Have you ever stopped for a moment and imagined what your future self be like? What is the image you hold right now? Who do you want to become? What kind of person do you want to grow into?
In the 1990s psychologists Philip G. Zimbardo and John N. Boyd, at Stanford University found that present-oriented people may do well, however more likely to engage in risky behaviours including addictions by comparison with those who focus on what lies ahead. Future-oriented people have a vision of their future identity and know today who they want to become in the future. Their ‘to become’ vision is joined together with their personality of today – with their likely situation over time – and the person they can realistically want to or hope to grow into. This research claims that when we are imagine the new version of us, we are likely to achieve contentment in life. This is because when we vision our future self in a realistic way, we are more likely to aim for outcomes that are consistent with such ‘come to be’ image and also with our values and beliefs.
When I think about my future self I have some difficulties to exclude my surroundings. Why is it so hard to separate myself from my environment? Shouldn’t we be able to picture ourselves, as individuals? Or our life is so strongly connected to our environment that perhaps the so-called self really does not exist. If I think about the self, I cannot detach the ‘I’ from my past and current experiences, or imagine my future self without my forthcoming experiences. I am who I am because of my previous experiences. So how can I disconnect myself from my experiences and from my environment? In other words, how can I think of me without considering everything else around me? My experiences flow through my mind, as a stream of ideas, feelings, images and perceptions. And when I am designing my future self-image, I am really resembling someone who becomes who she is because of those ‘yet to be acquired’ set of skills and knowledge. In other words I think of my future experiences and the way they will make me feel (which is an experience itself) that will shape me to become my future self.
I think of the self as an entity that cannot be separated from its environment. The self cannot exist on its own. It is not standalone, it is part of everything there is. My thoughts cannot exist without my experiences and I never experience anything by myself. Even pain or fear is connected to the world I live in. You cannot enjoy a good meal without the meal itself and you cannot experience love without a direction. If our future self image is to become a compassionate person, it still requires an object or direction. Compassion has to be exercised and experienced. How it would feel to be compassionate towards others.
In brief, in my view having a future self image is nothing more and nothing less but designing the experiences we want to have. And these experiences need agents to be realized because the self cannot have an experience by itself.