Words from the Future

I am sitting on a porch, and next to me is an old man—grayed hair, sun-beaten skin—rocking back and forth in his chair. That man is me. That is, he's the old man I will one day be. He is looking off in the distance, smiling. Why is he smiling? Because he's lived a full life. I can't even imagine how much more he knows than I do. All of my youthful foolhardiness, the mistakes I'm going to make, the lessons that I have yet to learn—he knows them all, and they strike him as almost humorous. That must be why he's smiling, looking at me out of the corner of his eye. I have many questions for him.

But I don't get to ask him questions. I only get to listen.

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This is a mental exercise I call “words from the future.” It's a powerful visualization that I sometimes do for my clients to help them re-align with their values. It's been fresh on my mind lately, and I wanted to share it with you guys. It's pretty simple. Here's how you do it. First, pull out something to write on.

Imagine yourself when you're 70. You've done lots of amazing things with your life by now. You've had an amazing career, maybe you've had a family, maybe you've won a great prize, discovered something. Whatever it is, it's been one hell of a life. You have many friends, and everyone respects you. But you're old now. And you're full of all the wisdom that this life has afforded you. Just imagine your future self, contented and full of wisdom, rocking back and forth on a chair.

See it? Okay. Now bring in your current self. As you are—youngish, curious, maybe a little lost or confused. You're sitting next to the old you. Maybe it's raining outside. But the old you is smiling. The old you is going to give you some advice. He's not going to tell you everything, of course. Just the little nuggets that are going to help you get on the right path. You get to take this with you—a little cheat sheet for the rest of your life.

What are they? Think about it. Imagine it. You know what they are.

Write them down.

Keep them.

Here are mine. I've had them taped to the front of my door so I can remind myself of them every time I head out in the morning:

Words from the Future

Everybody has something to teach you.

Never lie about who you are.

Write without thinking.

Stop wasting your time with chicken-headed girls (or guys).

You have nothing at all to be afraid of.

Think of your family often.

The path is paved only by doing, doing, doing.

You will be loved.

You are capable of greatness, but you are not yet great.

Those are mine. What are yours? Take five minutes. You don't have to share them with anyone, but really try it. I find this exercise is a powerful way to tap into your own wisdom. You might discover something you didn't expect to realize. (Weird update, I know, but I really felt like sharing this. It's been pretty powerful for me.)

Give it a try,

Haseeb
April 11 2014
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Effective Altruist. Software engineer. Writer. Instructor @Outco. Former poker pro.
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San Francisco, CA
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Diogenes of Sinope was the father of Cynicism, an ancient school of ascetic philosophy. It's easy to talk abstractly though. I like to imagine him: tattered clothes, tangled beard, a scraggly old man. In Athens, Diogenes was known unaffectionately as “the Dog.” He lived in a discarded wine tub, which he kept out in the marketplace. He possessed nothing more than his staff and cloak. He…
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