Here is a hypothetical cognitive exercise that will make you cry- and then hopefully, smile.
Take a second to imagine your perfect self, at your current age. Go back all the way to your childhood and start there- this is the you that made all the right choices, and lived your life perfectly so far however you define ‘perfect’ to be. If you are 24 like me, this is the 24-year-old you that consistently went to the gym instead of skimping out because you didn’t feel like it. This is the you that spent hours reading books instead of wasting time on social media. This is the you that spoke up and took action when you should have, instead of holding back due to self-doubt and insecurities. This is the you that woke up on time every morning, the you that stuck with a skill and mastered it, the you that had the sense to kick toxic friends and relationships out of your life. This is the you that is actually living the life that you want to live and is healthier, smarter, richer, more interesting, disciplined and happier. Where would the perfect you be living? Doing what? What kind of different friends, significant other, or passions would he/she have? This is the person that you could be right now, but aren’t.
Now look at your actual self. Go look into a mirror if it helps. Be as objective as possible. How does your actual self compare to the perfect self, the self that you could have been? If you’re like me, the gap is pretty big and repugnant. Ouch. It hurts, doesn’t it? I know that it cut deep for me. Realizing that I am currently living a mere fraction of my true potential and that I can never go back and scoop up the wasted time or change the thoughtless choices that I made almost makes me want to throw up.
Remember that this hypothetical ‘perfect’ you was not given better circumstances than you. He or she was not given different parents, passport or socioeconomic status. The perfect you is merely the person that made better choices in areas where better choices could have been made, the you that controlled the things that can actually be controlled by you. The difference between the perfect you and the actual you has nothing to do with the external world, but everything to do with your internal world. It has to do with recognizing what you can and cannot control, and fully focusing on the things that you can.
So what do you do now? Do you sulk, accept the disgusting discrepancy and go back to browsing Instagram? Before you get depressed and close this page, there is a silver lining to all of this. Remember the ‘perfect’ you that made you sad earlier by comparison? Scrap that you. That ‘you’ has already done his/her job by serving as the wake-up call. I’m very sorry but it is too late to be that person now. So instead of thinking about what you could have been, think about what you could be in the future. Control what you can control, not what you can’t. Going forward, you can be mindful of the ‘perfect’ you of the future and align yourself so that you can become as close to him/her as possible. How much healthier can you be in 5 years, 10? How much smarter, more interesting? Once you get into it and realize that it’s very possible to actually become that ‘perfect’ future you and that the choice is all up to you, you can’t help but get excited. Of course, you will not be perfect and still make mistakes, but the journey is in getting as close as possible. Imagine the ‘perfect’ future you every morning and live each day as that person until you become that person. Press reset, and let’s start today. Happy birthday to a better you and me.