Conversations with Past and Future Selves

Would you like an opportunity to speak with yourself, either from the past or the future? To have things revealed to you, to make your life easier or to offer you a chance to avoid pitfalls.

That’s the question that came to me recently.

The event that created this was the purchase of a new bed for our upstairs bedroom. In order to make space I needed to relocate all the storage bins I’d shoved under the old bed. I’d really packed them in and basically only had a vague idea what they contained.

I made myself a promise to sort through every bin and make decisions regarding what was worth keeping and what needed to be thrown away.

My discoveries were very enlightening. There were all sorts of interesting things covering several different time periods in my life, some from college, some from my early working years and a few things that were more recent.

I found a lot of journals I’d written and decided to leaf through a few. I was struck by the life events that concerned me at the time I wrote them, some of which remain with me today, while others have long since been resolved.

A question popped up.

I wondered how my life would have changed if the ‘current me’ could go back and have a conversation with the ‘past me’. What could I have learned? And would I have listened and changed course?

I’m not sure.

Some part of me believes I wouldn’t have paid attention, and gone ahead and made the same decisions, despite the sound advice I received.

I don’t know about that either.

What would you have done; listened or ignored your ‘future self’? It’s an interesting question to kick around. Certainly, I’d have liked to avoid many of the problems in my life and taken an easier route.

But would I really?

The reason I ask is, would I still be the same person that I am today if I’d made different choices? And if I had, what would the consequences have been? Suppose the advice given me by my ‘future self’ altered the decisions I made that led me to a new friend, or a better job, or a wise investment?

How can anyone know the right path to take so that they experience the outcomes they most desire?

Something twisted during my musing about this.

I wondered, what would my life be like if the ‘current me’ could talk with the ‘future me’?

What if that were possible? What questions would I ask?

A few came to me quickly. How long will I live? Will I lose those closest to me? What will my day-to-day life be like? Will the New York Giants ever win another Super Bowl?

I sat with all of these questions and more for a while before deciding that I don’t really want to know.

I think it would spoil the surprise. And I think it would change every moment of my ‘current life’ because I’d be thinking about the ‘future me’.

I also think my life would lose its spontaneity, its spark, and its sparkle.

So, despite how much I might learn, I would choose just to wave to my ‘past’ and ‘future’ selves from a distance and go on about living my ‘current’ life.

We can still be friends, but for now, I choose to live in my present moment.

Certain Outcomes

When you are uncertain about an outcome does it create doubt, anxiety, and fear in you? And are you concerned you’ll make the wrong decision? Or are you open to the adventure and excitement of the unknown?

I wonder, if we believed that there were many possible outcomes and that we could choose which one to experience, would that change things for us?

It feels like the answer to that for me is…yes, but how would that happen? How would it be possible to choose a specific outcome, the one I want most and have that be my result?

I wonder if that is within our control. I want to think so.

It’s a challenging thought to consider…do I truly believe I can experience exactly what I want, and in the way I want it to happen?

Part of me does not believe this is possible. It sees the events that occur in the world as more random and less planned. I realize the reason that part of me feels this way is the training I’ve received during my life. Perhaps you’ve been trained the same way.

There is an underlying sense that because there are so many factors at play, you get what get as a result. There are degrees of this kind of thinking. The bright side has me hoping for the best, without necessarily feeling it will come true. The dark side has a fatalistic bend to it which tells me I have no control and must accept whatever comes my way.

I stop and ask myself, if I ignore my training and open to a wider range of possibilities, how else can I see this?

The first thought that comes to me is simple. Change my beliefs. Let go of the ideas that guide me and shift to an approach that serve me, that provides beauty and wonder and promise.

After all, just because I was trained to think in a particular fashion does not mean I’m bound to it. I have the free will to alter any choice that does not feel right to me. I can abandon harmful and counterproductive mindsets and instead choose thoughts, ideas and strategies that take me where I want to go in my life.

I believe that you have this same awesome power at your disposal. It’s inside you already and merely awaits your command, before rising to the surface.

When I struggle to break free from thoughts that hold me back, I seek an example to focus on. Something that will create a template that I can use to help me with my next challenge.

Here is one I offer as a personal example.

I have big dreams. I have something deep inside which longs to be shared with the world. But the world is such a big place, and I don’t know how to make my dreams come true. I need help. I need someone who knows things I don’t. Someone who knows ways to connect, like social media. So, I went in search of a professional who could guide me. I know my desired outcome. I want a partner.

My search hit a series of dead ends making me question whether I could truly choose the outcome I desired.

Time for a shift. Time to reassess and ask myself some questions. It turns out my answers all pointed in the same direction…a belief that the outcome I will experience is, in fact, up to me, if I am willing to put my faith in it into action.

This step reminded me about what I consider to be a sacred principle. Conceive, believe, and act. I do conceive that there is a perfect someone who will want to help me. I believe they exist and will come into my life. And I will take the actions necessary to make this happen.

For me, this is the way to all certain outcomes.

Are You Going the Right Direction

Is it challenging for you to answer the question, “are you going the right direction?”

For me, part of the difficult is in defining the word, ‘right’. Somehow, I feel an assumption exists based either on what I want to experience or what others expectations are of my choice of direction.

It’s fairly easy if we’re talking about physical direction. If you’re old school like I am, you can get out your map and plot a course to arrive at your destination. Those with GPS only need to enter the addresses and let the machine take over the guidance. If they get off course somewhere along the way, it’s okay, they’ll be told a recalculation is in process and then a new set of turns to take.

What makes some of this interesting is that you never know if your planned route is the best. There could be an accident, road construction, or an unexpected traffic jam, any of which could pose problems for you.

But the ‘right’ direction applies to so much more than where you are going physically. It could be your intellectual pursuits, emotional stability, or spiritual direction.

How can you know when you’re on the right track?

Perhaps one of the answers lies in whether you’re achieving your goals and objectives, but what if you haven’t identified them yet? What then?

Setting down what you hope to achieve isn’t always easy. There may be some benchmarks the world offers, but they may not suit you personally.

Often, we think we must accomplish a standard set of goals to feel successful. Goals that bring us more credentials, money, prestige, awards, or notoriety. But are these the only achievements worth directing our efforts toward?

How can you tell what your most beneficial direction would be? Is it an intellectual, emotional, or spiritual decision?

Some part of me wonders whether if, ‘what actually happens in our life’, IS the answer to that question.

I probably need to explain this statement a bit.

What I’m trying to say is that our lives have a way of moving forward, and that each open space we experience eventually fills up and what fills the space, IS the answer/decision/direction. This certainly seems to suggest that we’re not particularly conscious during the process and that it just sort of happens.

An entirely different way to approach this is to take charge.

My nature is that of a goal setter and planner for most experiences in my life. This is an effective way to map a direction, but it isn’t for everyone. There are those who treasure the ‘stop and smell the roses’ approach, which offers wonderful opportunities to engage directly with life.

And there are those that place a premium on flexibility which allows one to pursue whatever objective or goal they choose without stressing about how or when it will be achieved. This also provides some space to discover that it’s more about the journey, than it is about the destination.

I wonder too, which direction will be the most worthwhile for me, the one my head plans or the one my heart seeks?

Over the course of my life there’s been a transition from prioritizing what my thinking mind wants to what my heart feels. It’s a huge shift and I heartily endorse it, while realizing it isn’t for everyone or for every occasion. The reason I’ve chosen it is because my sense of inner satisfaction is so deep when I trust my feelings to guide my way and choose my direction for me.

Try Outs

As I grew up there seemed to be quite a few different opportunities to ‘tryout’ for things. Whether it was for a sports team, a musical group, a play or something else I might have been interested in.

One theme seemed pretty common to them all. They each created some uncertainty inside of me. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know if I’d be any good at what I was trying out for. I wasn’t sure I’d get picked and what it would mean to me if I didn’t.

I might be terrible and embarrass myself. I couldn’t know for sure if I’d be welcomed and, I didn’t know in advance, if I’d stay with it or perhaps find, it wasn’t for me. Would I be allowed to quit, if I didn’t like it?

You may have experienced some of these same thoughts.

The fact is we’re always trying new things, sometimes because we want to and other times because we have to. If we’re sick, we have to try new medications. If our car dies, we have to find a new one. If we lose our job or give it up, we have to search for another. The list of new things we have to try or tryout for is considerable.

Interestingly, I rarely assumed that all would go well, that I would like what I tried out for or that I would be good, perhaps even great at it, or that it would bring me joy.

I wonder about that now. How much time did I spend thinking about the potential downsides? I believe the answer is, quite a bit.

And, I think I brought that attitude with me for much of my life. It sat on my shoulder during the college admission process and job interviews and some major life decisions.

I place no blame here. I realize we all absorb ideas and attitudes from our cultures. It’s pretty much a given.

Then one day something changed. I began to ask myself what was really true. Instead of allowing my standard responses to continue to guide me, I challenged everything. I became something of a rebel.

I shifted.

I opened to new possibilities. I started asking myself, what if I absolutely love this new thing? What if I change my idea of ‘success’, making it more about enjoyment than accomplishment? What if I learned to treasure the adventure and release my attitude that it has to lead to something tangible?

I began to embrace the idea that this life is mine. I get to decide what it means and what direction it takes. I get to choose which attitude to accept.

I found that I could let go of my tendency to believe I had to prove myself to others and recognize it is more important what I think and believe about myself. I am the one leading this life. I am the one with hopes and dreams.

I am not trying out for this life. I am this life.

Note: To make a comment, please click on the Post Name, then scroll to the bottom of the page, write your comment in the box and hit enter.

Four-Year-Old Eyes

For a few moments pretend that you are a four-year-old boy. You’re at the grocery store with your mom and you’re sitting in the shopping cart. Not in the seat where you stick your legs through the slots. That’s for babies. You’re a big kid and you’re sitting where all the groceries go.

You and your mom are done shopping and are now waiting to check out. You’re looking around and spot a really cool looking toy. You don’t know why it’s in the grocery store, but there it is.

So, you ask your mom if she’ll buy it for you. You can tell by the look on her face the answer is probably going to be ‘no’.

She looks at you, but doesn’t say anything right away. You can tell she’s thinking things over, but isn’t sure of her decision. It seems simple to you, it’s either ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Her answer surprises you.

She says, “No, honey, we can’t buy that today.” You thought so. That part doesn’t surprise you at all.

But, the next part does, because she goes on to say, “It’s almost Christmas, so you can ask Santa for it. Maybe he’ll bring it to you…IF you’re a good boy.” She continues, “You know Santa is always watching, so you’ll have to be good.”

That last part changes everything for you. There’s no way you can be good all the time. Sometimes you’re in a bad mood or are over tired. And sometimes your little sister is so annoying you scream at her. You apologize later, but you’re not sure if that counts.

And then another thought strikes you and it’s kind of scary. What does she mean, Santa’s always watching? How? You want to ask, but you’re not sure you really want to know the answer.

Why did she have to say that, you wonder? Up until then you thought Santa was fat and jolly, wore a red suit and loved to bring toys to kids. You had no idea he was watching you all the time.

And finally, another idea hits you. If I don’t do what other people want, I won’t get what I want. I could see all of this in his eyes.

This event really happened the last time I was at the grocery store. Of course, I’ve supplied what he was thinking. That was very easy for me, because there’s a strong part of me that is still four years old. Don’t believe me, ask any of my grandchildren.

Here’s what troubles me about this story.

Not only does it fill the boy with unnecessary fear, but it also directs all of his efforts into pleasing other people. And, it takes away his power and gives it to others.

I don’t want to place blame on the mom. She’s probably only repeating what she heard as a child. I’ve probably even done or said the same kind of thing, without considering the impact.

So, what could she have done or said?

How about this.

She could have said that it was possible, that together, they could think of ways for him to get the toy he wanted. That he could put it on his Christmas list and wait to see if it arrived on Christmas morning. If it didn’t, perhaps he could do a few extra chores around the house to earn the money to buy it later. She could help him see that HE has power inside of himself and let him know that she will always help him.

I would love to have heard that.

Note: To make a comment, please click on the Post Name, then scroll to the bottom of the page, write your comment in the box and hit enter.

Habits

Every day we experience opportunities for growth in our lives. Some of the opportunities we may long for, while others we’d just as soon not encounter.

When we’re provided these choices, we have to decide whether to resist or accept them. A great deal of our harmony and peace of mind depends on which choice we make.

The more I think about this, the more obvious it becomes that every single thing that happens to me offers me something of value. At first, the item or event may not appear to be important. But, if I open and allow myself a moment of consideration, often rewarding things happen.

Here’s one seemingly insignificant example.

I brush my teeth twice a day. Once in the morning and once before I go to bed at night. You may do the same thing.

So, there I am in front of the medicine cabinet. I open it and reach for my toothbrush and tube of toothpaste, which has a flip top. Being a creature of habit, I hold the tube with the label facing me, then find I can’t flip the top open.

This bugs me. I don’t know why, it just does.

So, at least twice a day there is something in my life that is guaranteed to irritate and annoy me.

I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking.

When I was a kid, I’d say, “Duh” and follow that with something obvious like, “so reach for the toothpaste and hold it with the label facing away from you (numbskull).”

Problem solved, right?

I have to wonder, what prevents me from executing this very simple solution? I’m pretty sure I know.

Habit.

Reinforcement of the same thing, day after day, until what I choose, becomes second nature to me.

But, is this helpful? Certainly, for me, not always.

My next question is, how many other things in my life are on this kind of auto-pilot?

My answer would have to be, a lot.

It’s fascinating to me that habits hide our power and become a substitute for conscious thought and decision making. Is the world too complicated for us to navigate, so we allow habits to take care of many things for us?

It makes me wonder.

Here’s another example.

Do I really listen to someone’s answer when I ask them, “How are you today” or is this just a habit? Not surprisingly, the answers we’re inclined to give to this question are often as habitual as the question itself.

What if I gave myself a chance to be present when they spoke? What sort of difference would that make in my world…and theirs?

I tested this out recently and discovered it makes a great deal of difference.

When I asked someone how they were, I looked directly at the person and stood still and waited for their answer. Most of the time, it took a minute for the person to realize I was actually waiting for them to respond. Often, they stopped, returned my gaze and appeared to consider their answer for a moment. When they got over their shock, they relaxed and said something about the way they felt, then stopped speaking and looked expectantly in my direction. I took in what they’d said and responded, saying something that I hoped made it obvious I’d heard them and that what they said mattered to me.

Amazingly, when I remembered to do this, I found we formed a real connection. I felt a spark and that felt good to me. And, it made me want to continue exploring other habits of mine and seeing what benefits I might be able to find.

If you do some exploring of your own, please let me know what you discover.

Note: To make a comment, please click on the Post Name, then scroll to the bottom of the page, write your comment in the box and hit enter.