The word “becoming” might call to mind Michelle Obama’s best selling memoir, but if you haven’t read it, what does the word mean to you? The dictionary defines differently from how I am writing about it here: ~to have a flattering or attractive effect, or something suitable or appropriate for a particular person (i.e. That new hairstyle is becoming). I don’t hear the word being used much in this way, but it is connected in an interesting way to the origins of the word, which mean: meet with, fall in with; arrive, approach. I think the word becoming needs an updated definition that combines the two uses, rooted in the image of being on a journey that enhances who a person already is by moving them closer to the person they desire to be; the future self. Using the word this way, one can ask “Who are you becoming?” and what they would be asking is “Who are you intentionally growing/transforming into?” It is assumed that you are already on your way- because we are all on our way somewhere. Can you answer this question or are you unsure where you are heading? Michelle Obama says “For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.” Becoming is different from goal setting, because becoming is a process that may not have measurable steps and doesn’t require an end in sight. Part of the forward motion toward becoming may even look like backward motion. Becoming might unfold in ways you can’t yet imagine. But, like goal setting, a vital part of the process is having a vision for what direction you want to go, and a way to begin to move in the right direction. Although Margie Warrell doesn’t use the word becoming, I think she conveys the meaning well in her Forbes article, “Those who live the most rewarding lives aren’t those who know exactly what they are doing before they start out. Rather, they are those who are willing to pursue new undertakings despite the uncertainty and ambiguity. They are people who are committed, curious, and courageous life-longer learners, willing to continually unlearn what doesn’t work as they move closer toward what does.” Becoming your Future Self To be a human being, is to be in the works. Your future self will be more different from you present self than you imagine. According to the research by Dr. Hal Hershfield of UCLA, it is important and powerful to view your future self as a different person. Who do you want your future self to be? Many people overly focus on, or indulge their current self, to the detriment of their future self. The best way to predict who your future self will be, is to actively imagine and design that chosen self. We already practice this thinking to some extent. For example, we brush our teeth so our future self doesn’t have to endure painful and expensive dental visits. We keep our homes organized so our future self doesn’t go crazy trying to find things. It is pretty easy to do when we are thinking about the short-term future self, especially if the motivator is to avoid something painful or frustrating. What if we cultivated the skill to hold a long-term vision for ourselves and instead of just avoiding negative outcomes, we were actively moving toward enhancing who we are? This skills takes practice; and that practice is Future Self work. Future self work vs. Goal setting Academic research has a lot of good things to say about goal setting. Goals can direction your attention toward activities that enhance your well-being and away from those that don’t. They can get you energized, and cause you to plan and practice holding yourself accountable. But, goals don’t always work, and can sometimes be at odds with long-term progress. In his post Forget about Setting Goals, the author (and habits expert) James Clear, points out that goals are at odds with long-term progress because they create a “yoyo effect of motivation”. When all your focus is on a particular goal, what is left to push you after you achieve it? Clear also explains that goals can cause you to mistakenly believe that the fulfillment of your goals will lead to happiness. As many of us have experienced, we can also get down on ourselves when we set goals and don’t achieve them. We can end up feeling worse then we did before setting the goal. Unlike goal setting, Future Self work is about becoming, not achieving. It’s about intentionally moving towards your vision, even when you can’t map out the route. Your future is your responsibility. Ten years from now, you will be someone different from who you are today. You can be shaped by whatever experiences life tosses your way, along with the influences of your culture, the media, your friends -or you can intentionally shape who you become. Check out Becoming Your Future Self: Part 2, where I outline how to get started doing Future Self work. As Abraham Lincoln said: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Thanks for reading! With Gratitude, Aimee O’Neil LLMSW P.S. Check out this fun resource: https://www.futureme.org/ Here you can write letters to yourself to be delivered at self chosen dates in the future.