10th October, 2023

What Will Your Future Self Thank You For?

With Rachel Morris

Dr Rachel Morris

Listen to this episode

On this episode

We’ve all had weeks where our schedules are packed tightly and there’s no time for ourselves, leaving us exhausted and overwhelmed. The problem is we often make commitments for our future selves without thinking about what might be on their plate in the future.

In this quick dip episode, Rachel uncovers ways we can make space for the the big and important things in our lives, set rules and boundaries to prevent over-committing, and creating space to cope with challenging times ahead.

Not everything that comes out of the blue is a bad thing. But when we over-book ourselves and neglect our own needs, we risk leaving ourselves unable to really enjoy the fun things that unexpectedly come our way, or cope with the tricky things.

Try taking a moment to consider what your future self will thank you for. This will help you say no to those extra commitments, and practice more self-compassion.

Show links

Reasons to listen

  • To learn how to stop over-scheduling so you can create space for yourself and avoid burnout.
  • To understand the importance of setting boundaries and making rules for yourself to prioritise your wellbeing.
  • To discover a form of self-compassion in advance.

Episode highlights


A piece of long-term homework


Looking backwards


Writing a letter from your future self


Fear of missing out


Looking after our future self


What rules would your future self like you to understand?


When were you overstretched?


Make some space for what’s coming up


Putting self-compassion into practice

Episode transcript

[00:00:00] Rachel: How do you ever had one of those weeks where you fit so much into your week, that you haven’t had any time to yourself? You’re feeling utterly exhausted, and you’ve got to get up to all over again. You’ve got loads of stuff going on in the evening, you’ve committed to far too much. I have those sorts of weeks all the time.

[00:00:20] Rachel: But this last week, I’ve had a lot of conference talks, which I love to doing, but I was slightly worried. I’d fit too much into the week. But I found myself waking up one morning in a hotel where the conference was having gone down the night before and not try to squeeze everything in. And I just thought to myself, Thank you. Thank you past self. Uh, having thought about the fact it would be a bridge too far to get up mega mega rarely and try and fit all this in.

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[00:01:19] Rachel: One of my daughters has just finished her A Levels and she received a very surprising letter through the post the other day. It was the letter that she’d written in year seven when she first went to secondary school. And they had kept this letter and it arrived. At the end of year 13. Oh, it was so thoughtful of them. And in this letter there was advice from her past self to her future self, just about security university, telling her how to live, what her 12 year old self really, really wanted. It was really cute.

[00:01:52] Rachel: And we often use this in coaching. We often sort of write a letter to our future self., talking about what we’d like to achieve, thinking about what our goals are, setting goals maybe for years, time or five years time.

[00:02:06] Rachel: One of the coaching exercises, which can be quite helpful is actually looking backwards. And there is one exercise in which you write your own a bitchery or if he wants to make it a bit less, morbid, you actually think about what you’d like people to say about you on your retirement do. And this got me thinking about how can we do that a little bit more short-term? Because it’s one thing sort of setting goals and working out what we want to achieve next week or next month or in a year or in five years time. That’s very goal orientated. It’s quite difficult thinking about how we’d like to feel.

[00:02:42] Rachel: And I’ve been thinking about how we stop ourselves over-scheduling and overbooking. And I thought back to the week I’ve just had, and the fact that me being the future self was so grateful to my past self for not over-scheduling, for being kind for booking a hotel room and making sure I didn’t have to get up mega rarely.

[00:03:01] Rachel: And so one of our communities, we were thinking about how to put your needs first as a doctor and what the best thing you can do to help yourself do that. And we came up with this concept of writing a letter from your future self to your present self, thanking them for meeting their needs and putting their needs first.

[00:03:20] Rachel: And I was really surprised by the reaction from the community. We throw out all sorts of tips and techniques and suggestions, but the one thing that people loved was this letter from your future self. I think this is a form of practicing self-compassion in advance, SCIA, and I’m wondering if it’s something that we need to do a lot more often.

[00:03:43] Rachel: I have some friends that are really good at this. They’re really good at setting boundaries. They’re really good at thinking actually, I can’t see more than two things that week. I know I’m going to be really strung out. And there are some people that can really predict that. Now, I’m an Enneagram seven, which means I have massive FOMO, fear of missing out. I want to experience everything. I want to do everything. And I always think I can fit just that one more thing in, which was fine when I was younger. I got older, I find I can do less than less, particularly in the evenings. I can’t do more than two nights out in a week. And I really, really struggle if I don’t have any downtime or any thinking time.

[00:04:24] Rachel: I also hate letting people down. I hate saying no to things. Basically, because I don’t want to miss out. And so I over commit to stuff and I say yes to everything because I wanted to it. But I don’t think about what is the future me. Gonna thank me for. The present me thinks Ah, future me will cope. Yeah, that’s a bit of a heavy wheat, but it’ll be okay. But if I don’t consider what the future me needs, it means I book stuff up back to back. It means I think I can get home from holiday at midnight and then start work at 8:00 AM the next day. Oh, I can cope with that. I’ll keep with that. At the time. It means I run out of energy and I don’t manage my energy, which we know is a finite resource. And depletes as we get older, certainly. It means I won’t manage my energy properly. I wouldn’t have enough energy for the people I love, and it also means that it’s very, very difficult to take into account any unforeseen stuff that crops up.

[00:05:20] Rachel: So many of my friends at the moment are dealing with elderly relatives who are falling ill or crises with kids or other stuff that just crops up from left field when we least expect it. If we book stuff into our day back to back to back and fill up every single slot, not only is it really detrimental to our own energy, but it means that there’s no buffer when these unforeseen events occur. And the only thing that we can say is definitely true about unforeseen events is that they will always happen.

[00:05:49] Rachel: But if we really did start to think about what my future self needs and what my future self will thank me for. It will prevent us just over-scheduling our diary. It will help us predict some of those tough runs and those tough things that are coming up. And in the long run, it will produce a feeling of calm, you’ll know you’ve got capacity for stuff, and because you’ve got that buffer. You’ll be able to be spontaneous and say yes to things that arise last minutes, and could be going away with a friend for a weekend, or it could be taking on an extra project or doing that talk or helping someone out that you wanted to do. If we book ourselves up in advanced and pack our lives to capacity, we will never have the time to do those sorts of things.

[00:06:34] Rachel: So how do we look after our future self? Well, a few tips, firstly, big rocks first. And I’ve thought about this before in the podcast. I remember seeing a talk where someone got a big glass jar and they filled this big glass jar with three or four big rocks. They then filled it with some pebbles. They then put a bit of gravel in, they then put some sand in and then they filled up with water, and the job was totally full They then tipped it all out again. And this time they’d put the sand in first, then put the gravel in, and there was no room for the big rocks because all the space had been taken up already.

[00:07:11] Rachel: So the moral of the story is put the big rocks in first. So what other really big, important things to you? Friends, family, some aspects of your work there might be a hobby that’s really, really important to you. There might be a project that you want to do. I know, write a book or something. But get those things in first.

[00:07:31] Rachel: I remembered a couple of years ago, I booked this Hennis campaign over the summer and I absolutely loved it. So I did the same again this year. When I got to it this year. I remember thinking Oh my goodness, there is no way. I would have put that in right now because I feel too busy. I feel like there’s so much stuff I need to see, but I just got back from holiday. But I’d put it in and I did it and I had such a brilliant time. But because I put it in first above anything else, I did it and I enjoyed it. Because work will always expand to fill the time available. It just will. So get those big rocks in. Get those big, important things that you know take some time, you know that takes some time, effort and energy. And your future self will thank you for that. Then after you’ve got your big rocks, don’t pack all the little rocks around it. Leave some time and space.

[00:08:22] Rachel: Secondly, you could try making some rules for yourself. You know, what rules would your future self like you to write down and understand right now? Is it I can only manage to go out twice a week. I can only manage a late night once a week. I need to have a complete two day break once a month. I need one afternoon off every couple of weeks in which afternoon I will go and do X, Y or Z.

[00:08:49] Rachel: What are the rules that you can have for yourself? What are the rules? That mean you’re going to say no to certain things. So it’s just automatic. You’ve already planned that in advance. That can be incredibly helpful.

[00:09:01] Rachel: It might be a real, such as I can have one social engagement on a Sunday. I might go out for brunch with a friend, or I might have an evening meal, but actually I can’t see brunch and an evening meal because that means I get no downtime.

[00:09:12] Rachel: Thirdly, I suggest that you look back over the last few years and identify times when you know that you were close to the edge in terms of capacity, where you felt overstretched, where you felt, oh, I’ve just put too much in here, and you felt quite resentful that you’d done it. So you felt resentful towards your past self rather than thankful.

[00:09:36] Rachel: And think what are those pinch points? Because, you know, I know for example, that every September we have three birthdays. People always start school. It’s a new sort of business year, blah, blah, blah. There’s all these things going on. And it’s a complete nightmare. And I always wonder why it ended up feeling completely overwhelmed by the time October comes, because I also try and go away from my birthday and go on nights out, etc, etc, there is just no time. It happens every single year, so I can predict it.

[00:10:08] Rachel: So these regular things that come up. Christmas, for example, is always, for me, quite a busy time, with lots of different family commitments, lots of stuff going on. And I always have a bit myself and I know that that’s going to happen. What if I actually booked some downtime when I know that I’m not going to over-commit to seeing friends or relatives or anything like that?

[00:10:31] Rachel: Side note, last Christmas I had broken my ankle. And every time our guests, whether it be family or friends or whatever, went for a nice walk, say a Boxing Day walk, I couldn’t go with them. But I was out of plaster by then. And what I could do was go to the gym and walk up and down the swimming pool, because that’s what my sort of therapist has said I needed to do. Now, it was amazing just having those odd hours of time over the Christmas period when I was on my own, just to do a little bit of exercise and I, I went and sat in the spa afterwards for a cheeky half hour, that transforms how I felt over Christmas. So now I’m thinking actually, how can I put that in this Christmas without breaking my leg, obviously don’t want to do that again. But they’re things that I can do that that would help in just that way. So look back at all the pinch points that happen regularly, that’s happened over the last year and you can predict what’s going to happen.

[00:11:30] Rachel: And then finally, there might be some stuff coming up that you know is going to be tough. This year, I had both children doing GCSEs and A Levels, and I’d predicted that actually that was going to be quite a tough time for our family, and I just needed to give some space and some time to cope with the emotions, to cope with the work, to support the kids. And I did make sure that there wasn’t too much on. And my present self was very grateful to my past self. For the facts I’d done that.

[00:12:02] Rachel: But this is all common sense, but why is it we hardly ever do it? Why is it that we don’t have compassion on our future self? We just think, Ah, they’ll be able to do it, they can fit it in. So we often think about what goals who wants to hit in the future, what we want to achieve. Can I suggest we stop for a moment and think of our future selves and how we want them to feel and write a letter? Write a letter to your current self from your future self, thanking you for making sure there is always time and space. Thanking you for making sure that you have put some boundaries in which means that you’re not over committed. For some self-compassion in advance and for looking after your future needs. Believe me. You’ll get there. You’ll think thank goodness I did that.

[00:12:54] Rachel: And when you’re tempted to overbook, just stop yourself and say, what would future me, thank me for? And keep that as a mantra. And that will help you to say no to the myriad of opportunities that you think you ought to do, or that you wants to do, and just keep your energy in check and make sure that you have time to be self compassionate, to look after yourself. Your future self will thank you.