People naturally think of themselves as one person. But your one person is composed of three different selves: your Past-Based Self, your Present-Based Self, and your Future-Based Self.
Your Past-Based Self is who you believe you were in the past. It’s who you are when you dwell on your memories.
Your Future-Based Self is who you believe you’re going to be in the future. It’s who you are when you focus on your goals.
Your Present-Based Self is usually dominated by either one or the other of these two selves.
Only one of them can be dominant at a time; the one you choose colors your experience of the present moment and determines what you’re capable of right now.
To preserve and protect.
The Past-Based Self’s prime motivation is preservation, because it imagines that the past is where everything important, enjoyable, and meaningful happened. It resists the new, because any change threatens the possibility that you might somehow get to relive the past. This notion doesn’t make much conscious sense, but that’s how the Past-Based Self lives: unconsciously. This is where most people live–resisting their future, preferring to cling to the past, and reacting only when the future inevitably appears.
The Past-Based Self is driven by fear. It does everything it can to preserve the security and reassurance of the past by keeping things constant and predictable. There’s one major problem with this: There are no more rewards for you in the past.
No risk at all.
The Future-Based Self is attracted to new things. It wants to create and move forward, because it’s driven by expectation. The Past-Based Self might think all this hope about the future is unrealistic, but there’s far more evidence to show that you’ve consistently created solutions and become more capable. How could you possibly become less capable?
By establishing goals and following the momentum of your Future-Based Self, you have the opportunity to create new things with confidence and clarity. There’s no risk in future-focus, because the past cant be lost. True, it’s no longer available, but it acts as a rich source of lessons and memories to carry forward with us. Meanwhile, the future is unscripted, full of endless possibility.
The future as a tool.
This might seem like a theoretical distinction, this talk about the direction of your thoughts, but determining the focus of your thoughts is nothing less than deciding between stagnation and growth, nostalgia and possibility. The future and the past are not available in the present, but they do exert a great influence over our experience of the present moment and the actions we can take in it.
The unknown can be frightening. As an entrepreneur, though, you’re accustomed to a high level of risk, and have a mindset that can transform that vague uneasiness into a vision that provides a set of clear actions to take. When others complain about manipulation and powerlessness, you know that your future belongs to you.
How do you begin doing this? Observe your thoughts over the next little while.
If you’re operating from your Past-Based Self, you’ll find yourself worrying about losing something you’ve had or about something bad from the past happening again.
When you shift into your Future-Based Self, you’ll see a future that’s completely new, something more than just an echo of the past. You’ll see that your capabilities will naturally increase throughout your life.
Instead of reacting to events, you can articulate a future that you want and take the appropriate steps to reach it. The more you trust in your ability to create the future, the bigger and bolder your dreams will become.[Ed. Note. Dan Sullivan is the president and co-founder of Strategic Coach®, a global organization that has helped tens of thousands of entrepreneurs grow their businesses exponentially while enjoying an exceptional quality of life. He is the author of more than 30 publications on the subject of entrepreneurship.]