Your Future Self is a Lie, and Your Reliability Depends on that Understanding!

I used to joke privately whenever I made a big purchase or went out to dinner for the fifth time in a week. I would say: “I am leaving this to the least reliable person I know to pay the bill, my future self”. Then I would force down the rising tide of panic at the thought of my credit card balance as I handed it over for yet another meal or toy I didn’t really need. This tendency to relegate important tasks to the future extended to other parts of my life. This caused many people to eventually question my reliability, and that is a place you never want to find yourself.

I couldn’t really grasp the nature of this problem at the time. Only in recent years have I become aware that my future self was an entirely fictional personification of my worst traits. I projected my laziness, ennui, and avoidance into this entity that I was casually joking about. The result? I would take no action at worst, or limited action at best. The problem wasn’t my future self, it was my attitude in the current moment. This attitude, projected into my future state caused feelings of helplessness.

In this post, I will make two points out of this brief glimpse into a personal challenge. First, how to avoid relegating important decisions and actions to the future, and second, how to rebuild when you feel that your reliability is in a fragile state. Why is this important? Because reliability lays the foundation for trust and without it, your relationships, personal, social, and business, will falter and ultimately fail.

Let’s start with clearing up a misconception about the future self. If you follow the reasoning of many philosophers and let’s face it, many entrepreneurs, the idea of the future self is discarded in favor of the ever-present moment. Therefore, it is impossible to relegate anything to the future self since it doesn’t actually exist. Any action you take can only ever be taken in the present moment, no matter when that present moment happens. So the quick and dirty answer is that reliability happens in the moment, not in the future.

Now we can tackle the question of your reliability in the present moment. Answer the following questions as honestly as you can and pay attention to how the answers make you feel. There is no grading or reliability scale for this.

  • In the last six months have you been able to accomplish more than half of the personal goals you set out for yourself?
  • In the last six months have you delivered your work projects promptly and kept management updated on delays?
  • Think of the last promise you made to a family member, your spouse, girlfriend, or your children. Or maybe your promise was to a friend or one of your social groups. Did you fulfill the promise quickly without any unnecessary delay?

The point of these questions is to look at each facet of your life: personal, professional, and social. When you make a promise, whether to yourself or another, you are making a contract that is paid through your reliability. The caveat, these questions only make sense if the promises you’re making are ones you have full intention of completing. The promises you make to shut someone up, or to make yourself feel better only serve to undermine and destroy your reliability.

Now let’s get the obvious point out of the way. If you’ve been able to accomplish at least half of your personal goals, maintained your productivity and regular delivery of work projects, and keep up your promises to friends and family, then you’re all set. You are highly reliable and you have my well-deserved envy. CONGRATULATIONS!

So what happens if, like me, you find yourself feeling like you could do better? Well, the first step is to stop feeling sorry for yourself and acknowledge the fault. Next, you start working on your reliability.

  • Recall a promise made in each of the areas listed above, write them down if you have to.
  • Ask for clarification if you are unsure.
  • See the promise through to completion.

Your goal here is to stop the tendency to relegate promises and activities to your future self. If it can be done now, then do it. If you need to wait, then take an action against it now, even if you’re just setting a reminder on your phone. Both follow-through and delivery are paramount in taking your reliability up a notch. When you deliver on your promise, be sure to include the phrase: “Thank you for your patience”. This shows that you are still in control.

So what happens if you find yourself in a position where you are no longer trusted or seen as reliable? Well, from there you need to climb your way out of the hole your actions have created. This is a lot more difficult since you are starting from a position of negative trust. You had a trusting relationship, or perhaps one of neutral trust, and let it fall to pieces through neglect and broken promises.

Your first step is to seek forgiveness. This is the most critical step as it shows others that you’re aware of your shortcomings and willing to work on them. This is also the most painful of the steps. You will stand before those whose trust you betrayed and ask them for another chance, and there’s the possibility that you won’t get it.

Your next step is to forgive yourself. Yes, it may seem strange and a bit new age to state this, but the fact is you can’t move ahead if you’re thinking about the mistakes you’ve made in the past. It is also highly likely that the previous step has brought to your attention a number of betrayals you never knew about or had forgotten. You need to accept these as past faults and forgive yourself before you can move on. This must be done even if the betrayed has not forgiven you.

Next is action. It’s not enough to seek forgiveness, you must act on that forgiveness or you may forever destroy the relationship you’re seeking to save. Look for those opportunities to improve on your reliability and exploit them to the fullest. Make promises then act on them immediately.

Finally, track your progress. You can use a journal to jot down the promises you’ve made and how you intend to honor them. I also suggest that at least once a month you follow up with those to whom you’ve made promises to see how you are doing and how you can make further improvements.

Now, normally writers, bloggers, or other authors won’t go into this next part since it’s quite a bit more negative and destructive. Perhaps your reliability is so shot to hell that it’s no longer worth trying to revive it. Perhaps the forgiveness you were seeking was withheld or the cost in action is too high to pay. In extreme cases it may be more beneficial for all involved, including you, to leave it all behind. Break your connections, burn what’s left of the bridge, and move on to the next chapter of your life. This path may find you in another job, another town or state, or possibly in another country altogether. From there you can start from scratch and build the reliability and trust that you know you’re capable of.

So where’s our bottom line? Your future self is lie and your reliability depends on your understanding. Since we don’t exist in any moment other than the present then relegating action to a future version of ourselves is pointless and ultimately destructive to our relationships. To this point, if you want to improve your reliability and the trust others place in you it is important to act on promises quickly and frequently. If, however, you find yourself bereft of trust from others, then it’s time to either put significant effort into repair, or turn and walk away. There only wrong action is inaction.

Back On Track After a Late Start – 3 Ways to Recover from Waking Up Late

It’s 5:30 in the morning and my Google Home is blaring an alarm at me. I crack open an eye and the room is still dark. “Hey Google, stop.” I manage to call out. My eyes close and another hour slips by. Now I’m behind schedule.

The early morning has gold in its mouth – Benjamin Franklin

Waking early is perhaps the most direct aspect of control you can wield in building your polymathic mindset. Mind you, what is early to me is downright crazy to another. Bottom line, we all know the benefits of waking early, whether we chose to follow the advice or not. So what do you do if this is your goal, and you fall short? Let’s take a look at my schedule for today.

I know, normally I try not to uber-schedule my day, but I’m in experimentation mode right now. So, what is the effect of that extra hour of sleep? Well, everything I wanted to get done from 5:30 to 6:30 get’s pushed back. Admittedly there’s not much between 5:30 and 6:30, but I really like my leisurely coffee, breakfast, shower, and other success habits that make the rest of my day. Instead, I’m rewarded with rushing, a quick dowse of hot water for my shower, and a choked down breakfast. Why? Well, I have to meet my 6:50 AM obligation of grocery shopping. Don’t scoff, I know you all do the same thing. Rush through the items you’ve missed in order to catch up to the schedule. The result? Pandemonium, anxiety, and next… Full blown freak out. So how do you stop it? Three steps:

  1. Halt the Freak Out
  2. Find Your Inner Stoic
  3. Get Ahead of Your Next Task

These steps are in a specific order. You cannot get a head of your next task or even find your inner stoic if you’re in full freak out mode.

Step 1: Halt the Freak Out (Objective: Recenter in the Now)

Alright… You overslept… You’ve managed a quick shower, burned your breakfast, attempted to make your bed, ate the burned breakfast, and now it’s 20 after 7, a full 30 minutes after you planned to start shopping. This is going to set back the entirety of your day, everything will need to be pushed back. The anxiety is building as you rush, and forget. You pull out of the driveway, pull back in, run inside to grab your wallet. It goes on and on (this actually happened to me this morning with an additional trip back home to grab my mask). How do you stop? Break the future rush and recenter in the now.

  • Take 3 deep breaths. Breath in, hold for ten seconds, breath out, hold for ten seconds, and repeat.
  • Look at your hands. Your hands are your most direct connection to the world. Touch a wall, or some other object to ground yourself.
  • Say out loud what it is you are doing, right now. If you are touching a wall say: “I am standing in the hallway, touching this wall.”

These steps sound silly, but it is the fastest way to stop a freak out centered on future (or even past) thoughts. Recenter yourself in the now.

Step 2: Find your Inner Stoic (Objective: Control Your Response)

Now that you’ve managed to find your center and your ground, it is time to put it into perspective. Accept that you overslept, and that the time is gone. You cannot control the past, but you can control your reaction to it.

  • Affirm to yourself: “I control my response to the world around me.”
  • Review your schedule for the current task and reschedule or cancel if necessary.
  • Look to the next item on your schedule.

Step 3: Get Ahead of your Next Task (Objective: Get Back on Track)

You’ve stopped freaking out and found your peace of mind. The next step is to get yourself back on track. Adjust your schedule to get ahead of the next task in line. By getting back on track the rest of your day will fall in line and you’ll find yourself just as productive as you would have been had you rolled out of bed on time.

What are your thoughts on oversleeping? How do you recover, or do you not recover at all?

Dealing with Loss from the Perspective of Control

There is a lot written, too much, if you ask me, concerning how to deal with loss. There are arguments for crying, screaming, and letting your emotions run free. There are arguments for just letting it go. There are even arguments that reassure you that you’re still the special snowflake you are and that you still matter to the universe. For all the reassurances, practices, and silliness surrounding loss, you can’t get around a single glaring fact. It sucks.

Continue reading “Dealing with Loss from the Perspective of Control”

Looking Back as a Sore Winner

Recently I went for a walk/jog along a local bike trail. The idea, initially, was to eat a healthy breakfast that was fresh from the grocery store, then trek out to the neighboring town to grab a cup of coffee at the local Starbucks. I had taken the path before, and new how long it was, and yet I still failed to account for a number of factors. Unfortunately, hindsight is not always 20-20. My idea turned into a brutal 4 hour long 14-mile roundtrip. My legs weren’t prepared for the work, and 24 hours later my ankles are still swollen.

While self-control, determination (grit), and the willingness to tough it out are all admirable qualities, a little self-knowledge would have served me better before starting the trip. Perhaps some of you know the inscription engraved on the above the entrance to the oracle at Delphi, “Know Thyself”. It is both a warning and a reminder. Without self-knowledge, without knowing ourselves we can quickly find danger on all sides. Hmm… but what does this really mean? For me, I like the approach Sun Tzu took:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

In my case I knew the terrain and the distance, and while lacking a definitive enemy I lacked knowledge of myself and capacity. That lack of knowledge resulted in a painful trip back and now two days to recover. Perhaps I should use this recovery time for a little introspection and get to know myself a bit better.

The Control Freak – Obsessive Control of Work Situations and Projects

The last part of the control freak definition is the obsessive control of situations. We’ll look at this in two parts, today we’ll look at work situations and tomorrow personal situations.

Unable to sit back and allow others to take care of a situation the control freak must jump in to save the day. This can be irritating as Hell, especially if you were managing the situation well enough without their help. At this point, however, the control freak has already decided how it’s going to be and you’re nothing more than a road bump in their path.

Continue reading “The Control Freak – Obsessive Control of Work Situations and Projects”

Continuing with the Control Freak – Naggers, Micromanagers, and the Rest of Us

For those of you reading daily, thank you for allowing me a brief respite from the topic of the control freak. Today we’re back to look at the other aspect of the control freak, the obsessive need to exert control over others. These are the nagging spouses/parents and micromanagers that we may have to deal with as we try to get through the day. Often well intentioned (initially), these types can quickly get on your nerves and degenerate to howling beasts if you ignore them long enough. The trick, as you will learn today, is to defuse them without rewarding the behavior. Remember, knowledge is your greatest weapon when it comes to control.

Continue reading “Continuing with the Control Freak – Naggers, Micromanagers, and the Rest of Us”

Some Thoughts on Self-Control

Good morning friends, this morning’s post on the Control Freak will have to wait another day, it’s gotten a bit more involved than I initially thought, especially when it comes down to micromanagers and naggers. The post will go up Wednesday morning after I’ve had a bit more time to tease out the specifics and, most importantly, worked through how to deal with these types of people. Today’s post outlines some of my thoughts on self-control and how to work through the roadblocks that inevitably pop up.

Continue reading “Some Thoughts on Self-Control”

Controlling Oneself in a World That Rewards the Opposite

Alright, welcome back, today we’re looking at the control freak, specifically those who feel an obsessive need to exercise control over themselves. Now, a little self-control is good for you, but I can understand where taking it to obsessive lengths can cause problems for yourself and others.

First off, I want to make one thing clear, I’m going to stay away from the topic of controlling a situation through obsessive actions. Also known as obsessive compulsive spectrum disorders these actions stem from an imbalance in the brain. I’m not inclined to think of the control freak as a type of mental disorder, yet…

Now, as I said above, a little self-control is good for you. Self-control can help you stick to your gym routine, your diet or other health plan, or even help you to get to work on time. All these things can help you out in the long run and help you towards your final goals. It’s when you let your obsession for self-control run your life that shit gets out of control.

Universe Shit (2)

Now, the normal person can see the shit the universe is throwing at him and decide to roll with it. As you can see above the universe doesn’t like to play nice and doesn’t give a damn about your need for control. The control freak, as described above, will take the shit from the universe and try to deflect it by controlling themselves, often to the detriment to others. An example would be an employee leaving for the gym in the middle of an important project just because that is the time they always go to the gym. They are exerting self-control, but at an obsessive level.

Here we have a lesson that expands on our topics from last week. You’ve found your need for control and you’re starting to exercise it, only to run into a situation where exercising control could cause an issue. Taking control doesn’t mean that you neglect the rights and feelings of those around you just so that you can do what you want. There will be times when you need to concede control so that you’re not viewed as hardheaded or difficult. This is especially important when you are first starting out and your friends and family are not used to you exerting control.

We’ve now established that the universe isn’t too keen on your attempts to control yourself and your surroundings, so what can you do? The first thing is to ignore the memes and viral videos on the internet. We’ve grown into a culture that rewards idiots and those who can scream the loudest on YouTube. Getting upvotes and likes for acting the fool might get you a couple followers, but ultimately there are thousands upon thousands of other people trying to do the same thing. You’ve become nothing more than another face in a sea of faces.

Perhaps even more disturbing, we’ve become a culture that can pass judgement instantaneously regardless of the unseen circumstances leading up to a video clip or quote that becomes nothing more than a sound bite. Companies are being brought down and people are being hunted for a moment in indiscretion that happened to be captured digitally. What can we do?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but here are a couple common sense items that come to mind.

The World is Listening, Mind What You Say – Never before have so many cameras been on us… Did you hear that Papa John had to step down due to a racial slur? He didn’t use it to describe anyone. He didn’t use it out of anger or as part of a tirade. He simply stated a well-known fact about Colonel Sanders and suffered a lapse in judgment in doing so. Oddly enough the statement was made during a discussion on how to prevent future PR disasters. Read Here

The World is Watching, Mind What You Do – Much the same as above, your actions can have dire consequences even when you keep your mouth shut! Check out this dumbass who got exactly what he deserved. Think before you act since there’s probably someone (or a security camera) nearby ready to catch you doing something stupid. He may have spent his weekend in jail, but now that the internet has this video I’m guessing his trouble is only just starting.

Be a Good Person – I know it’s a bit cliched, but all you really need to do is be a good person. You may have a maelstrom of emotions churning below the surface, but if you’re able to harness a bit of self-control, put on a smile and make it through your day without chewing someone up and spitting them out then you’re doing pretty good.

I want to wrap up this section by saying that obsessive self-control isn’t the way to go. It might start you out on the path towards your goals but will ultimately annoy everyone around you. A healthy amount of self-control and a willingness to allow the universe its way will help you get far in life. And for those moments where you’re pushed to your limit of control just remember, it’s harder to find forgiveness in a world where your blunder is never forgotten.