The Time Travelers: Making Changes that Matter

prague time travel

Have you ever woken up with regret gnawing in your stomach? Do you think about your past choices with a strong resentment toward your past self? Those in recovery have countless experiences like this. Anyone who is trying to make significant changes understands that who they were in the past is the same person they are now, consequences included. But when it comes to looking ahead to the future, we are often disconnected from that reality, failing to imagine that our future self is actually us. We just haven’t met them yet.

For those wishing to change their current behavior, this concept is essential. Dr Kelly McGonigal talks about this concept in detail (see video below, starting at 23:50), sharing the research that “the more you feel like your future self is a stranger, is different than you, the less likely you are to do things to protect that future self’s health and happiness”. Conversely, “people that believe they are more closely related to their future self have a lot more willpower”.

Think about it.

  • What would change in your life if you had a deeper awareness and appreciation of this present/future connection?
  • What choices would change?
  • Would you be more likely to create healthy habits now, teleporting the benefits to your future self who lives years ahead the future?
  • How would this effect your tendency to run into self-destructive situations?

McGonigal explains that “this ability to disconnect from the long-term consequences of your choices actually primes you to be that more impulsive self”. How often do you forfeit future joy by making impulsive choices that only have apparent benefits in the present moment? Whether this means looking at pornography for hours to drown feelings of loneliness or eating a gallon of ice cream to alleviate stressful feelings, there are countless opportunities to make unhealthy choices with a “blind eye” to the future.

Now that the importance of the present connection with your future self is explained, you are likely wondering “how can I connect with my future self”? The answer is obvious, isn’t it? Time travel. But since technology fails us in this area, let’s consider some specific ways we can “time travel”, meeting the person we imagine to be in the future.

In the movie “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, the main character is teleported across time through his mind. Although we lack the power to literally do this, we can use our imagination to travel to the future, much like they did in this video:

McGonigal recommends fostering this future connection by writing a letter from yourself in the future to your current self. She says that “research suggests that this kind of letter writing from your future self can actually give you more willpower”. Try this exercise she recommends:

  • Imagine being your future self (5, 10, 20, or more years in the future)
  • Write to your present self about a current challenge (like an addiction or other experience that feels impossible to overcome)
  • Thank your present self for overcoming this challenge
  • Explain to your present self how they accomplished this
  • Give your present self encouragement and direction for their present challenge
  • Explain to your present self how important this decision was to you and some of the incredible benefits that resulted

Here’s another exercise, based on McGonigal’s recommendations:

  • Close your eyes
  • Vividly imagine the future consequences of living an addicted life (or being unhealthy, etc)
  • Experience the feelings associated with this future reality
  • Vividly imagine the future benefits of living a life free from addiction (or healthy, etc)
  • Experience the feelings associated with this future reality
  • Open your eyes
  • Reach out for support if triggered by this exercise

You may also consider using art or imagining ways you will overcome expected future “failures” (see McGonigal’s above video for additional explanations).

As you think about fostering your friendship with future you, remember that “people who feel closer to their future self are more likely to do things that don’t have a payoff immediately but that will be good to protect their future self”.

May these exercises infuse you with courage to let go of destructive habits that will damage your future self’s reality and relationships.

May these exercises motivate you grab onto healthy habits now, however uncomfortable they may feel in the present, resulting in a lasting impact on your future reality.

May we remember that our choices today create our tomorrow.

“Is this the world you want?  You’re making it. Every day you’re alive” – Switchfoot

-By Forest Benedict, MA, SATP-C, LMFT, Clinical Director of LifeSTAR of the Central Valley If you benefited from this article, please “follow” us on this blog and on Twitter, “like” us on Facebook, and SHARE this article and blog with others. Thank you!

This entry was posted in Addiction, Change, Inspiration, Recovery, Science, Self-care, Sexual Addiction and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Time Travelers: Making Changes that Matter

  1. Pingback: Denial of Future Destruction | LifeSTAR Central Valley Blog

  2. Pingback: Preventing Impending Relapse: 6 Immediate Interventions | LifeSTAR Central Valley Blog

  3. Pingback: From Passivity to Passion: The Next Level of Your Recovery in the New Year | LifeSTAR Central Valley Blog

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