Present you vs Future you: who wins?

I was in the middle of a conversation with one of my food coaching clients a few days ago, when I just felt the need to stop and congratulate him.

That’s because, by looking at the way he trains, eats, sleeps, and all the smaller or bigger habits that he does consistently, his lifestyle is starting to look more like an athlete’s than that of an average recreational runner.

It’s not perfect, but trust me that he is taking much better care of himself and being more consistent in his trainings than runners with much more experience and better results.

Of course, he doesn’t train at the pace of a pro athlete, that wouldn’t make sense now (it would actually hurt him and his goals if he even tried). But he’s challenging himself constantly, according to his abilities, and social, work, and family life, and that’s what matters. Also, he might not keep the same compliance over the entire year, but he knows that he can.

However, most of us find it difficult to align what we are doing now with where we want to get. I sometimes have to remind some people that, even though they want to drop 10 kilos, they are eating as if they had 20 kilos extra. Two different sides of the same person.

And I see this issue with most people, even myself. There’s a big discrepancy between what Present You wants to do and what Future You wants his/her life to look like.

Take me, for example. Present Carmen didn’t really feel like writing this article. Neither did she feel like running 13k in loops of 1k this morning. Netflix and chill would have been more appealing. But that’s what Present Carmen has to do in order to become Future Carmen.

It’s one thing to want to achieve something and it’s a totally different thing to act on it, one small step at a time, consistently.

Self sabotaging your growth

Unfortunately, when we say that we want a result, but act towards another one, we’re only sabotaging ourselves. And it’s a double trouble, because we’re not just wasting time, but we’re wasting precious energy, too.

We put ourselves at risk of feeling frustrated that we’re not getting there, even though we gave everything we had (but we actually didn’t).

Here’s what leads to self sabotaging most times:

  • Chasing instant gratification -> aka “I want to lose weight, but I want this cake now in my belly”. Which often leads to cognitive dissonance -> “I’m actually not that fat, so I can have some cake and I’ll be ok”.

    It’s so difficult to resist temptations in the present for a result that we want to achieve and that will only happen sometime in the future.
  • Low levels of energy, motivation, and self esteem. Like when you would do something for your goal, but what’s the point?

    When you start doubting yourself, my advice is to find the things that used to motivate you before, or if not, focus on finding new ones – do you need a coach? A support group? Do you train better in the gym than you do at home? Make it fun. Changing your state and energy level will help you recenter and trust the process.
  • Not seeing results fast enough. This one is tricky, but it’s especially valid when it comes to nutrition.

    I’m the first to be against rapid weight loss and extreme dieting. However, when I first start working with someone who wants to lose weight, even a 100g of weight lost matters. It doesn’t have a physical impact in the grand scheme of things, it might not be noticeable at all, but even a small decrease on the scale has an incredible motivating power and helps with the client’s long term commitment.

Whenever I notice this discrepancy between their Present Self and Future Self in others – either clearly stated or in their choice of words when they talk about how they’re doing – I remind them about the two characters “fighting” to get what they want. And then I ask them: “who do you support in this fight?”

You don’t become a pro athlete by keeping the lifestyle and habits of a recreational runner. You don’t get to 60 kilos by eating like a 100 kilos person. And you definitely don’t become a better person or professional by refusing to invest in your own growth and just doing what you’ve been doing, business as usual.

Try this exercise

Here’s a simple exercise that you can do. Make sure you practice it when you’re alone, without any distractions.

Think about what you want to achieve. What kind of person would you like to be in 6 months or in 6 years from now. And start writing down your daily schedule, what your work would look like, how much work you’d do, what you’d eat, how you’d train, how your relationships would look like and what you’d be doing to make them work.

Then, start doing the work to get there, step by step. Start as compliant and consistent as you can be with the things you can already do – such as investing more time in what matters to you or eating healthier – and give yourself time to grow and improve on the aspects where you’re not yet there.

Surrounding yourself with people who love you and who can fuel your trust in the process helps a huge deal.

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