One day, I decided to wear a pair of jeans that I hadn’t worn in a long time.
While trying it on, I realised that I no longer had to struggle to get it past my hips, and that zipping it up was easy when before, it was near impossible.
The best part? There I was, wearing my favorite pair of jeans that I hadn’t worn in years—not because I didn’t want to, but because I couldn’t thanks to the extra 22 pounds or so I’d been carrying around on my tiny frame—with room to spare.
It felt good to know that the past 12 months of consistently working on getting my emotional eating under control had paid off.
Later on, while fiddling around with my jean pockets, I fished out a 100-dollar bill. I don’t know when I’d stashed it there (I sometimes do, ‘just in case’), but discovering it was a happy surprise. It felt like a gift I’d put aside for my future self to find.
In that moment, I realised something: That every second of every day, we’re doing something that shapes our tomorrow.
Every second of every day, we’re either giving ourselves a gift that will help make our future self happier, healthier and wiser… or not. Every day, we have an estimated 35,000 opportunities to make a choice that will benefit out future self, of which about 200 involve making food-related decisions.
Some of these gifts yield their cumulative payoff in a matter of hours, days or weeks, but more often than not, they unfold slowly and quietly much later down the road, much like the way our bodies get slimmer, healthier and stronger with time as we put in the necessary effort.
Today, I’m doing my best to give my future self gifts that will make a big difference in my life months and years from now, but I know that these gifts don’t have to be huge or expensive.
In fact, the best ones are often the tiniest.
Here are 10 small, but impactful gifts that you can start giving to your future self, today:
GIFT #1: forgive yourself
All of us have pain that we hold on to — pain from mistakes that we’d made, self-inflicted hurt or hurt that we allowed someone else to inflict upon us. As a result, we feel a dark, heavy cloud constantly hovering above our heads, following us everywhere we go. It eats away at our happiness and stops us from venturing beyond our comfort zone to reach for our dreams.
Photo credit: Ben White/Unsplash
Lighten your load by acknowledging these mistakes. Yes, you made some of them happen, and you allowed others to happen to you. But they don’t define who you are. More importantly, they do not define your future.
Every moment you experience is already in the past, and all you can do is to focus on making the moments to come, better.
You can do this by forgiving yourself.
GIFT #2: be PRESENT
It’s easy to get lost in the chaos of life.
There are deadlines to meet, friends to catch up with, the Joneses to keep up with, more hours to be spent at the office, in-laws to contend with, worrying to do, bills to pay and well, you get the picture.
What about being still and actually enjoying the taste of your coffee while you’re drinking it? Or really listening to what your best friend is saying as she’s telling you about her day over dinner instead of replaying the argument you had with your boss in your head over and over again?
What about slowing down just enough so you notice that you’re craving for a bagel because you’re stressed out and in need of a distraction, not because you’re hungry?
The more often you give yourself and the people around you the gift of your undivided presence, the more you’ll truly live your life.
GIFT #3: NURTURE A HEALTHY AND CAPABLE BODY
When you’re going through your day, you want to have focus and energy to serve the people you do amazing work for. You want to feel at ease in your own skin and look good in the clothes you wear. When you’re in the bedroom with your partner, you want to look good and feel confident naked.
You want to have the stamina to make it up 17 flights of stairs to your apartment when the elevator breaks down, or be able to carry your 80-pound dog to the car when she’s sick.
You want to have a meal and feel nourished and satisfied after, not bloated, guilty and lethargic because you’d overeaten….again.
In other words, you want to feel good being you so that you can focus all your attention on living your life to the fullest.
So while this point may sound old and cliched, I think it’s still worth saying again and again: Treating your body right and doing everything you can to keep it healthy, strong and capable is probably the most important gift you can give your future self.
GIFT #4: rest, guilt-free
As our list of responsibilities pile sky high, it can be easy to discount the importance of rest so that we can get more done in the few hours that we have daily, but I’m here to tell you that it’s not only important, it’s necessary.
Photo credit: Ana Sophia Guerreirinho
It’s necessary to wake up in morning gently and peacefully so you can ease yourself into a new day. It’s necessary to steal those ten to twenty minutes in the middle of your day to power nap, be still and quiet or just connect with yourself. It’s necessary to make those 30 to 60 minutes before bed calming and blissful so that you can give your body the rest and rejuvenation it needs.
It’s necessary because the people who love and care about you are counting on you to be the happiest and most present version of you around them.
GIFT #5: stay away from happiness THIEVES
You likely know who I’m talking about: The workout buddy who constantly nit-picks at your imperfections without thinking to look in the mirror. The passive-aggressive colleague who says “sure” but actually means “nah”, so nothing gets done.
The narcissistic date who thinks it’s OK to chat up someone else on his phone…right in front of you. The business partners who decide that it’s perfectly acceptable to make crucial decisions…behind your back.
The friend who’s resentful of your success and makes it known with their hurtful behavior, instead of being happy and supportive of you and the path you’ve chosen.
Some of these stressful events are big, others are small, but they all have one thing in common: They steal your happiness.
While it isn’t always possible or practical to cut a toxic person out of your life, you can make a conscious decision to spend less time with them to reduce the cumulative negative effects that they have on you. You can also make a conscious decision to spend more time with the people who get you, lift you up, genuinely care about you and share the joys (and sorrows) that come your way.
Don’t let your happiness be taken away from you.
It won’t be easy, but the sooner you take this step, the better off your future self will be.
GIFT #6: be ok with saying “no”
There’s only one of you, and you only have 24 hours in a day. So if you’re saying “yes” to everyone and everything, the chances of you having zero time to take care of you or do the things that matter to you are extremely high.
The most effective remedy for calming (and reducing) this chaos? Learn how to say “no”.
This means deciding which people, projects and commitments mean the most to you and stepping away from the rest. Your next step to making this work? Practice saying “no” with certainty, confidence and a generous touch of empathy.
GIFT #7: LIVE WITH GRATITUDE
Apart from the fact that gratitude feels good, it comes with a host of other scientifically-proven benefits, which include more positive relationships, better sleep, higher self-esteem and greater mental resilience.
A great way — and one that I’ve found to be effective in helping me ease into my day on a high note — to enjoy more of these benefits is right after you wake up.
Here’s how: Think of 3 things or people that you’re grateful for the minute you open your eyes. Even better, write them down in a gratitude journal like this one by Catherine Price.
GIFT #8: simplify your life
The older we get, the more clutter we accumulate.
And it’s not just material things that can clog up our lives — we also get bogged down by our incessant worrying and unrestrained thoughts; technology (hello social media overload!); an unhealthy diet full of processed foods; familial, work and social obligations (hands up if you’re dreading that next PTA meeting, dinner with the in-laws or the party for your colleague’s best friend’s friend that you don’t know why you said “yes” to); check boxes to tick off (still working on that list of New Year’s resolutions?); not to mention the emotional baggage that we inevitably get saddled with as we go through life.
This is where considering going down the path of minimalism can help lighten your future physical and emotional load, and those of us who do choose to for many different reasons — some out of a desire to opt out of the pressure that society places on us to want and have more, some wanting to live a life with as little self-inflicted complication as possible, and just as many who need to live with less out of sheer necessity.
Photo credit: I’m Priscilla/Unsplash
I’m no expert on minimalism and am still discovering what feels right for me, so I rely on my fellow bloggers in the simple-living space for guidance in this area. If this is something you’d like to learn more about, I recommend that you read this post by Joshua Becker.
GIFT #9: have a growth mindset
Your mindset is your world.
This is the message renowned Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, Carol Dweck, puts forth in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success.
Most people fall into two mindset camps: Fixed or growth.
For those who fall into the fixed mindset camp, life is all about proving that they’re smart and talented, and craving for validation because they believe that so much of themselves — their personality, intelligence, character and creative ability — are carved in stone, with no room for improvement. Because of this, they avoid stretching themselves beyond their comfort zone and avoid failure at all costs.
In contrast, those who live with a growth mindset thrive on challenges and see failure as an opportunity to….well, grow.
Two different ways of approaching the world, resulting in two different sets of thoughts and actions, and ultimately, two different paths.
Which one will you take?
GIFT #10: stop giving a f**k
Don’t get me wrong.
I’m not talking about being indifferent to the people and things around you. What I am talking about is knowing enough about who you are and how you want to live your life to care only for the people and things that mean the most to you and have the biggest impact on your life.
This means not giving a f**k about what people are saying about you at the office, if Sandra down the street approves of you…or not, or what the world would think of you if they knew that you owned every Britney Spears’ album known to mankind.
This means not allowing the trivial and petty things life — mindless gossip, passive aggressiveness from folks who have nothing better to do in life than to be passive aggressive, rejection, bad traffic, or the type of car you should be driving cos, you know…some people seem to care A LOT about this kind of thing — to get under your skin and eat away at your happiness for days, weeks, months or worse, years.
So no, I don’t want you to not care about everything. I just want you to stop giving a f**k about everything that’s not important to you in life.
For the ultimate guide to not giving a f**k, read The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck: A Counterintuitive Approach To Living A Good Life by Mark Manson.
ARE YOU HELPING OR HURTING YOUR FUTURE SELF?
If you’re too busy surviving, chances are, you’re not thriving. You’re feeling tired, unhealthy, unmotivated and just plain worn-out from life. I’ve created a FREE workbook just for busy folks like you who want to take back their health, peace of mind and happiness. To get your copy, all you have to do is ask for one to be emailed to you HERE. No spam. Just helpful, good-for-you stuff. Pinky swear.
Cover Photo credit: Simone Perrone/Magdeleine