You’ve heard me talk extensively about the power of visualizing and designing a picture of our future selves. She’s someone we aspire to be and are working toward, and in doing this, we start planting the seeds of change. But if, like me, you’re a gold-star-seeking perfectionist, trying to envision that future version of you might be a challenge.
Future You work requires us to imagine a life we don’t yet have, and my overthinking, perfectionist brain freaks out at the notion of trying to manifest a version of myself I can hardly fathom right now. And if you also try really hard to do everything exactly right and are often unsuccessful at attaining that constantly moving target of perfection, I have great news for you.
Listen in this week as I share a lightbulb moment I had about Future You work. I’m showing you where we perfectionists get tripped up imagining our future selves, why this practice isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, and the power of inviting along our anxiety, worry, and unanticipated issues we might face along the way.
This is Weight Loss Success, with Natalie Brown, episode 108.
Welcome to Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown. If you’re a successful woman who is ready to stop struggling with your weight, you’re in the right place. You’ll learn everything you need to know to lose weight for the last time in bitesize pieces. Here’s your host, certified life and weight coach Natalie Brown.
Hey everyone, I have so much swirling in my brain. All of these things that feel connected and relevant to each other that are currently separate concepts that I want to share. So, I’m going to do my best to weave them all together coherently. Let’s go.
I am fairly new to the concepts and practices of visualization, meditation, manifestation, all of those magical woo things that have always been available. But it was just kind of out of my personal conscious awareness for a myriad of reasons as I study humans and our brains and the science related to the science related to behavior change and neuroplasticity and all that good stuff.
I recognize how some of the things I’ve always sort of thought were sort of out-there concepts are so much closer, more powerful, and connected to this work I do in the world with women and their bodies and health goals than I previously recognized. I emphasize, and I talk a lot about, having a clear picture of our future selves, designing her to be someone that we aspire to be and are working toward, someone who’s figured some things out maybe that we haven’t yet. She had some tools and some skills that served her life and allowed her to create a different reality than what we are currently living.
Oftentimes for my clients, their future selves are living in different bodies than they are now because they have health and weight goals they want to achieve. But what lies beyond a different number on the scale or a different size of pants is really why the change matters. The different body will not mean a different life unless we have done the work to change what’s inside too.
What that future self gets to experience and think and feel and create because of the work she’s done to become more emotionally resilient and self-assured, and accepting is why we’re working toward it. For example, she’s more willing and able to ride the waves of discomfort that are a part of life. She’s more loving and compassionate to herself. She recognizes and believes in what she’s capable of.
She has peace around food. She’s let go of old stories, and she knows how to create and believe new powerful ones. She’s not just hiking with her family and walking around without joint pain. She’s showing up differently in her life and in her relationships. In imagining and creating an idea of who we want to be in the future, we’re accessing belief in possibilities—planting the seeds of change.
What nourishes that seed is feelings along the way, which is where most of us get tripped up. It’s not just about imagining what she will look like and do. It’s about visualizing and generating what it will feel like to be her. Feelings are the fuel of change. Most of us think we have to wait for the result to feel the feelings, but we actually need to find a way to generate some of that love and pride, confidence, and peace now to help us get there.
Because the alternative we are trying to use is a cocktail of disgust, regret, frustration, helplessness, all of that lovely stuff. It’s just not doing it. Not effectively. Not long-term. So, we want to imagine and feel, visualize in detail all the way down to the emotions she will experience. The surge of positive emotion, this feeling ahead of time this, will help facilitate the process of creating.
If you are anything like me, just listening to me say all of that created some anxiety. How am I supposed to create feelings I don’t feel and imagine a life I don’t have? How am I supposed to imagine the future me in this amazing life that I can hardly fathom? In the conversation about manifesting, inviting, attracting, opening up to what we want to create, and envisioning it. My tendency toward perfectionism really starts breaking out and getting very loud because it’s just coming at me with how it’s not realistic, possible, or useful. My brain wants to get into the math, numbers, logistics, the how, when, how much, duration, expectations.
All of the obstacles and counterarguments to believing. I try to envision her. I imagine her life, her day today, and my brain is like, what about this and that? And how can you possibly know what will be happening in two years? If COVID has taught you anything, isn’t it that? Perfectionism wants me to quit before I even start.
Then, it starts in with, all you’re creating here is worry and anxiety. That’s going to repel whatever it is you think you want to attract. You’re ruining it. Stop being anxious. Stop worrying. Stop being frustrated with me telling you to stop worrying. This is supposed to be a perfect dream world, and we’re supposed to be imagining a field of daisies and you with your new future life and sensibilities frolicking in it, unmarred by worry and anxiety.
She is loved. She is feeling peaceful. Imagine the peace. Do it, hurry. Get rid of the worry. You’re repelling all the good in the world that is trying to come to you. This is like a literal transcript of a conversation I have had with myself. That is my brain freaking out.
So, for all of you perfectionists, gold star seeking expectation meeting, over-thinkers out there like me, you’re not alone. I, too, am trying super hard to do everything exactly right and not always being very successful at it. Our definition of doing it right is usually ridiculous and unattainable at worst, and at best, a moving target that we will never quite reach.
I have the best news for you, though. It’s something I learned recently that was like a lightbulb. I teach you and my clients to create this vision of your future self all the way down to how she feels to make it specific enough that you can access it and utilize it to help connect you to this moment and have that specific vision influence decisions in the moment. You can ask yourself does this choice get me closer to her, and it’s easy to see the answer because she’s so familiar to you.
So, here’s the lightbulb moment I want to share. It’s a clarification and, honestly, a breath of fresh air for all of my perfectionist peeps out there. I was listening to the high five habits by Mel Robbins, and there it was. She explains neuroscience research has shown that visualization makes it easier to work on your goals and dreams because it changes your RAS, which she refers to as the bouncer of your brain, that lets in only what you tell is important.
So, it changes your RAS to spot opportunities that match that picture you just created in your head. But research out of UCLA shows us that in order to make visualization really help you achieve your goals, you need to visualize yourself doing the hard, annoying, small steps along the way to reaching your dreams. Mel Robbins and the team at UCLA that did this research gave us the best gift here. It doesn’t have to be all sunshine and rainbows and positive energy and good vibes to attract and create this future self vision.
In fact, it is important to also visualize all of the obstacles. How we’ll feel when they come up, and how we will keep going anyway. In essence, our visualization should mirror reality. We should envision our big, beautiful dreams and also all the crappy parts of the journey to get there. We don’t have to push away concern about mistakes we will inevitably make or the things we’re worried about tripping us up. We want to invite those along expand our vision to include worry, anxiety, frustration, delays, mistakes, unanticipated issues, and how we plan to show up for those too.
I can’t even tell you how relieved I felt at this news that my brain was kind of right to show me how this is going to be a challenging bumpy road and rather than try to push that away in service of only good manifesting vibes, all I needed to do was expand my visualization to how I want to handle the challenges and the bumps in the road. How it will keep going toward my big, beautiful dreams anyway. A realistic human vision of my dream.
Here’s an example from the book to illustrate this point. If you want to manifest the big dream of running the Boston Marathon, for instance. Yes, write that dream down every day. To achieve it, however, don’t visualize yourself crossing the finish line and the crowd’s roaring applause. Visualize yourself lacing up your running shoes when it’s 10 degrees out. Close your eyes and picture what it’s going to feel like to be out there running mile 13 on your own because your earbuds just ran out of batteries.
The fuel in your body, the sensation of your alarm going off at 5 a.m., and you’re exhausted, and you look out the window and see it’s pouring, and you start running in the rain. If we look at an example that pertains to a weight or health goal, it might be something like this. We want to think about the future you in all her glory, yes with all of the specifics, her emotion, resilience that has her making friends with stress or overwhelm instead of eating to escape it.
Her sitting in an airplane sits with no seatbelt extender. Her going on vacation or to a restaurant and choosing what feels good in her body because she’s made peace with food. All of that, and we want to think about what it will feel like tomorrow when you sit down to eat the salad you have planned, and your brain says, screw it. Let’s just eat nachos. Or next week when you’re driving home after a long workday, and your brain desperately wants you to drive through and grab hot donuts from Krispy Kreme.
Or when you get on a scale in a month, and it hasn’t budged. Or next December, when the holidays are upon you and rather than throw in the towel for six weeks, you choose you, which means saying no to copious amounts of Christmas cookies on a daily. This is how we really connect to that goal by embracing and envisioning the imperfect parts too. Not only living in the loveliness but in the ugliness too.
Then, when those bumps come, we will be prepared. They will be familiar. There’s so much freedom in embracing the inevitable imperfection of our journey to our goal, for those of us who are typically paralyzed by striving for perfection, for those of us who quit before we even start because if it won’t be perfect, why even try. The imperfection of the journey to any goal is a reflection of the imperfect human trying to accomplish it. Rather than having to pretend perfection, we can use our brains that scan for imperfection anyway to visualize all of the bumps and obstacles that may arise.
We can decide how we want to feel and how we want to show up for them. Educate our brain on what to watch out for and how to handle it ahead of time. I did this really fascinating exercise with a coaching group I am a part of. We are learning to get to know all of the parts of us. The parts that are fractured and fragile, the parts that are strong, the parts that feel inadequate and brave and wise and naïve, and how to better love all of the parts of us.
To be clear, we are talking about all the different aspects of the person. This is not a group of women who have dissociative identity disorder. I just wanted to clarify that. It’s really just a mode of healing. To see and acknowledge all of the things you’ve experienced and how they fractured, split, and separated you. Rather than trying to make yourself whole again to see and honor what different parts have to teach you.
We did this exercise/meditation today that I found really powerful. We connected with the part of us that feels like she’s not enough. We asked some questions of her and looked to our own inner wisdom for guidance and answers. I learned so much from her/me in like 3 minutes. Here’s some of the wisdom that came from that, messages for me from me, but that I feel kind of connects with this conversation today as well.
You are not alone. All of the pieces make a greater whole. All parts that have experienced different things weave together and create unfailing strength. I imagined the steel cables that they use on large-span bridges that are made up of thousands of thousands of smaller thinner wires all twisted together into ropes of wire that are not individually strong but together hold up tons of steel, concrete, cars, and people for decades upon decades in every kind of weather.
Our imperfections don’t have to be seen as faults. My brain’s keen eye for what might go wrong that annoys me half the time can be parlayed into a more clear, complete, and impactful vision of my dreams, and so can yours. So, let’s get out there and dream about what we want and include in what might go wrong and empowered and strengthened by it instead of crippled and broken. All of the facets of the diamond make it shine.
Okay, lovely people, we are making some magic in my Love First Weight Loss program. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. To be short, this is hard but powerful work my clients are doing to unpack all of their stories, start connecting to what matters to them and to their bodies and learn to take care of themselves with love. Every week I hear my clients express how their minds are shifting, their eyes are opening to things they haven’t seen, and they’re showing up to their lives in totally new ways. It’s so fun.
We get to connect, share, and hold space for each other on our calls every week. One client commented last week that she wished our calls were two or three hours instead of one because we learn so much. We feel so connected to each other in our struggles and our triumphs when we can open up and share the journey. I just love it so much. I’m starting a new group in April, and I’m in the process of filling it right now.
So, if you have been listening, wanting to take this work deeper, expand it, get some help, guidance, and support to do it. Now’s the time. Head to itbeginswithathought.com/apply. I’ll see you soon.
Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of Weight Loss Success with Natalie Brown. If you want to learn more about how to lose weight for the last time, come on over to itbeginswithathought.com. We’ll see you here next week.