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What Can You Learn From Your Future Self?

November 26th, 2013 Matt Leave a comment Go to comments
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I want to tell you a couple of shameful stories. The reason for these confessions will become clear. Then, if you like, you can share some stories of your own.

Shameful Story 1: The Singing No-Show

When I was in my early teens I took singing lessons. I hadn’t settled on writing then (nor even, I think, realised it was an option), and instead had dreams of acting and musicals.

The teacher was a gentle woman in her 60s. To be honest I have no idea if she was a good singing teacher or not. A lot of the time it felt like we were both going through the motions.

I must have done it for a while because I went through four exams, which put me about halfway through the grading process.

Sometimes I wouldn’t go. If I didn’t particularly feel like it that week I might give her a call and make some excuse. Probably I wasn’t feeling well or had something else on I couldn’t get out of.


She used to play the piano while I murdered the melody. Of course, what I should have done was learnt piano. Because it’s awesome. Image by esc861.

Towards the end this became more frequent, until I stopped calling her and just didn’t show up. So I never actually told her I quit.

Which is, of course, shameful. That was her livelihood and her time, and not even talking to her about it was utterly disrespectful. Not to mention the amount of money my mum must have spent on the lessons.

Still, although I knew it was wrong I did not think a great deal of it.

Shameful Story 2: Job Training

This was some time after uni, in dark days of unemployment. I was out of work for ages. I cannot say I was entirely blameless in this.

For example: making a half-hearted (okay, quarter-hearted) attempt at trying for every job going, I applied for a Christmas temp position at Woolworths (and where are they now, eh?) I made mistakes on the tiny application slip, crossed things out, rewrote untidily. I handed in the barely legible, creased scrap of paper and didn’t get an interview. Perhaps I was over-qualified.

But that’s not the example I want to talk about.

Speeding train

Shame on me for blaming poor innocent trains for my apathy! Image courtesy of Richard Taylor on Flickr

This was a job interview at a small company. I can’t even remember what they were doing, but I’ve a suspicion it was to do with gardens. I would be responsible for their website.

I have a feeling I had been doing something else and not organised my time properly. I would be late for the interview. So I rang them and made some pitiful excuses about late trains.

Disaster! The guy on the phone got the train too, and wondered what the problem was as he might have trouble getting home!

I mumbled something pathetic.

I rearranged the interview and I did go, but I can’t remember much about it. I had already decided I didn’t want the job.

Good For the Soul

Why am I telling you this? Mostly because at the time I let these things wash over me. Although I knew they were wrong and part of me was certainly ashamed, I carried on with barely a trip in my stride.

I can find excuses – when I was unemployed I was pretty down and fed up. Being unemployed for a length of time puts you in the worst possible frame of mind to get a job. And the singing thing – I was a teenager (to all teenagers reading this, I am sure you are wonderful. I wish I’d had my head screwed on as tightly).

But mostly, I didn’t feel like it. I was being lazy, or afraid to feel uncomfortable, or not willing to be challenged or to put the time in.

And I was obviously okay with that.

I would not be so now.

It highlights the difference between a past me and the me I have grown to be. But I am still growing, and I wonder what a future me might think of this one.

So my question is – what am I okay with now that a future me (a wiser, more mature soul) might not be? What excuses am I making for myself but barely noticing? (Did this give you pause? Why not tweet it?)

Are there times when I can’t be bothered? Sure. I dare say I let things slide all the time.

Remembering shameful actions of the past with embarrassment can make me more mindful of the way I behave now. It’s not an opportunity to congratulate myself, but a warning about what I might be missing.

Perhaps if I pay attention, I can fast-track my mindset to that older, wiser me, and take a leaf out of his book.

Over to you:
Can you remember a time when you’ve acted badly, but it meant hardly anything to you? Are you more hardworking now than you used to be? What would a future you think of your current mindset? I’d love to hear your stories, so please leave a comment and share.

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  • Craig

    Most of the, shall we say ‘mistakes’, I’ve made stem from – as I’m sure you’ll be aware – my inability to control my temper. I can look back at a lot of the impulsive decisions I’ve made in my life, and the almost weaponised degree of selfishness I used to exhibit (and still often do) and I will reflect.

    But then that just leads to massive amounts of self loathing, and I have enough of that already.

    I guess part of it is willingly acknowledging and owning your mistakes. There are some of those impulsive decisions that I absolutely do not regret. I have in my life had a number of different jobs, and some of them i have walked away from for no other reason than I found them to be a pointless waste of my time. No regrets.

    Future me would no doubt give me a good hard slap and tell me that I waste too much time. And he would be right. But then again, if future me did do that, it would mean he came back via the use of a time machine, which would indicate that at some point I got my act together.

    Unless he stole it, the lazy thieving bastard.

    • http://getmewriting.com Matt Roberts

      Craig, you do make me laugh. Also, ” weaponised degree of selfishness” is an awesome phrase.

      I have to say though, I’ve never known you to be particularly selfish; just the opposite. Or have you grown evil since uni?

      • Craig

        Actually, most people would probably say I’ve mellowed out a lot since uni.

        Not true.

        I have just become far more advanced in the whole subtlety thing when it comes to my temper, and my loathing for other people. Shame it doesn’t translate into my writing, with all the BIG EXPLOSIONS and the leather clad lesbian assassins running about all over the place.