How to Become Your Best Self In 1(000,000) Easy Step
I’ve recently become quite jealous of my future self. I’ll sometimes get glimpses of her as she waltzes through the streets of New York or hops off a plane in London (work trip; all expenses paid, of course) and wonder why she has to rub her perfect lifestyle in my face. She walks her dog through the park every morning, remembers to do yoga more than once a month, and lives in an apartment with her best friends. It’s small, but decorated with string lights and plants that don’t require too much attention. She cooks meals that weren’t pre-made, always remembers to write thank you notes, and creates for a living. That’s right; for a living. Someone pays her to make things. I envy her elaborate portfolio of novels, scripts, songs, children’s books, and art galleries. I also envy her contact list. I mean, she has Michelle Obama on speed dial. And anyone with Michelle as their emergency contact has to be accomplished and interesting, right? (A girl can dream.)
I watch my Future Self go about her glamorous life as I sit here sifting through job postings. While I am writing my tenth cover letter of the day, she just published an essay in The New York Times. While I am eating ice-cream and watching an endless stream of movies, she just finished writing Netflix’s next hit rom-com. While I am constantly doubting my entire existence, she is fearless, confident, and fondly nostalgic about this phase of life. (The kind of nostalgia that only comes about with years and years of distance.)
In a perfect world, this future unravels in a way quite similar to "13 Going on 30". I’ll close my eyes, use some of Jenna’s Wishing Dust, and then…poof! I’ll wake up as my Future Self! Employed, successful, changing the world, and best friends with Taylor Swift.
However, in reality, this future world doesn’t exist. At least, not yet.
The tricky thing about the future, is that you have to work for it in the present. If I want to become really wonderful at something, then I need to start practicing now. And there is no word more intimidating to the overwhelmed dreamer than “now”. “Now” is an empty piece of paper, a box of untouched art supplies, a blank job application. “Now” is a list of things I will get to eventually, but am too overwhelmed with to actually start.
Doing anything now is daunting. Dreaming about the future is comforting. But thinking about combining the two to actually get where I want to be is the most intimidating thing of all.
Fortunately, as human beings, we have the magical ability to make choices. Depending on our circumstances, some of our decision making might be easier than others, but no matter what, we do get some say in the way we choose to live our lives. We have the ability to choose our reactions and what we care about and where we place that care. We also have the ability to decide whether or not we care enough about something to start the dang thing. And that, my friends, is the hardest part.
Because unfortunately, as human beings, we often want to be immediately good at whatever it is we set out to do. And if we’re not “good” right from the start, then we become discouraged and end up in a whirlwind of self-doubt and comparison. We stop writing the poem or stop learning the instrument because someone out there is already doing it a whole lot better than we are.
But we have to remember that the experts had to start somewhere too. The only difference is that they began.
It’s easy to compare where I am now to where I want to be and get lost in the dreamy impracticality of it all. My dreams often feel like they are galaxies away, but that’s partly because we gloss over the messy in-betweens that have to take place first. We highlight success stories, not setbacks. We focus on wins, but never losses. And this can make a present full of setbacks and losses feel extremely discouraging.
But if I really want my Future Self to become a best-selling author, then I definitely won’t get there by staring at a wall all day. I’ll get there by picking up a pen and writing. I just have to do it. A word, a sentence, and then a paragraph. Our future selves are built by our present selves doing small things consistently. I won’t sit down today and write the next Great American Novel, but I can sit down and write one page. And if I do the same thing tomorrow, then I’ll have two pages. And eventually, after months and months of work, I might have a novel. And even if it’s not the greatest thing ever written, I’ll still be closer than when I started. And definitely closer than if I had never started at all.
As I look at my Future Self, I realize she didn’t just blink her eyes and magically transform into a successful person. She worked for it. She got up and practiced yoga and did a lot of lopsided tree poses before she could stand tall. She wrote every day and created a trashcan full of crappy drafts before she found words that truly worked. She kept going, enthusiastically, rather than becoming disheartened when something didn’t go as planned. And she most likely didn’t rely on wishing dust.
If you happen to have magic wishing dust, then please note that I am extremely jealous of you and you probably didn’t have to read this blog post. But if you’re like me (and the rest of the human population) then please note that I am screaming at you to just start! Use your Future Self as inspiration rather than intimidation. And then, one day, you’ll look back at this time with your own set of nostalgia glasses and be very, very happy you did.