Future Self Visualization: Connect your Current Self with your Future Self

Future Self Visualization, thinking constructively about your Future Self, is one of the most powerful concepts I’ve come across in my years of studying the human mind and its impact on your success.

Your Future Self is all about you at some point in the future. Your future self might be you in the very far or in the very near future. This depends on the goal you have with your future self visualization.

Your Future Self is not an optimistic version of your future. Future Self Visualization is also not the same as wishful thinking or a sort of dreamed state of you in the future. And it is also not a pessimistic version of where you are headed.

No, your future self is as realistic as you can make it.

Find out the power of future self visualization and learn the 10 principles you need to take care of for maximum power:

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[Spoiler alert: you are going to learn to design your 11-star future!]

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What is Future Self Visualization?

Future_Self_Visualization - What is Future Self Visualization

The goal of future self visualization is to define your future self, based on your current self and the goals you have. This is a harder task than you would think because most of us tend to think too optimistic about our future.

All good will be better, and all the bad things will improve, you might think.

But at the same time, you know that life is very unpredictable and that nothing goes in a straight line.

So, when defining your future self, you need to be realistic. Not optimistic, not pessimistic, but realistic. I know, taking a realistic view of your future self can be painful, and you don’t want to see your future self which isn’t bright, right?

But does that mean you have to shut your eyes for it?

No, of course not! Already the Roman emperors used to visualize their future self, and they applied a special technique called negative visualization. This way of thinking is called Stoicism and much of the successful people of today still use this daily.

So, why shouldn’t you apply future self visualization in the right way for yourself today?

Your Current Self

Future_Self_Visualization - Your Current Self

If you look at your life right now, how does it look? If you would take a step outside of yourself and look at your current self from an objective perspective: what do you see?

Let’s say that you are on holiday in Paris. And you want to visit the Eiffel Tower. But you are lost and desperately try to seek which direction you should take. Suddenly you see on the other side of the street a large big map of Paris. You walk over and study the map. What’s the first thing you will do? Find the point where you are now! Right! Luckily this point is already marked out for you with a You-are-here-sign. So, the only thing you have to do now is look for the Eiffel Tower and then you know which direction you should take.

In life, this is very much the same. Before you start to look for where you will be heading, you first have to know where you are now. So, look for your You-are-here-sign. Start with taking an objective look at your current self. Start with asking yourself questions like:

  • What about my current self is remarkable?
  • Am I happy with how my current self, looks like?
  • What am I missing?
  • What goals do I have?
  • What action do I take every day towards my goals?
  • What is the quality of the decisions I take every day?

These are already some thought provoking questions for you. It might take you at least 10 minutes to reflect on your current life. Please do so, before you read on.

Your Future Self

Future_Self_Visualization - Your Future Self

Now let’s pick one of your goals.

Step into your imaginary time travel machine and go to some point in the future. Depending on your goals this might be in the near or far future.

If your goal is to have the best holiday yet, then it will probably be soon. But if your goal is to develop a set of new skills and grow into a new career then it might take a few years.

So, land yourself into your future and ask the same questions about your future self as above. This is what future self visualization is all about, especially if the answers will be produced in the form of visualizations.

Your Future Self acts as a resource for you.

You can connect with it whenever you want, and it will serve as an internal resource for you. Your Future Self will give you the motivation and inspiration you need to stay focused on your goals. So, whenever you are stuck, just think of your future self, and it will help you get through that difficult moment by giving you your focus on your goals back.

You can activate your future self simply by visualizing a future situation. Did you know that everything which happens in your world, your outside world, first was imagined in your inside world? Your brain can’t tell the difference between what is imagined and what is real. Your subconscious mind will always say “Yes!” to whatever you tell it.

According to neuroscience the process of visualizing ideas in your head create the same biochemical reactions and feelings in your brain as if you were to have experienced it in real life already.

So, when you do future self visualization your subconscious mind will get a memory of the new experience.

This will do two important things for you:

1) Future self visualization will create an Aha moment.

When you start to experience your new future self, it will feel like as if you have experienced it before which makes the experience easier.Did you ever have the experience of an Aha moment? Did you notice that you felt acquainted with something you thought was a brand new experience? Well, probably you had imagined this experience earlier in your life already. Maybe not the same and with all the details. But something similar and more abstract. And perhaps you have already forgotten consciously that you had imagined this. But your subconscious mind has stored this imagination somewhere in your brain, and now these neural pathways are again triggered but now with a real life situation. And while you trigger neural pathways which are already formed in one way or another, it feels for you if you have experienced it already.An Aha moment!

2) Future self visualization will open up your eyes to see more opportunities and possibilities.

Furthermore, future self visualization will open up your eyes to see opportunities and possibilities towards your future self which you wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

If you are not expecting something, then often you also will not see it. How often have you looked for your keys or your phone but couldn’t find it, while they lay right in front of your eyes? You weren’t expecting it there!

You know what they say: if you want to hide something, then hide it in plain sight, because no one will expect it there.

The technical term for this is myopia or the quality of being short-sighted. This bias makes you blind to opportunities and possibilities to bring you towards your goals. This is a pity. But what if you could bypass your myopia? All kinds of opportunities and possibilities would suddenly become to your attention.The way to bypass your myopia is by doing future self visualization.

The connection between your Current Self and your Future Self

Future_Self_Visualization - Connection between your current self and your Future Self

After you have investigated your current self and your future self, you may start to see the connection between the both of you. This is where the real fun begins!

The choices you make today shape the life of your future self.

The professional decisions you take today, for example, determine the professional options your future self will have.

So, if you choose to waste time on irrelevant things instead of being productive then you never will build the skills and reputation you need to move your career in the right direction. That is the direction you have set your mind to. The same applies for your financial choices you make today. They determine the financial options your future self will have. And the same goes for today's options with regards to your time, your social and community life, your health and so on.

Every choice today leads to an action or inaction which leads to a result in the future. Doing future self visualization will make you aware of that.

Future self visualization will make you conscious of the impact your current self, has to its future self.

Future Self Visualization - Visualize

But wait …

There are much more benefits of doing future self visualization:

11 advantages of using future self visualization

Future_Self_Visualization - 11 Advantages

1) Evaluate your today’s actions in the eye of your future self

If you start to use future self visualization, you’ll learn to see the effects of the life of your current self, projected into the life of your future self. The decisions you take today have a long-term impact on your future self.

For example, if I eat too much and workout too little then probably I will gain some weight. If I don’t think of my future at all, then I will not see and feel the impact of my decision to eat too much and workout too little. Instead, I will only see the short term benefits and keep on doing it.

So, if you use future self visualization, you will be able to see and feel your future self in one year from, ten years from now, twenty years from now and so on. And then you can check for yourself if you are happy with what you see or not.

2) Check if your goals are appropriate or not

Future self visualization will make you more aware of the long-term impact of your short-term goals. If you plan to skip your vacation this year, then this has also a long-lasting impact.

Are you aware of it?

Or, on the contrary, if you plan to go on vacation this year it will also have a long-term impact.

Using future self visualization will help you to become aware of the long-term implications of your short-term goals. This will give you the chance to adapt your goals if necessary.

What you are doing here is looking at the impact your near future self, has on your long-term future self.

3) Give your daily actions a bigger purpose

When we are pursuing our goals, we all get distracted by all kinds of distractions every day.

Your job is to stay focused on your goals and dreams until you have successfully achieved them.

Future self visualization will help you focus on your goals because you see the positive benefits from achieving your goals in the life of your future self. This will give you the motivation to neglect distractions and to stay focused.

I use future self visualization every day to visualize how my life will look like in a few years time in the context of the goals I’m working on. This is one of the first things I do when I wake up.

Then during the day, I have enough motivation to stay focused. Sure, I am also distracted all the time. But the trick is to re-focus as soon as possible by reminding yourself why you are doing what you do in the first place.

Future self visualization will give your everyday actions a bigger purpose.

4) Enjoy every moment in your life

Another advantage of future self visualization is that you will be more aware of the mortality of life.

What?!@! you might think.

But, yes, everyone is mortal, although most of us don’t think about it very often. But if you do become more aware of the mortality of life then you will appreciate every moment you live now much more.

Life could be over before you know it.

Especially when I have my birthday, and I have to tell everybody how old I have become, I become aware that I probably have had my best years.

If you visualize your life in 5, 10 or even 30 years time, then you will also become aware of the fact that your time on earth is very limited.

So, you better spend every moment you have worthwhile and see the value of life in everything around you!

5) Reshape your future now

Future self visualization will give you a chance to reshape your future now, by thinking about it and observing it in more detail.

Everyone thinks now and then of his or her future.

But most of the time, it is just a glimpse of what is coming, nothing more than that. This means that you can’t analyze what can be or should be improved. But if you use future self visualization, you will be able to study your future life in more detail by zooming in on a particular aspect.

For example, if your current goal is to become a better piano player, then you can imagine how your ability to play the piano will be in five years from now.

And what impact will that have on other aspects of your life.

Are you satisfied with what you see?

Or are there some parts of your future self which need extra attention?

If so, then you have now the ultimate chance to reshape your future by taking new decisions and adjusting your plans.

6) Deal with setbacks adequately

Obstacles, setbacks, and disappointments in our life are a fact of life, but most of the time we don’t see them coming.

If you would perform future self visualization, then you can apply negative visualization to see as many of the obstacles you will find on your path towards your future self and already start to find solutions for them. And even better, find ways to prevent those barriers from happening. And even when obstacles are inevitable, you will not be surprised or depressed about them, but instead immediately put your plan B, C, D or …. Z into practice.

So, instead of only using positive visualization also dare to look into the dark side of your future self and find out whatever can go wrong.

Then find ways to either avoid them or deal with them successfully when they are inevitable.

7) Strengthen your growth mindset

When using future self visualization regularly, you will enhance your growth mindset.

If you see your future self, or even better, multiple versions of your future self, then you will become aware of the fact that you can shape your future. This will strengthen your growth mindset which will make you more successful and happy.

A dear friend of mine, Joe, has all kinds of setbacks going on in his life. And whenever I think that he cannot sink lower, he gets another setback. But every time he seems to get accustomed to his new situation very quickly. Every time he settles for less. Unfortunately, he does not understand that he too has the capability to grow.

Wherever you are in life, you always have the ability to grow.

If Joe would visualize his future self, then he would be able to respond to that in his current life. Which would make him more responsible.

So, don’t be like Joe and strengthen your growth mindset by using future self visualization.

8) Strengthen your creativity and problem-solving skills

You will become a more creative and effective problem solver when you use future self visualization because you will start to see multiple future scenarios.

This is the creative part: multiple scenarios. But because you can see the impact of each scenario on your future self you will also become more effective because you only choose the scenario with the best outcome of course!

So, if you have to deal with a problem, instead of moaning and groaning, ask your future self!

Use future self visualization to see how the current situation will evolve into your future self. And then start adjusting one or two things and see what that will do for your future self.

Eventually, you will find a solution which will work out the best for you.

9) Reflect on your life objectively

Using future self visualization will give you more knowledge and insights about how the different areas of your life interact with each other. Future self visualization will present you a helicopter view on your life.

By looking at your future self, you immediately create some distance between your current worries, troubles and problems and the real you. Instead of looking at the individual small problems you experience you will have a chance to look at yourself from a distance.

This will give you more perspective, and you will start to see how for instance your family life interact (or not!) with your working lives. That will give you a chance to evaluate your current life more objectively.

10) Stop procrastinating now

Procrastination is one of those bad habits most of us have once in a while. But if you do future self visualization every day on your goals then you will probably start to see that you will procrastinate less. This is because you are much more aware of the impact your procrastination has to your future self.

And while you will meet your future self on a regular basis you will much more take into consideration what is good for your future self.

So, if you planned to work on one of your goals today, then procrastinating means that you will do your future self, harm and therefore you will start taking action instead.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Stanford psychologist Walter Mischel performed his famously Marshmallow test.

He gave 4-year olds the choice to eat one Marshmallow right now or wait fifteen minutes and then get two Marshmallows. Years later, Walter Mischel checked in on the participants. He found that those kids who had waited the fifteen minutes did better in life in all sorts of ways.

The power to take control over oneself and fight distractions seems to be an excellent predictor of success in life. And this power can be developed by doing future self visualization because you will learn to take your future self into consideration when making decisions today.

11) Fight performance anxiety

A lot of people have performance anxiety.

For whatever reason, they are afraid to be successful in something. And that is keeping them from getting that success of course.

A side benefit of doing future self visualization is that you will get accustomed to achieving your goals and being successful. And when you are used to that feeling of being successful, your performance anxiety will vanish, which will boost your success of course.

10 things you need to know to be successful at future self visualization

Future_Self_Visualization - 10 best practices

1) Associated versus Dissociated awareness

When doing future self visualization, you need to alter your associated state of awareness with your dissociated state of awareness.

An associated state of consciousness is where you be your future self, and you look through your own eyes to your future situation.

You will see what you will see when you have arrived in the future. You will hear what you will hear, and you will feel how you then will feel and so on.

The advantage of this associated state of awareness is that you will experience your future self in the way what then will be the reality of your future self. This gives you a chance to exactly notice how your life will be so that you know if you are on the right track or not.

If yes, then your current goals and decisions are good, and you don’t have to change anything.

If not, then you need to investigate what fails in your future situation and what you need to change today so that your future will change for the better.

The disadvantage of future self visualization via an associated state of awareness is that your subconscious mind will think that this future state is already a reality.

This means that there is no urge for your subconscious mind to do anything different or new because it thinks that your new reality has already become real.

That’s why you also need to do your future self visualization via a dissociated state of awareness.

This means that when you visualize your future self, you don’t look through your own eyes to see your future situation.

Instead, you see yourself in the picture.

So, you see how your future self will look like (a bit older probably 😉 ) and you see what your future self is doing and how your future self is behaving in this future situation.

It is as if you are in your own cinema watching a movie of your future life with you as the main character in it.

The advantage of this dissociated state of awareness is that your subconscious mind will now do everything to make this movie into a reality for you.

Your subconscious mind will set all its filter into the direction of your future self.

Anacoluthon rhetorical devices steps

Key point:

Alternate your associated state of awareness with a dissociated state of awareness when doing future self visualization.

2) Try out multiple versions of your future self

When using future self visualization you need to be aware that you can try out various scenarios of your future self.

So, if you are visualizing your future self, be aware that this is just one of many versions of your future self. Try out different versions of your future self.

If your current goal, for example, is to lose 10 pounds then you start your visualization probably first with visualizing your future self with 10 pounds less. How would you look like? How would you feel like? What would you say to yourself? How will other people react to your new future self?

Now start visualizing your future self with 20 pounds less. Or a version of your future self with 5 pounds more but much less body fat and more muscles. Which version do you like the most?

The advantage of this is, is that you will start to believe that your future is malleable which will strengthen your growth mindset and make you more powerful. This will help you in making better decisions today.

Anacoluthon rhetorical devices steps

Key point:

Try out multiple versions of your future self when doing future self visualization.

3) Perform an ecology check

As John Donne has said, “No man is an island.”

No_man_is_an_Island - John_Donne

The same applies for goals:

No Goal is an Island.

If you want to lose 10 pounds, then this goal has implications for all the people around you and all your other goals as well.

For example, if this losing-10-pounds goal means that you need to work out 1 hour every day then you cannot spend that 1 hour on pursuing your other goals. In the long run, this can be a problem, because if your other goals are even important or more important than your goal of losing ten pounds, then you probably will find yourself ending up doing other things then working out.

So, you better be sure that all your goals are aligned and in balance with your life and of those around you.

That’s why you need to perform an ecology check.

When visualizing your future self, you need to check also how the people around you will react to your future self. Do they like your future self in the way you want them to be? Or not? And what about the other areas of your life? Are they balanced and also reaping the benefits of your future self?

The ultimate question when performing an ecology check on your future self, is asking you if your future self in your visualization is the best version for yourself, for your goals, for the people around you and ultimately for the world.

If you can answer this question with yes, then you are good to go. If not, then you know that you need to change something.

Anacoluthon rhetorical devices steps

Key point:

Perform an ecology check on your future self when doing future self visualization.

4) Focus on today’s actions and decisions

If you have ever heard of the law of attraction and that type of things then you probably already have heard earlier of future self visualization. They tell you to visualize your bright and shiny future and if you visualize good enough then the universe will attract all your wishes to you. Well, I will not go into the discussion whether this is a correct vision or not, but what I do know is how your subconscious mind works. And ultimately your subconscious mind together with your conscious mind are the two primary sources on which you can rely on. Furthermore: both are totally in your own control. So, let us use them to our advantage!

The surest way to achieving every goal you have in your life is by taking massive action now and stick to it long enough until you are successful.

How do you stay focused long enough to be completely motivated to take all the necessary actions?

This is where future self visualization can help you tremendously! So, instead of using future self visualization as a way to let the law of attraction do her job, use future self visualization to get focused and to stay focused long enough, so that you can take massive action towards your goals, knowing that every action will take you nearer your goals.

Anacoluthon rhetorical devices steps

Key point:

Be aware that the primary goal of future self visualization is to make better decisions and take action today.

5) Start with your I am's

When doing future self visualization, start with your I am’s.

“I am’s” are declarations of who you want to be. These statements are stated in the form of an affirmation starting with “I am.”

If your goal is to lose 10 pounds for example, then your “I am’s” could be:

  • I am slim.
  • I am healthy.
  • I am athletic.
  • I am …

You should state your “I am’s” in a positive way oriented towards your goals.

Ask yourself: How do I want to be? And after you’ve answered that: Who do I want to be? Now formulate the answer to this question in the form of an I-am-statement:

I AM

You will see that your I am’s become stable and robust over time. For an I am like “I am slim, healthy, and fit” it doesn’t matter if your goal is to lose 10 pounds or 20 pounds or that your goal is to workout more.

So, start with your I am’s and say to yourself in your future self visualization: “I am slim” while picturing an image of your future self, being slim.

Anacoluthon rhetorical devices steps

Key point:

Start your future self visualization with your I am’s.

6) Make future self visualization a daily practice

As said, the main goal of doing future self visualization is to make better decisions today and to take massive action towards your goal today.

But what about tomorrow? And the day after that? And after that?

How do you stay focused on your goals each day until you are successful?

This is why you need to do future self visualization each day. This doesn’t have to take long, just do it.

I suggest that you build a daily habit of writing down your goals and visualizing how these goals will impact your future self positively.

Anacoluthon rhetorical devices steps

Key point:

Do future self visualization each day.

7) Make sure you have a relaxed state of mind

Visualizing your goals is a cooperation between your subconscious mind and your conscious mind. They need to communicate and work together which is only possible if you can clear your conscious mind first.

If your conscious mind is occupied with all kinds of worries, frustrations or other thoughts, it has no space left for input from the subconscious mind. This means that you will be distracted in the first few seconds of your visualization already.

This is why it will help you if you start with a relaxed state of mind. A relaxed state of mind is a situation where your conscious mind will really listen to what your subconscious mind has to say to you.

Remember that your conscious mind can only hold seven plus or minus two thoughts at the same time, so you are heavily depended on your subconscious mind to guide you to the rich world of both your current self and future self.

So, pick a place where you can sit quietly and will not be disturbed. Take a few deep breaths and start your visualization.

To help you start your future self visualization with a relaxed state of mind, it would even be better if you start every day on the same time, preferably immediately when you get out of bed. You will be relaxed, and your subconscious mind will get used to following the same ritual every day.

Anacoluthon rhetorical devices steps

Key point:

Start with a relaxed state of mind.

8) Make your future self visualization as rich as possible

When doing your future self visualization, make sure that you use all your senses to make the picture as rich as possible.

If you only say to yourself “I am slim” then you activate only the least powerful area of your brain. Instead, see yourself as slim, hear what you would hear when you are slim, feel what you then would feel, taste what you would taste and smell what you would smell.

By activating all your senses in the visualization, you will activate and engage your whole brain; left and right, front and back.

This will create all kinds of new neural pathways which will create Aha moments in your daily life supporting you to pursue your goal.

Anacoluthon rhetorical devices steps

Key point:

Use all your senses when visualizing.

9) Use your internal timeline to organize your visualization

Maybe you are not aware of it, but if you were to stop and think about it, how can you tell the difference between memories of your past self, experiences of your current self and future experiences of your future self?

Otherwise, how would you know whether you were looking at a memory of the past or a vision of the future? But you do know the difference!

You have a sort of internal timeline which you use to store all your memories. This is how you know the difference between your next birthday, your last birthday and your birthday three years ago.

Almost everyone stores time in a linear way. Let’s stop for a moment and ask yourself where the past is for you and where the future is for you. Memories are stored in a certain location. So, if you were to point to a direction in the room where is your past? Is it in front of you? Left, right, behind of you? Above you, below you? Now, ask yourself the same question for your future. To which direction in the room leads your future. Now connect your past and your future, and you know how your specific timeline runs.

You can use this to your advantage when visualizing.

If you do a future self visualization and you were not aware of where you store that memory, it might as well be stored in the past part of your timeline. But that’s not what you want.

You want to store the image of your visualization in the future part of your timeline so that your subconscious mind will see it as something which will happen shortly. This is important because now your subconscious mind has a promise to live up to.

After you have constructed your visualization of your future self, simply take the image in your hands and put it the part of your timeline which represents the future.

Working with your internal timeline can make you much more successful, and there is much more to it than I can describe in the context of this article, but simply remember for now where your past memories are stored and where your future visions are stored. And your future self visualization must, of course, be stored in the future part!

Anacoluthon rhetorical devices steps

Key point:

Use your internal timeline to organize your visualization.

10) Design your 11-star future

Most review systems are five-star based. Where 1-star is a very poor review, and 5-stars are the most excellent review.

When doing future self visualization, what kind of review would you give your future self? One star? Two stars? Five stars?

Don't settle for less than a 11-star review of your future self!

So, if you design your future self and you have given yourself a 5-star review, ask yourself:

What would it take to make it even a six-star life?

And after you’ve answered that question, ask yourself: what would it take to make my future self even a 7-star?

And after you’ve answered that question, ask yourself what it would take to make it an 8-star life, and a 9-star life, and a 10-star life and even an 11-star life.

This is what companies like Airbnb do all the time: asking themselves how they can level-up the quality of their service five, six times.

Now you have the most exhilarating picture of your future self, you can ask yourself, which one or two things would be feasible. This type of future self visualization is not only strengthening your growth mindset to the max, but also giving you ideas and opportunities you might not have thought about before.

Anacoluthon rhetorical devices steps

Key point:

Don’t settle for less than an 11-star future!

Can’t I make any mistakes anymore?

As you might have guessed by now, future self visualization is a powerful tool to help you live your life of today in a better way resulting in a better life for your future self.

"But wait … does that mean, that I have to live my life perfectly? That I can’t make any mistakes?” you might wonder.

No, of course not.

After all, we are all human beings, and human beings make mistakes. But doing future self visualization will help you to learn from your mistakes so that your life can evolve and you can make …. new mistakes. And learn from them. And again make some new mistakes. And so on.

So, don’t worry and don’t try to live your life perfectly because that’s impossible. Instead, use future self visualization to help you learn from your mistakes.

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Conclusion about future self visualization

In this article, I’ve shown you numerous benefits of future self visualization and all the principles you need to apply for you to become successful at it.

Keep your future self in mind when you live your life today.

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Your future self will inevitably be a part of you. In fact, it will become you! So, you better be happy about your future self now, so that you will be happy about yourself in the future!

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Over to you

Please leave a comment below by telling us how you are using future self visualization in your life.

Thank you already in advance for sharing your thoughts and insights!

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Harry Heijligers
 

Harry Heijligers has more than 25 years of experience as a Project Manager and more than 17 years of experience as an NLP Trainer. He has a Dutch blog about NLP here: HarryHeijligers.com. If you'd like to know about the Smart Leadership Hut, please check this: Smart Leadership Hut.

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