“It’s a general moral principle that the more power you have over someone, the greater your duty is to use that power benevolently. Well, who is the one person in the world you have the greatest power over? It’s your future self. You hold that life in your hands, and what it will be depends on how you care for it.” – Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson, Ph.D. and Richard Mendus, MD
I often tell my clients, “Each thought and feeling we have either drives us toward our future self, or away from it.” But what is our future self? We should start there… Our future self is the self we want to live into; the self we see ourselves becoming. It is, when asked to close our eyes and raise ourselves out of the mundane familiarities of life with all it’s current habits and patterns, the person we want to become.
For example, a client of mine who arrived at my office, frustrated about where she was in her life shared that most days she felt hopeless, frustrated, and angry. I congratulated her on having taken such careful stock of her current state and asked her who she wanted to be… She then began to describe a “totally different person.” She shared that she desired to be happy and vibrant, that she wanted to have better relationships with her family and friends, she wanted to be positive and see the bright side… And this is where our work began.
I gave her a homework assignment to observe the negative thoughts and feelings that arose each day. “Write them down, take notice,” I said. She came back the next week with a list. Phrases we can all relate to appeared, “I can’t do this/ Who does that person think he is?/ This sucks/ I hate this…” etc, etc. These phrases were fear-based thoughts and feelings that were suddenly, she realized, taking her away from her future self. She had never described a future self, but now she had something to focus on and strive toward. I call this, “Creating our North Star,” a guiding light to support us in developing ourselves and becoming someone we are proud to be, living a life we are proud to live.
Over the next week, she practiced replacing some of these thoughts and feelings with those thoughts and feelings that would drive her toward her desired future self. “I’m grateful for this opportunity to see where I can grow/ I have a lot to learn from that person/ I take responsibility for this moment/ I choose to be present to all I am feeling right now…” These thoughts and feelings didn’t sugar coat anything for her, they simply shifted her relationship to the moment, making her more present and compassionate to what was happening. Sometimes they felt awkward, which is a great sign we are at our transformational edge! What these new thoughts and feelings really did was give her a sense of influence over her destiny, igniting a sense of empowerment where there was none before.
As stated earlier, “Each thought and feeling we have either drives us toward our future self, or away from it,” and we have the power to choose how we show up for that future self. Will be we it with compassion and curiosity, or with judgement and score? One way will help our future self blossom, and the other will surely keep us mired in the patterns and habits creating our suffering.
My invitation is to get curious about your daily thoughts and feelings and ask yourself, Is this thought of feeling feeding the future self I love so much? Or is it taking me away from him or her? We all have the ability to choose our thoughts and feelings. It’s okay to change the script. We get to create ourselves. We get to choose who we want to become. And as stated so beautifully in the Buddha’s Brain, “You hold that life in your hands, and what it will be depends on how you care for it.”
(And by the way, the image is of Snatam Kaur, a fantastic musician. She is radiating so much light, that my camera lost its mind. Talk about embodying your north STAR – literally and figuratively!).