leap of faith. You have seen people achieve greatness by working for their goals. You have been blessed with the same capabilities as your heroes.
The key is to persist and keep working on your best version. This is a win-win journey: achieving a long-term goal gives you contentment and the end-goal makes you joyous too.
Remember, the journey to your future-self is not one of heartbreak, anxiety, or boredom. The pursuit of a better future-self is a journey of motivation, growth, and fulfillment!
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Image credit: Javier Allegue Barros from https://unsplash.com/photos/C7B-ExXpOIE