Do you remember that dream you had when you started your business? You knew it was going to be hard work, but you also knew you were going to be successful. And that success had - and still has - an incredible excitement to it.
When we're successful, our business hums along. Clients are lining up to buy our services or products. We have more time for ourselves. We travel more and spend more time with our families. Whatever your dream is, it is of a life that is different from today.
Your dream is probably quite clear to you. You may even have written it down. Or it may just be a general feeling or impression of what life would look like when we're successful.
But here's something that we don't always think about:
The more successful version of you - sometime in the future - is a different you from who and what you are today.
When you've become successful, you not only feel different, you also act different. You do different things and you do things in a different way. You're more relaxed, you stress less, your days are more organized and you seem to just get stuff done.
That's a different you from who you are today. And the question we have to ask is the following:
Can we get there faster by doing the things our future self will be doing?
Expanding your horizons
Whether we like it or not, we are prisoners of our own thinking. We have subconsciously placed limits on ourselves - limits of what we can earn, the kind of lifestyle we live, what we can achieve and how successful we can be. Just think of the following:
When I'm successful:
- I will eat better;
- I will manage my finances better;
- I will have more time to exercise; or
- I will be able to spend more time with my family.
These are all limits that we've placed on ourselves - we can only do these things once we're successful.
The horse and the cart
So here's my contention:
Doing these things is not a result of getting there - it's part of how we get there.
In other words, you don't become successful and then start managing your finances better. You start managing your finances better, and as a result you become more successful.
Similarly, you don't become more focused and productive once you're successful - you have to learn to focus better and be more productive to get where you want to be.
And so on - you get the drift.
And that leads me to the real question I want to address in this article:
what are the things our future, more successful selves, are doing that we can start doing today so we can get there faster?
It starts with looking at the future you.
Who is that future you?
So let's get specific about who and what that future you is. What do you do that makes you successful? Being the nerd that I am, I resorted to a spreadsheet. A column on the left for categories, one for what I'm doing now and one for what the future me is doing. Here's what it looks like:
I've just started with two categories - personal and business. You can add more categories for the things that are important to you, like religion or spirituality, family or your environment.
The items on the right at the things that I will be doing when I'm more successful than I am today. This is obviously an example and you list will look different. The point here is to list all the things you think that future self will be doing that is part of their successful life.
Once you have a list, it's time to find out where the gaps are.
Mind the gap
If you've ever traveled on London's Underground you will be familiar with the "mind the gap" message. Embedded in signs on the ground and played over speakers when a train arrives, the message reminds travelers that there is a gap between the platform and the train - and you have to be careful not to fall into the gap as you get on or off the train.
This is a good analogy for what we need to be careful of as we journey to our future self - the more successful self that is leading more of the life we dream of. If we don't mind the gap, we may fall into it.
So, back to the spreadsheet. You know what your future self does, so we now have to figure out how we're performing now. This is not rocket science - just write down how you're doing relative to what your future self will be doing. Here's an example:
Now we can see where the gaps are - so what do we do now?
Close the gap
Some gaps may be small, some may be large. Some may be easy to close and others seem like they will take a lifetime to achieve. But you're better off now than where you were even an hour ago - you know where the gaps are.
Now you can do something about it. Here's how.
Work through your list and find two items that are either:
- easy to fix; or
- will make a big difference moving you towards your future self.
Don't pick more than two. You can't boil the ocean, so avoid the temptation of trying to close all the gaps at the same time. Just pick two.
Now figure out how you can close the gap. If, for example, you believe that getting up early will help you move towards your future, more successful self, start setting your alarm 5 minutes early every week. On a weekly basis, this is not a lot of change, but after 12 weeks you will be getting up an hour earlier every day.
Or, if you believe your future self is writing every day and you're struggling to do that now, start by just writing for 10 minutes every day. After a week, make it 15 minutes, and so on.
It's difficult to go from zero to hero in one big jump. Use small increments to get better every day or every week.
Monitor your progress
Just doing better at something doesn't actually mean that you're automatically more successful. You have to keep track of what you're doing and if that's really helping.
My favorite method for doing this is with a journal. Keep track - on a daily basis - of the two things you're doing differently and how that is affecting you. Are you moving ahead faster? Do you feel better? Are you managing your time better?
If it's working, and you feel it's helping you get better at whatever you want to improve, well done. You're on the right track, and you just need to keep doing more of the good stuff. If not, you will have to re-evaluate how you're approaching the problem and whether it will actually help you get closer to your dream.
And when you've successfully adopted the habits of the future, more successful you, move on to the next item. Before you know it, you will be a lot closer to what you're dreaming of.
The biggest roadblock we have to overcome on a journey anywhere - whether it's being more successful, or happier or even to have more stuff - is ourselves.
The subconscious barriers we place on ourselves are difficult to find. This "future me / now me" exercise is a conscious effort to find the gaps - or roadblocks if you will - in what we do and how we do things. In the process, we're going to find ways we think about things that are holding us back.
And if you can take one small step forward, you will already be in a better place than you were before you took that step.