Feeling Connected to Who We Will Become
by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, April 2014
When accepting his recent Academy Award, Matthew McConaughey spoke about keeping an eye on becoming the person he has yet to become. He said that he needs someone to look up to, something to look forward to and someone to chase. The person he chases is his future self -- 10 years into the future. He is aware that he will never catch up, but he wants to find out who that man will turn out to be. I admit I was a bit confounded when I listened to him, but I felt a surge of admiration. His curiosity was peaked (and mine too) by his desire to know who he was yet to become.
Each of us can take a page from Mr. McConaughey's playbook. We can consciously plan, strategize, create goals, while leaving room for the unintended life events and synchronicities that help to determine our path.
Research confirms that those of us who allow ourselves to wonder about our futures tend to have a healthy form of curiosity. Over time, this curiosity can lead to greater well-being. We view the world as being filled with possibilities.
But wait! You may be thinking, aren't we all supposed to be living in the present; not focusing on the future? Here is where the balance part comes in. For those of us who live in the present, without thinking about or wondering about (as differentiated from worrying about) the future, we may experience a sense of freedom and spontaneity that comes with staying focused on the present. The downside of this, though, is that for some of us, we may be more inclined to take unhealthy risks because we ignore all future consequences. If we keep the balance between present and future, we can look ahead and envision what a particular path may be like for us if we make certain choices now. There is a consciousness about what we do in relation to where we are -- we can appreciate where we are and pay attention to where we are going.
Of course, we will never really know where we will be 10 years from now. But we can think about it and move in a direction with a high likelihood of getting us to where we think we would like to be. We see ourselves as we would like to be (an ideal self) and we find ways to move in the direction that is more likely to help get us there. As we make these choices we are refining who we are.
We learn how to plan by setting goals (near, mid, and long term). As we set those goals, we can integrate the observations and wise counsel of others, and have experience in the wider world. But we enhance our well-being if our goals and the way to achieve them are true to what is within us rather than imposed from the outside by parents, teachers, or others.
This may not be easy but the payoff can be life changing.