In the moment, change can seem impossible, because change takes time. You may have a strong desire to lose weight, start a new career, move to a new place, or start a movement around new ideas, but the enormity of the outcome you seek gets lost in the everyday craziness of your life.
In short, there’s such a large gap between who you are and who you want to become that it seems foolish to even try.
Most people who desire a future result want to get there as fast as possible. They set an ambitious goal and try to accomplish it quickly, which typically leads to failure, burnout, and frustration.
Because their plans are so audacious, they can’t possibly keep up. They start off on the right track but soon veer off course. A slip-up here and there, and pretty soon they give up altogether. They retreat to their old identity and relinquish their dreams to inertia. Despite any progress they may have made, they look back at who they were, feel ashamed for having failed to be perfect in their quest to become someone different, and settle for the inevitability of the status quo.
Instead of looking backward at your former self, and fixating on the things you want to change, try checking in with your future self in order to visualize and appreciate who you can become.
Your future self will reassure you that all of those slip-ups, mistakes, and bad choices were just speed bumps. That change happens incrementally not all at once. That the effort, resilience, and grit you must put in is worth it, because you’re worth it.
If you can envision—really feel—what it’s like to be your future self, you’ll start to act as if you are your future self. You’ll claim your new identity, not your old one. You’ll start to plant seeds and make investments for the future, and not merely act in-the-moment. You’ll harness the power of continuous improvement and one percent, incremental change.
Rather than fixating on huge change over the long-term, you’ll focus on making slightly better decisions on a daily basis. You’ll count that 10-minute run you squeezed in because you couldn’t make it to the gym for an hour as a win instead of a failure.
Small choices don’t have much effect in the short-term but lead to big things over the long-term.
So, yes, have big dreams. But, no, don’t beat yourself up for not being able to achieve them immediately. Your future self will tell you that these things take time—and will thank you for sticking with it when things get tough.
Jay Harrington is an author, lawyer-turned-entrepreneur, and runs a northern Michigan-inspired lifestyle brand called Life and Whim. He lives with his wife and three young girls in a small town and writes about living a purposeful, outdoor-oriented life.