Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Do A Nice Thing For Your Future Self

--by Elizabeth Gilbert (Mar 05, 2018)

I grew up on a small family farm, with plants and animals needing care in every direction, so vacations were rare. But one summer my parents convinced a neighboring farmer to tend to our goats and chickens while we got to go to the beach for a whole entire week. On the morning we departed, my mother stripped her bed, washed and dried the linens, and remade the bed perfectly, as if she were preparing it for a guest. I was baffled. Nobody was going to be visiting while we were away; why go to so much time and trouble? 
“Oh,” my mother explained, when I asked why she had bothered, “this is just a little present I’m giving my future self. This way, when she comes home all tired and worn-out at the end of her vacation, she’ll have the gift of fresh, clean sheets waiting to welcome her back to her own bed.” 

“She,” my mother had said—not “I.” I found it striking that she felt such friendly kindness toward the person she would be. My mother’s current self clearly believed that the stranger she’d become over the next week was deserving of love. This gift of a freshly made bed was not an insignificant act: It was a conscious handshake of affection across time, a way of connecting the woman of this moment to the woman of the future. 

I have never forgotten this lesson.

We are told to be kind and generous to ourselves, but it’s not always easy. Often we don’t feel deserving. Often we fail to act in our best interests in the chaos of the present moment, denying ourselves loving tenderness. We look in the mirror and think about every dumb thing we’ve done or said today, and we decide, Well, there stands a lousy piece of human garbage. Then comes the punishment, which can be anything from binge eating to taking other people’s abuse to blowing off our taxes. When you hate yourself this much, why would you evermake your bed? You’re basically a worthless dog who deserves nothing better than to sleep on a pile of damp rags. 

But what about the person you will become in a week? Or a month? Or a year? What about that innocent stranger? What did she ever do that was so wrong? What if you were able to regard your future self as a deserving visitor worthy of affection and sympathy? What if every single day you tried to think of one nice gift you could offer her—something that might make her feel welcome and safe and loved when she finally shows up? 

It can be as small a gesture as flossing your teeth (a boring task I can never bring myself to execute unless I begin by saying, “This one’s for you, future Liz!”), or as big a gesture as quitting smoking or walking out of a toxic relationship because you don’t want your future self to suffer as much as your present self is. 

If you can’t do a nice thing for you, could you possibly do a nice thing for her? That mysterious and blameless stranger will someday have to live in the world you’re creating for her today. In other words, you’re the one making the bed, but she’s the one who’ll be lying in it. So be nice to her today. Be nice to her every day. 

Remember: You are the best friend she has. 

Elizabeth Gilbert is an American author best known for her memoir Eat, Pray, Love. Excerpted from here.

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Previous Reflections:

On Mar 2, 2018 Jagdish P Dave wrote:

 How sad it is that  as we grow up we get put down and self degrading messages from the people who also love us and care about us. Such messages grow like bad roots in our unconscious mind and have a significant impact on our sense of self. This touching and beautiful story teaches us to welcome the innocent stranger, our own future mysterious and blameless  self, to befriend him or her, and extend our conscious hand of affection. We may not be able to do something about our bruised past self but we can welcome our self to come with loving and kind tenderness.

There are times when I have beaten myself for making big mistakes such as hurting someone close to me. What has helped me to meet and be my innocent mysterious self is the kind and loving people in my life for accepting me  with affection as I am. I have been practicing loving kindness meditation. Being compassionate to oneself and to others has helped me to stay rooted in affection and sympathy toward my future self.

May we be open to welcome our innocent stranger!


Jagdish P Dave


On Mar 4, 2018 david doane wrote:

 I am the best friend my future self has.  To a great extent, I'm a present oriented person with the firm belief that taking good care of my self physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually in the present is also best for my future self.  For example, I eat healthily and exercise, I do some letting go of things which clutter my life, I continuing to learn, I have relationships and make an effort to relate well, I do some relaxing and meditating, and I enhance my spirituality, all of which are good for my present self and my future self.  I also make some financial savings for my future self.  My belief that a happy and healthy present self is best for my future self helps me stay rooted in affection for my future self.  Sympathy for my future self doesn't feel right to me, but my belief helps me stay rooted in care for my future self.

On Mar 4, 2018 Abhishek wrote:

 This thought evokes a tenderness in me - the idea of a future self I don't know yet am deeply connected with....playing across time like this has a very humbling effect, also reminding me of the impermanence of it all (including my current self that may seem so SOLID at the moment!)

On Mar 5, 2018 Sunil, Bangalore wrote:

Impermanence is the only permanence.Every body-cell and every moment is constantly changing.What is today is not tomorrow.Love yourself intimately in the present first to love the other future you including all third party others. 
Charity begins at home.Deep meditation and conscious self inquiry is the best example of a personal story. As you find yourself and become peaceful,purer,powerful...... U R equanimous full of love/affection,sympathy/empathy, generosity/gratitude not only for your own-self but also for the world/universe.Nicest thing to do is to connect with your inner-net everyday & moment for mutual happiness and harmony.

On Mar 6, 2018 Barbara G wrote:

 What a wonderful lesson in self-love for: the author as a child; every reader (please teach any children in your life this life-changing lesson); me , a person who sometimes struggles to understand how to fully love myself.
It has also helped me realise that there are lots of small (caring) acts I do for my future self but hadn't thought about them that way - now I shall. Thank you for this inspiring piece. With Love. xx

On Mar 6, 2018 Panna wrote:

 A beautifully written reminder to treat your future self! It may apply in each and every direction of our lives e.g. eating healthy foods, exercise, achieve what one thinks in terms of learning or performing. Each moment, we are caring for our future self.

On Mar 6, 2018 Norma wrote:

 I do the same thing!  I never framed it as a gift to my future self.  When I leave my home, I put everything in order and imagine how the house will look when I return.  Sometimes, I put a treat on the counter like flowers or a sweet.  I love that feeling when I enter my home and feel welcomed!

On Mar 6, 2018 kay wrote:

 I laughed when I read this because that’s exactly what I do!  I guess I’m kinder to myself than I tho

On Mar 6, 2018 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:

 I totally relate! 2017 became the year of self-care and it was Glorious! I took naps when needed so I was more refreshed. I stayed in more instead of going out more. I often donate to others, this year I spent some of that money on me by receiving coaching. It made a huge difference and impact. I am more centered.  <3 I feel really wonderful today and much of it is because I finally shared kindness and compassion with myself rather than with everyone else around me. Yes, I am still kind and compassionate to others and now i include ME in the mix too. It's made all the difference. What helps me stay rooted is seeing the impact little by little. I am more centered. I am more grounded. I feel better more days that not. Be your own best friend too, you are worth it! 

On Mar 6, 2018 Rashmi wrote:

 This article makes my day. 

On Mar 6, 2018 Paul wrote:

 This is very timely and I have shared it with our staff here at Pioneer Elementary School. Yesterday we got news that a 5th grader was seriously contemplating suicide. I see in our schools we are not creating the space for healing, expression, or even acceptance. We're trudging on with the same mentality that we had 30 years ago. The childrens dynamics are changing and we need to step up to keep up. Thank you for this.

On Mar 6, 2018 Annette wrote:

 I like the validation that you exude to the reader of your comment, Kristin.  It's permission of a sort to actually treat ones self nicer, better, and as a result, the consequences are rewarding to the fullest.

On Mar 6, 2018 me wrote:

Every night, my body says "It's time to sleep"!  
As a child, I heard often, (from my dad), "you sleep in the the bed you make (or don't make).  If you make a mess any where in life, you'll eventually have to face it (future self).  The rules created in my father's house where all geared to that.  (We were NOT served breakfast until our bed was made (or linen stripped for mom to wash)!  Very simply, the rules where set and we had to abide by them.  The consequence of not following the plan set before us was ... to find another house in which to live!  I can't say that I enjoyed my upbringing while in the midst of it, but as an adult I SURE am thankful for it!  (GOOD comes from lessons learned.)  
Deserving or not, every night I receive a gift from myself ... a freshly made bed!  My body, sleeps better "in order"!  Thank you mom and dad!  

God does NOT create "Lousy pieces of human garbage".  Your Father lives in Heaven! 

On Mar 6, 2018 Yogi wrote:

 Part of our ecological destruction has to do with misunderstanding the temporal unity of our "self." As media and politics and capitalism pressure us to reduce our awareness to the split-second desires and drives elicited through advertising and propagandas of all sorts, we lose perspective. They say that a society is great when old men plant trees under whose shade they will never sit. The west has been mortgaging their future selves and the lineage of life to maximize short-term comfort at the cost of long-term comfort and sustainability, equity, and resilience. Gilbert beautifully portrays the self-hate at the core of all unconscious habits that harm our future selves. This unconscious self-hate is a large part of the mechanisms driving our maladaptive habits and separation. Being nice to our future self permits freedom--freedom from the boundness of seeking shortcuts, of lying to ourselves about the consequences of our actions. As Hanna Arendt wrote, I would never want to kill someone because I wouldn't want to live with a murderer. As we are complicit for climate change, the wars abroad, we will be forced to live with their consequences. Taking responsibility for each trace of our actions, and how they ramify politically, socially, and personally, is today an arduous process. The cards are stacked against us. And yet, reclaiming our sovereignty means working with others in solidarity to make their futures brighter as well. Gilbert’s mother didn’t just make a nice bed for her future self, but for her husband’s future self too. She made a happier family, with less grumpiness. How are you sowing the seeds of community and ecology for your future self?

On Mar 6, 2018 me too wrote:


On Mar 7, 2018 Nikki wrote:

 As a coach who's working with people trying to improve their health and work on changing their habits, I was struck by how relevant this passage is to the people I work with daily. I've been sharing it all morning and have been getting some very positive response so far. I've also shared it with some of the other coaches I work with. As part of our work as coaches, we're exposed to the inner worlds of so many people, so many of whom experience incredible amount of self-hatred, which is bottled inside and creates a lot of suffering. This reminds me of Kristen Neff's research into self compassion and her "letter of self compassion" exercise. Very powerful reading. Mahalo for sharing! 

On Mar 31, 2018 susan wrote:

 I love that you do this!
Me, too! It feels so far it good to come home to all the goodness in my space!