I tend to go through different cycles & seasons in life — some that I’m proud of, enjoy, & where I’m growing & thriving, but also some others where I feel like I’m off track, distant from God, or wasting time. Obviously times of struggle or failure can be instrumental in life, but I want to share one method of self-evaluation that I’m working through to help me stay closer to God & to His plans¹.
What it comes down to is what I like to call “putting yourself in your own shoes.” This is a long & only mildly clever way of saying: imagine your future self — in 10, 20, or 30 years, & then consider how your future self would view the way your current self is living right now. Put your current self in your future self’s shoes & then look back to your current self. Ultimately, through this, we want to open our eyes to where God wants us to be in 10, 20, or 30 years from now.
Personally, I don’t have trouble imagining a great future life, or who I want to be in 10 years, it’s getting there that’s hard. It can be easy to picture the future, but never actually make any steps to get there — this is why we have to come up with a plan for it. Because my personality is very future-focused, Stephen Covey’s “Begin With the End in Mind” method of self-evaluation works well for me².
This begins with sitting down & thinking about what your life will be like & who you will be in 10, 20, or 30 years from now.
Usually I’m initiating this exercise because I feel like I’m off-track in some way, so contrasting where I currently am with who I want to be in the future usually isn’t too difficult. Am I at all close to what God has called me to do? Am I living with purpose or am I missing the mark? In what areas am I struggling to be like Jesus? Diving into questions like these is vital, & for me, this involves a lot of prayer, humility, & listening for (or remembering) who God wants me to be.
After taking stock of where I am currently, I write down a few “main ideas” that I want to focus on. It’s basically outlining some of the primary qualities of that future me in 10 or 20 years. Who is that person that you want to become? You can write down more than just a few things, but focusing on a small number at a time will be key.
Finally, I think & pray through those future-self qualities that I want to have, & then I start taking notes for my current self on each of them. For instance, if I want to be a more patient person, then I may go find scripture & other books about patience, I’ll make sure I’m specifically praying for patience each day, & I’ll also write down situations where I’m often impatient & then think/pray through what a patient response would look like for them.
The two most powerful parts of this whole exercise (in my opinion) are giving yourself the perspective of looking back on your current life from the future (where will I be in X years?), & then visualizing success in the areas where you’re struggling (what would it look like to become that new person?).
Additionally, you have to keep these things in front of you daily. Create a mental association between who you want to be, & the action that you need to do (or not do) right now to get you there. I have to get good at identifying my flaws as they’re about to play out (again, like being impatient), quickly realize that this could turn into a situation my future self will regret, & then immediately surrender to God right there in the moment (because if I had the power myself to change, I would already be that future me).
In this whole process, be honest with yourself, but also give yourself some grace. Who you are right now will play a part in determining who you will become, but it’s never too late to change that trajectory.