I work for a mental health private practice facility in Seattle. Everyday when I come in to open up the office I return quickly to my routine. Turning the lights on, making sure the ambiance of the lobby is calming, checking faxes and emails from the day before, the usual.

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Next, I head to the break room to warm up some tea. A break room in a counseling center is, as one would think, creative. Therapist’s leaving encouraging comments and inspiring quotes on a white board that would otherwise be left blank.

When my tea is nearly done and I impatiently wait the last few seconds, I usually doze off into a thousand mile stare at a framed poster on the wall. I have gazed at this poster a more times than I can count but have never actually read it. The poster reads,


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In the time it takes for my tea to brew I contemplate what that phrase means to me. I figure that people like to weigh their next decisions in three contexts.

Learning from the past, what it will do to the present, or how will it benefit the future.

While I believe when in the decision making process itself, perhaps it is wise to take all of these contexts into account; persistently planning ahead makes life so much easier in the long run.

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen my gas light luminesce as I am driving home exhausted, it is pleading for recognition, and I think to myself, I will make it home and can go to the gas station in the morning before work…

The morning arrives and the last thing I want to do is stop at a gas station at 7am. My car suffers, my “future” self suffers, all from a present oriented mindset of the night before.

This is just one composite sketch of the multitude of scenarios I find myself doing this in. In the last year, I have embarked on the sometimes daunting task of thinking for tomorrow. In this journey, emerged five, unabated tasks that increased the success of my future-self tenfold.

1. Invest in yourself — Financially and personally.

Twelve months ago I took out a savings account that I couldn’t access before the year ran its course. Every month $110 would be directly deposited into that account. I am not rich today, but I am up $1300 I wouldn’t have had, had I not been invested in my future self.

If you’re like me, and struggle with frugality, try the budgeting and personal finance app, Mint. It’s user friendly and has shed light on my obvious, and not so obvious, spending faux pas.

For your sanity and personal investment, downloaded the app Headspace, guided meditation that dramatically reduced my anxiety. My advice is to persist through the voice telling you this isn’t helpful until you get to the quiet place where clarity lives.

I also invested in a year long gym membership I couldn’t refund, but… that’s a different story.

2. Commit to something

Last June I committed to eating a vegetarian diet for a year! Three things happen when you commit to something and stick it out until it’s completed.

You create self-trust. When you are willing commit to something, you have to rely on yourself and to actually do it. You derive any fragment of self-control you have to not cheat yourself. Once you get over that urge to take the easy route, you’ll end up looking back on that journey with pride, ready to take on the next challenge with new found faith in yourself.You’re curiosity will grow. There is a ripple effect after trying something new. Successful in the end or not, you will be thrust out of your comfort zone, ready to journey down another path to reap nothing if not the experience of it.You will respect yourself for having completed a task you set for your own personal growth.

“Unless a commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans” — Peter Drucker

3. Embrace the habit of effort

Putting in the effort for something you may not see instant results for is tough. We live in an “instant gratification” sort of society. What sets the leaders apart is their effort, plain and simple.

Our paths may all be subjective and arbitrary, but if you are putting in 50% of the work today, you will get 50% of the results tomorrow.

The tasks that seem trivial and even worth overlooking during the day-to-day, leaders are unrelenting in completing. Procrastination only hurts you in the end.


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4. Make a 10 year plan

Or even better, a five year, and one year plan as well. I started this last year with deductible reasoning. Starting from a broader 10-year scope of what I want my life to look like in ten years. I suggest having two columns.

Non-negotiable’s — These are things not up for abstract interpretation or discussion. Things that are concrete and you will work tirelessly to have by the desired time.Negotiable's — In contrast, these are things that you may want to have at that point in time, but would understand if they took longer to achieve.

*One of my examples is teaching. I will be a practicing therapist, but I also want to eventually teach social psychology as a professor at a university. Sometimes this path is long and sometimes it is short. My non-negotiable is that I will be teaching regardless of where I am at on the ladder. The negotiable is that I may still be a rung or two below a professorship by that time, however, well on my way.

As mentioned before, anyone who writes about 10-year plans should tell you to write deductively as well. Using this “top-down” logic to break down that plan into chunks will make it more doable. Break the chunks into years, or even months. The more manageable the step, the more likely you are to do it.

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Finally,

5. Your future self will always thank you for gaining perspective

EXPERIENCE! Something I can’t stress enough is the hard-trot odyssey of perspective seeking. It is damn near our responsibility to seek new experiences to gain wisdom and open our worldview. Invest in someone else’s story, their companionship, their perspective, and watch your opportunities grow exponentially. You will be versatile and sought after in any industry if you free yourself from a self-indulged perspective.