Creating Presents for Your Future Self
It’s probably no secret to you that creating new habits can be hard. When you first start, it’s so easy to slip back into your old routines because even if they weren’t the best, they’re familiar and comfortable.
Another part of the challenge is that you don’t always see results right away. This makes it easy to get impatient and stop the new behaviors before they’ve had time to become familiar.
But what if you thought about getting into the new routine as if you were preparing a gift for your future self?
I started thinking about this after listening to the most recent episode of the Cracked Cup podcast and heard this wonderful quote:
“My life right now feels like every day I’m waking up and opening presents for me that were wrapped up by past me. And that I’m wrapping up presents for future me.” – Liz James (about minute 43)
Isn’t that a lovely way to think about it? To consider that each day, you’re doing something the you of tomorrow or next week (or year) will appreciate, and today you can be grateful to your past self for the choices she made?
That got me thinking about the presents I create for myself, and I thought I’d share a few in case it gives you some ideas for how to think about this.
It took me a long time to get into the habit of not overeating, and I still have occasional times when I eat more than I need. But I try to avoid it because I know my future self will appreciate it.
In this case, that future self isn’t very far off, maybe just an hour away. When I overeat, that’s when I start to feel sluggish and have an unhappy stomach, but when I avoid that, I can keep going about my day, feeling good and energetic.
My future self at night is also grateful for this because eating just enough helps me sleep. When I overeat, though, I’m usually awake off and on and miserable most of the night.
Getting enough sleep
That brings me to the second gift I prepare for myself: sleep.
I’ve always tried to get a reasonable amount of sleep, between 7 1/2 and 8 hours. Not because it’s what anyone recommends but because I’m not much good to anyone otherwise.
On days when I don’t get enough sleep – say because I ate too much, or maybe I’m thinking about too many things – my future self doesn’t thank me. She’s easily annoyed, spends the whole day feeling foggy (unless she can get a nap in), and doesn’t feel very motivated.
But when I do get enough sleep, future me is very grateful since she can go about her day as planned.
Here’s an example of how much I value sleep. One of the cats I used to have, Osiris, would start howling in the middle of the night, and he had some good lungs – shutting my bedroom door barely dampened the noise. So, I had another door installed so I could shut him downstairs. I still wore earplugs, but I was finally able to sleep through his ruckus.
Cooking ahead of time
One of the best things I do for myself is bulk cooking ahead of time.
As a single person, this often takes a bit of motivation because, without someone else around, it can be tempting to let cooking slide. But if I don’t do this, I know the future me will regret it, particularly after a long day.
When I do cook, though, future me is always grateful to simply be able to warm something up, or mix and match a few things.
This also goes for other types of food prep, like cutting vegetables. It takes time, and so I often try to do that on the weekends. Last week, for example, I steamed some green beans to have with dinner, and I was glad I had cut and trimmed the beans the weekend before, so all I had to do was toss them in the steamer.
Keeping a journal
Writing in my journal is an all-around gift. I appreciate doing it in the moment because it helps me remember things and also make sense of what’s going on (as much as possible).
But it’s also great for future me. When I worked on my memoir, for example, it was invaluable to have access to all those years of journals and the entries where I’d talked about food and weight. It also helped me see patterns that I hadn’t recognized before.
It’s also been interesting for the past several months because I’ve been typing up journal entries, starting from the summer of 2001 (everything before that is already typed). Memory is a funny thing, and I’ve come across things I’d forgotten or didn’t quite remember correctly, including my early days of eating mindfully. I’d forgotten how much I used to judge myself, and being reminded of that now makes me even more grateful I no longer do that.
Finding time to play
Playing is another area that has multiple benefits. And I should add that playing can mean all kinds of things: playing games, playing sports, playing with kids or pets, or just doing something that makes you happy.
In my case, a lot of my playing these days is with my cats. Pangea especially likes interactive play, with her favorite being knocking something (a piece of cardboard, a toothpaste cap, a pin, etc.) off something else (table, chair, box, bookcase, etc.), and then having me toss it back to her so she can knock it off again. (You can see an example in this video.)
This is fun for both of us while playing, but it also has some benefits for future me. Playtime helps me relax, and it takes my mind off work. It gives time for my subconscious to mull things over, so when I go back to work, I have a better perspective.
What presents can you give your future self?
If this idea appeals to you, what kind of presents might you create for your future self? It might be something related to eating, or perhaps getting more activity in your day, or maybe picking up a new hobby. Whatever it is, see if having this mindset makes it easier for you to change habits, especially if you take a minute or two each day to be grateful for what your past self did.
And if you give this a try, let me know how it goes! I’d love to hear about it.