When breaking down bad habits, or building new ones, you may find yourself getting lost in the moment, choosing immediate gratification over your long term desire. For example, despite your best intentions to exercise on Monday night, you choose the couch, your office, or that glass of wine over the exercise. In the simplest terms, it is easier to satisfy the immediate desire over your future one.
One technique to get you through those moments of truth – couch v. gym, french fries v. salad, or working late v. bedtime stories, is to take a visit into your Default Future. Your Default Future is who you may end up being if you do not make the changes you wish to make. Bluntly put by the authors of Change Anything, The New Science of Personal Success, “[i]t’s the life that’s hurtling towards you-but you aren’t motivated by it because you aren’t currently in it.”*
Being blind to the future may permit you to live in a world of immediate gratification now, but it sets you up for regrets and exponentially more work down the road. As aptly noted in Change Anything, this blindness to the future is particularly worrisome when aspects of your Default Future aren’t guaranteed to happen, but have serious consequences if they do.
To visit your Default Future, ask yourself a string of questions, beginning with:
What are the reasonably possible worst-case scenarios if I don’t make
Each time you answer the question, ask yourself “and then what?” or “what else”? If you want to stop, or you feel uncomfortable, you are doing the exercise correctly and you should keep going. Tell the truth, or there is no point.
As a complement to this activity, I take each of my clients through an exercise that acquaints themselves with their Future Self. Your Future Self is the opposite of your Default Future, and is the person you will be 20 years down the road, if you commit now. My clients end up with a clear vision of this person so that it makes it easier to access him/her when they want to choose the couch over the gym.
After all, as Yogi Berra once said, “[i]f you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else.” Don’t let that be your Default Future.
*Patterson, K., Grenny, J., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., and Switzler, A., p. 52.