As the reality of an extended quarantine sets in across many corners of the world, we’re all discovering new ways to spend the extra time on our hands. Some of us have begun virtual volunteering. Others, like my neighbor, are tackling a spate of long-overdue DIY projects. For many, it’s a great time to catch up on books, TV shows and podcasts.
I believe it’s also a great time to check in your long-term, big picture goals. There’s nothing quite like a life-threatening global pandemic to remind yourself that only go round’ once. Or, as the title character in one of my all-time favorite musicals, The Music Man, puts it: “You pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you’re left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays.”
But how do we begin to chip away at our big-ticket dreams? Let’s take it in stages.
One technique I’ve found particularly effective is to write my own obituary. That might sound scary and perhaps even off-putting. But hear me out.
You don’t actually write your obituary. You write two of them. The first is how you think your obituary will read when you die, and the second is how you’d like it to read.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll discover at least two versions of yourself lying in wait. The first is a perfectly acceptable continuation of your current trajectory. Still married…or finally divorced. Living in the same house…or with a remodelled kitchen. Running the company…or living it up as a snowbird in a condo in Arizona. LINK
That’s all fine and dandy. But it’s the second obituary you really want to pay attention to. Because she’s the future self you’ve only dared to dream of. Which brings us to the step two.
Step Two: Envision Your Future Self
Part 3: Talk to Your Future Self
Towards the end of the exercise, your future self presents you with a gift. She also tells you something.
My gift was a fancy pen, very similar to the one my old boss gave me and which I used to write my morning pages. That pen disappeared when my bag was stolen a couple of years back. I replaced it, and then subsequently lost the new one. At that point, as I explained to my friend, I decided that I didn’t deserve a fancy pen. So I started using a regular one.
Needless to say, my friend picked up on the term “deserving.” Clearly, my future self was telling me that I was worthy of a fancy pen. Translated: I was worthy of believing in myself as a writer.
Not only that. When he asked me to recount my future self’s message, I told him that she’d given me permission to put down the manuscript I’ve been trying to publish for the past two years and pursue an entirely new writing project. It’s one I’ve been taking notes on for ages, but have feared writing because it’s so personal.
“It’s OK to move on,” she was telling me. “Write the book you’re afraid to write.”