Do you sometimes find yourself split between Self-control and will to give in?
Or facing a tough choice between sticking your long-term goals or indulging right now for a treat?

E.g. Hesitation between a healthy meal to stick to your healthy diet and a junk meal to comfort you from all the stressful day. Or willing to wake up early as you decided in your new resolutions and the desire to sleep 15 more minutes to compensate yesterday’s night.

Human behaviors. Do not blame yourself, these are very common human patterns. Putting the blame on you will not help, it has been demonstrated that it will likely incite you to give in again!

Current and Future Self

However, there is a trick you can use right now to maximize your chances to stick to your long-term goals. I came across a study conducted by the Psychologist Hal Ersner-Hershfield, which echoed to a major change in my life that subsequently increased my willpower.

Briefly, what Ersner-Hershfield discovered was that we tend to see our Future Self as a stranger. Actually, many studies came to the same conclusion. We often have a blurry perception of the person we will become in the future. That’s a major problem when trying to commit and act for long-term goals.

Treating our Future as a Stranger has an unconscious impact on the way we act on a daily basis: our mind tends for immediate rewards rather than delaying possible gratifications. Obviously! Because delaying gratification in the purpose of satisfying a Stranger makes no sense.

Example: when we set the goal of losing weight with a poor visualization of our Self, we start eating healthy for a couple of days, fine. Comes the day where a wonderful chocolate tart stares at us from a bakery. We look at it, wondering. It will be very hard to resist and the mind is very likely to give in, in this moment. The reason is that unconsciously, we prioritize the immediate reward now because the efforts we are making seem to be for the benefit one someone else. No point hassling ourselves right now for someone we don’t know?

Clarify and be consistent with your Future Self!

People having a clear picture of their Future Self are more likely to take consistent actions with the objectives they set. The more we know who we want to become, the greater the chances to stick to what we plan and want.

These findings made a lot of sense to me. They helped me understand how I came to so much self-control and willpower now compared to 10 years ago.

How it relates to my story

During my terrible Eating Disorders years, I was not able to plan for the Future. I actually hated talking about it, thinking about Me later on. I could not see this existing. And I was struggling to rebalance my life and stick to it … Truly struggling, because I was always giving in to what appealed me in the moment (food, alcohol, cigarettes, watching TV, etc.).

The day where I profoundly shifted inside, I decided that I will now engage in 1 transformative year. I set myself the goal of meeting a Healthy Alice 1 year later. I had built an image of the person I wanted to see in the mirror.
Success. This year has been an amazingly unexpected change.

A new person was born and was increasingly moving towards a peaceful and desired life. I started planning ahead, setting long-term goals (both personal and professional!). It was a hard task in the beginning but I got familiar with it and engaged in regular vision exercises. Setting a vision for the next 10 years became a pleasurable task.

Interestingly, these last years have been rich in successes and impressive of willpower to move in the direction I initially set. I am still amazed myself!

My Take-away from this

The lesson is that the more you clarify who you want to become, the more your current actions will be consistent with your Future Self. Confront yourself with your desires, your dreams.
Answer these questions:

  • Who do you want to be?
  • Why? What is the purpose behind?
  • How?
  • When?
  • What will you see and tell yourself once you have succeeded?

I sincerely hope this finding was useful to you, as it has been an interesting discovery that got me reflect on my personal experience.

If you are willing to understand where you want to go and be consistent with your Future Self, reach out to me at alice@aliceavril.com! I will share with you key productive exercises to set your goals!

aliceavril.com