How often do you think about your future self? Do you have habits and mindsets that are leading you toward that ideal future self?
The fact that we as humans are always changing and never static can be a freeing realization. I am not the same person I was last week or even yesterday because of a thing called “gain.”
I have gained experiences, wisdom, perspective, and even life skills that are helping me develop into a new (and hopefully) improved human being over time.
Today’s guest believes wholeheartedly that no matter what traumas have happened to you in life, there is a way to look at every experience and gain something positive from it. These positive gains can help you and others become victorious over circumstances and allow you to move fully into your future selves.
I had a great conversation with organizational psychologist Dr. Benjamin Hardy. In this episode, we discuss how to overcome trauma and use it for growth, why you should make plans on behalf of your future self, how to reshape your identity if you’re feeling stuck, why willpower isn’t enough when it comes to achieving your goals, how to prevent yourself from burning out in your work, and so much more!
Dr. Benjamin Hardy is an organizational psychologist and best-selling author of the books Willpower Doesn’t Work and Personality Isn’t Permanent. His blogs on productivity and psychology have been read by over 100 million people and featured in the Harvard Business Review, the New York Times, on CNBC, and many others.
He co-authored Who Not How with Dan Sullivan, which sold over 120,000 copies in the first four months of publication. Their second book titled, The Gap and The Gain: The High Achiever’s Guide to Happiness, Confidence, and Success was released in October 2021.
His blogs have been read by over 100 million people and are featured on Harvard Business Review, the New York Times, Forbes, Fortune, CNBC, and many others. For several years, he was also the #1 most-read writer on Medium.com. He and his wife Lauren have six children and live in Orlando, Florida.
We started off our conversation with something called post-traumatic growth, and when you understand the concept, it’s life-changing. Let’s dive in!
None of us come through this life unscathed, and all of us have experienced a level of trauma in some shape or form. However, we can choose to depart from those experiences with a perspective of growth or a perspective of lack or disorder.
“I think that if you approach every experience as learning, and if you take your experiences and value them and increase the value of them and know that your experiences are kind of like clay, then you can form them, shape them, and do whatever you want with them.” – Dr. Benjamin Hardy
Dr. Hardy explains that you can do whatever you want with your experiences. You can learn more from them, increase the value of them, and be better off because of them.
“I can be grateful for my experiences, or I can be worse off because of my experiences and let my experiences be the driver of my life rather than me being the driver of my own experience, and so I don’t think that there’s any experience you can have that you can’t be better off without if you choose to contextualize them in a way that benefits you and makes you better.” – Dr. Benjamin Hardy
How empowering is that? You get to decide what your past means, what that experience means, and how much value you are going to give to that experience.
Dr. Hardy admitted that he wouldn’t have become a psychologist if it hadn’t been for his experiences growing up in a broken home. Now, he is grateful for those experiences and the journey they led him on.
It’s like that popular quote, “Change is inevitable, but growth is optional.” You can choose to believe that, because of your experiences, you are now more capable than your former self.
This is opposite from a fixed mindset in which people are overly defiant about their current selves and think that this is who they are and will always be, nothing is going to change. Such people create self-fulfilling prophecies when they think that way.
“Their identity is very rooted in their present or their past whereas, in a growth mindset, their identity is more rooted in their future. They have a more flexible identity. They’re not as caught up in who they are today. They don’t need to have all the answers today. They understand that their current self is temporary.” – Dr. Benjamin Hardy
Dr. Hardy says that people, in general, are not really good about setting their future selves up for success, like planning retirement and college funds and the like. But anytime you invest in your future self, it actually gets a little bigger, and your present actually gets better. The same area that allows you to have empathy for other people actually allows you to have empathy toward your future self.
So how do we live with our future selves in mind?
Dr. Hardy has done a lot of research on the “future self” and identity. Identity is basically what you’re most committed to in terms of your beliefs, values, and how you define yourself. For instance, Dr. Hardy committed 100% to the idea that his future self was a writer, and now he has published a handful of books. He began to identify with being a writer, and his behavior then followed that 100% commitment. Amazing.
There are a few points we explored in this conversation about our future selves and identity:
Speaking of decision fatigue and fried willpower, there is a little thing that a lot of us struggle with and it’s called burnout.
“There are a lot of reasons why people burn out. One of them is decision fatigue. Maybe they’re still not really doing what they want to do, and so they’re not really excited about what they’re doing. … If you’re moving towards your desired future self and working on projects that you love, you’re being pulled toward your future self. Pull motivation is a lot more exciting than push motivation.” – Dr. Benjamin Hardy
So burnout is simply the recognition that maybe what you’re doing isn’t taking you toward your future self. Dr. Hardy suggests sitting down and writing in a journal and reevaluating your future self. Ask yourself who you really want to be. Start making small, simple investments into your future self so your future self keeps getting bigger.
Another cure for burnout is to take time to sit and measure your gains. It’s a great way to remind yourself of how much progress you’ve made.
“Sometimes you just might need a break from your future self and just the constant striving. Sometimes you just need some active recovery. Actually, my favorite quote comes from Robert Brault. He said, ‘We’re kept from our goal not by obstacles, but by a clear path to a lesser goal.’” – Dr. Benjamin Hardy
It’s time to start saying “no” to the lesser goals and “yes” to the big goals that will pull you toward your future self and give you energy and joy. Once you do that, you’ll be unstoppable!
Guys, this interview is full of insight and perspective from my brilliant friend, Dr. Benjamin Hardy. Listen to the full episode for more, and don’t forget to share the episode with someone who needs to hear it: You could change someone’s life!
Follow Dr. Benjamin Hardy on social media (listed in the show notes below) and check out his website and YouTube to learn more about avoiding burnout and reshaping your identity (including your future self)!
I want to acknowledge Benjamin for consistently doing the work of being invested in your future and your current self as well as your family. High achievers sometimes miss out on the thing that they’re creating right now, so I admire him for showing us how it’s possible to be healthy, have great relationships in your family, and also work towards your goals. Speaking of goals, I also really liked his definition of greatness:
“I think that greatness is being true to who you want your future self to be, you know, not chasing lesser goals, oncoming lesser goals, but just being. I think that that’s a good definition of success or greatness, is that you’re actually being true to the future self.” – Dr. Benjamin Hardy
Friends, join me on Episode 1181 to learn about moving toward your future self, enjoying the present, and learning how to live your life to the fullest with Dr. Benjamin Hardy. It will change your perspective for the better and help you achieve more greatness in your life!