I remember being in a department store and feeling overwhelmed. Surrounding me were rows and tables full of hundreds of socks and neck ties. There where too many options. Why would department stores have so many socks and ties?
It’s because at a certain age, if you are male, on your birthday you will start to receive only socks and ties for the rest of your life. It is the world’s dullest birthday gift.
Luckily, I haven’t reached that age yet.
Recently I celebrated a birthday. This year, I received a couple of really useful gifts. I even thought about asking for a tie, but didn’t want to set a precedent for my imminent future. As I was considering the gifts I had received, a thought struck me:
What gifts do I want to give myself next year?
I am not talking about material possessions.
Every day you are given the opportunity to create gifts for your future self. That new day is almost like a birthday gift-card. You get to do what you want with it and buy yourself the gifts that you want. It is your life and you have been given the freedom to make choices.
As I considered all of this, I realized that there are actions that I can do now, that next year, I will be grateful for. Actions and choices are the only things we can control that can change the outcome of our futures. Even small actions, accompanied by time, can have huge consequences.
Recently I read a book called 9 Things You Simply Must Do by Dr. Henry Cloud. In his book, Dr. Cloud discusses nine practices that he observed in some of his most successful friends. Those nine practices include taking care of baggage from the past, practicing humility, and working diligently toward a goal.
Although all nine habits are powerful, there was one in particular that stuck out to me called, “Play the Movie.”
The concept is simple. Given the information, experience, and advice that you have received, imagine the what your life will be like based on the decision you are making.
Note: This is not what you HOPE the outcome will be. It is what the rational outcome will be.
Let me give you a personal example.
On my birthday, I was given more cake than I could handle. I put everything I couldn’t eat in the refrigerator. Every day for the past couple of days I have opened the refrigerator and that cake has been taunting me.
I think, “I would really like to eat a piece. After all, it IS my birthday cake.” However, there are consequences to eating cake.
Let’s play the movie forward. If I eat a piece of cake, I am training my body to be addicted to sugar (yes, sugar addiction is a real thing). If I train my body to crave sugar, I will start eating more sugary foods. If I eat too much sugar, I will become sick because my immune system will be compromised. If I become sick, I will not have the energy to wake up early in the morning and write my book. If I don’t write my book, I will be missing out on one of my life goals.
All because I ate a stupid piece of cake.
In reality, if I eat only one piece of cake, I’ll probably be fine. However, by playing the movie forward, I keep myself from indulging in cake on a regular basis.
This practice can be used for positive and negative outcomes.
By playing the movie forward, I am mentally experiencing the consequences of my actions and therefore make wiser decisions.
Based off of this concept, I have already decided the gifts that I want to give myself next birthday. The amazing thing is that I can start building those gifts today.
If I can choose to exercise daily, by next year, I will look in the mirror, and instead of seeing a mid-thirty belly forming, I will see a body that is strong and healthy.
If I choose to drink my greens drink daily, I will have a healthier immune system. That means I will have the energy to chase my goals and live a full life.
If I choose to write 1000 words a day for a year, I will have over 350,000 words which are more than enough for my blog and for a book. If I choose to edit for 30 minutes a day, I will be able to publish 3 articles a week.
If I continue to pour love into my children by looking at them in their eyes and telling them I love them and being present with them when I play, then next year I will look back and see the strong relationships that I have with my kids.
If I read for 30 minutes a day, I will look back and will have read approximately 25 books in a year if not more. Not only will that help me become wiser, but it will feed content that I need to write.
The list can go on and on. The beauty of this list is these practices or habits are relatively small. However, small does not mean weak.
Small actions over a long period of time = life transformation.
Although we make 100’s of choices a day, it all comes down to one simple choice: Do I do this, or do I not do it?
Do I eat the cake, or do I choose greens?
Do I exercise, or do I sleep in?
Do I write, or do I play video games?
Again, there is a time to indulge in sweets and sleeping in, but what keeps me making wise choices is Dr. Cloud’s “Play the Movie.” Playing the movie forward helps me to make the right decision and build habits that I will thank myself for later.
The outcomes of those habits are the best birthday gifts I can receive when my birthday arrives next year.
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Originally published at medium.com