Past Me and Future Me

We don’t always realize it, but right now, there are three selves making decisions.

The weakest of all is present self. Present self is lazy, and would rather play video games than clean up the house or catch up on reading. Present self feels fear and stays in rather than going out and meeting new people. Present self understands risk in a limited, childish way. Basically, present self is stupid.

Past self is the one that has big aspirations and dreams you should be following through on right now. Past self made New Year’s resolutions last week and would like you to follow through on it. Past self is idealistic and hasn’t made too many compromises.

Future self is the one that really understands risk– he or she is the one who will miss out if the right decisions aren’t made today. Future self is calm and relaxed. Future self understands that making mistakes is ok, because he or she is fine even though you made them. Future self thinks about legacy.

Past self is still a child in all the right ways– wide eyed and fascinated by the new. Future self is a wise old man or woman– patient and calm and understanding consequences, while still able to see the bigger picture.

As time goes on, I try to listen less and less to present me, and more to past or future me. Present me has let me down too many times when I counted on it. I have more confidence in past and future me. They guide me better.

Who are you trusting with your decisions? Think about it.





12 responses to “Past Me and Future Me”

  1. Andrew Frenette Avatar
    Andrew Frenette

    Present self has largely obliterated the other two in my life. I’ve become so focused on just day-to-day survival, cloaked in a mask of self imposed limitations, that past and future selves are struggling for air.

    Thank you for pointing this out to me. I will endeavour to allow the suppressed selves more frequent opportunities to voice their concerns and aspirations.

    As usual, a great post.

    1. Julien Avatar

      Thanks Andrew. It actually took me forever to figure this out. It’s one of those tips I feel like people should be taught it grade school, that’s how much it’s helped me.

  2. Tamsen Avatar

    There’s danger in letting any of the three take over, of course. Each has their siren song: Past Self dwells in what could have been, Present Self dwells in the lush tactility of now, and Future Self sees all that could yet still be.

    But each also has lessons: Past makes us what we are, Present sets who we’ll be, and Future shows us a galaxy of lodestars from which to choose. Perhaps that’s why it’s so easy to forsake the Future Self: it deals in abstraction and reality not yet lived–and holds Present accountable.

  3. Carolyn Avatar

    I regularly write notes to my future self and at every milestone in the future, when I arrived at it, my present self reports back to my past self and revise the notes to my future self. I wonder what it’ll be like to talk to my next life.

  4. John McLachlan Avatar

    This is a really fresh way of looking at it and it sure got me thinking.

    I spend a lot of time with present me but I think one of the big reasons for this is that the present me is also where I really am, right now. The challenge seems to be, giving time amidst the turmoil of easy distractions to let those other two be a part.

  5. Ben Ziegler Avatar

    Very interesting Julien. Not sure I got my head around your idea (if it took some time for it to gel with you, I’m almost certain I don’t!). Part of connecting past to future though reminds me of an Indian concept of time – imagining time as a spiral (vs. our western linear picture of time) – which opens up the possibility that answers to the future may be somewhere behind us!

  6. Ben Aldern Avatar

    Julien, I can’t tell you how much I dig your posts. You consistently pick out observations I’ve made and then phrase them elegantly and slap me in the face for not realizing their importance.


  7. Hani Avatar

    I understand where your’e at with the present self. Many-a-times I find myself there too! 😛
    However, I usually look to the future me, cuz the past me used to be the present me, so not exactly a great point of reference. And I don’t want my past experience and fears to shape my present and future decisions. So I usually look to the future as a point of focus – like even if i’m feeling lazy, as long as I have a focus point I know where I’m headed..

    I have no idea what i’m saying. Does this make sense? o_0

  8. Alexia Avatar

    Wow- that’s a very… useable way to look at it. It’s the sort of concept that I sensed somewhere under the surface but couldn’t really put into words. As I was putting away the Christmas tree this year, I was thinking of how few of the resolutions of the previous year had been met, and how I was thinking the same exact thing LAST year when I was un-decorating and putting away the tree. So I wrote all my “resolutions” down, plus a statement about how another year was wasted if I disregarded them as usual- and stuffed it into one of the stockings… that way i’ll REALLY feel like a jackass if I haven’t accomplished them. Great post!

  9. Dana Helland Avatar
    Dana Helland

    This reminds me of a book I’m reading… Called Stumbling Upon Happiness. The author brings this up. I’m always planning for future me – making decisions based on who I think I’ll be. But.. who is that, even? If I compare now me to old me, in some cases it’s so disparate, it seems silly that I ever tried to make decisions based on what the now me wants to do. Regardless, the fact that we can even spend time ruminating on this makes me feel really fortunate in general 🙂

  10. Dana Helland Avatar
    Dana Helland

    (Oh, and the random comment a bazillion months after you wrote this, is thanks to your linking to it in your most recent post!)

  11. Ehdaa.h Avatar


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