A Tale of Three Me(s): Past, Present, and Future

The Three Mes

This concept of the “three Me(s)” came out of an ongoing conversation I  have been having with a close friend.

When you meet someone, at first glance, they may seem ordinary enough, but there is more to them. By our count, there are in fact three of them: a Past, a Present, and a Future version. These three Me(s) or You(s) are trying to coexist and work together, but there can be tension between them.

Let’s meet the three Me(s) and learn what they have to tell us.

Meet Present Carl. Present Carl has a lot on his plate. He is juggling multiple roles, jobs, tasks, and ideas. His desk is covered in piles. Present Carl has lists, and lists of things to accomplish. He is a little overwhelmed (maybe a lot) and is easily distracted (maybe a lot). Present Carl has a lot of work to do, and he is trying to balance the work along with enjoying life, connecting with his close family and friends.

There are two other Me(s). One is waiting to arrive.

Meet Future Carl. This guy has it made. Things are going well for him. He is successful and has “made it.” Future Carl is a successful author, consultant, speaker, husband, father, and friend who lives in a cool community (maybe two), sets his own hours and schedule, works with an amazing team, and sips good strong coffee while working on creatively cool projects that change the world.

There is the last Me. One who existed before.

Meet Past Carl. He was a pretty good guy (most of the time). He tried hard, but tended to procrastinate. He was easily distracted, overwhelmed, got frustrated, and didn’t always like the hard work that was in front of him. Past Carl liked to get in the car and go on adventures instead of mowing the lawn, planting a garden, or crossing things off that ever growing to-do list.

Unfortunately, there is tension between the three Me(s): Past, Present, and Future. They are not always on the same page. They fight, blame each other, and resentment can build between them. Sometimes they don’t even know they are on the same team, and may actually be working against one another.

Present Carl tends to blame the other two. He blames Future Carl for dreaming up these lofty goals. He blames Past Carl for not doing enough work, for procrastinating, and for not saving or sacrificing enough. Ironically, Present Carl tends to be the one dreaming up those goals, while at the same time not doing the work today. But he likes to blame the other two.

Past Carl feels under-appreciated, overlooked, and less important. He wasn’t asleep at his post. He studied, worked hard, and tried to face what each day would bring. He did some of the tasks while trying to balance life each day.

Future Carl cannot seem to understand what is taking so long. Why didn’t the other two get their act together? Why didn’t they pay the price? Why didn’t they invest? “Just think where we could be today if they had just [insert expectation here].”

Present Carl tends to be the most judgmental. He feels trapped between Past Carl and Future Carl. He doesn’t always like being in the middle. The projects aren’t getting done, the pressures are mounting, and the joy of accomplishment has been replaced by resentment toward the burdensome expectations.

How can we help and reconcile the Past, Present, and the Future me(s)?

Present Carl could start by forgiving Past Carl. Past Carl did a lot of things that were not perfect, and included some failings along the way. However, Past Carl got Present Carl to where he is today. Instead of resentment, Present Carl can show gratitude and recognize the work, sacrifice, and circumstances of Past Carl and grow to appreciate him.

Once forgiven, Past Carl is free to just be.

Present Carl, no longer burdened with the blame and resentment, can have a new perspective. He realizes that soon he will become Past Carl as well. The work he does or doesn’t do, matters. He looks ahead to Future Carl and realizes that he needs to be free from the burden of him as well.

Future Carl can help here. Future Carl can ask Present Carl to forgive him as well. He didn’t intend for the goals, and achievements to be a heavy weight on Present Carl. He wants the best for him, and sees cool things ahead in the journey. Future Carl begins to root for Present Carl.

Present Carl is now free.

Present Carl understands he needs to do work, but not as a resentment-filled task. His work each day is more of a gift to Future Carl. Present Carl doesn’t “have to” do things, but “gets to” do things to make a difference for someone he really cares about. Present Carl also begins to cherish the work of Past Carl and regularly thanks him for the sacrifice that got him here. Past Carl begins to root for Present Carl as well.

All three of them, Past Carl, Present Carl, and Future Carl are learning to operate as a team. Their appreciation for each other has grown, and gratitude and mutual grace has replaced the blame that used to dominate their interactions. They are not perfect, and it is taking the three of them some time to get used to their new roles. When the old attitudes or patterns creep back in, they remind each other of how much they care about each other, and forgive again.

The hope for you is that your three Me(s) will learn to walk together in grace and peace. That they will become more of a team, and stop working against each other and begin to cherish and root for each other.

May all of (y)our Me(s) find what they need.

3 thoughts on “A Tale of Three Me(s): Past, Present, and Future

  1. Thank you, so much, for letting the rest of us in on the conversations you and Jen have been having. That is a vulnerable thing to do and I am so grateful for it. The perspective you bring, Carl, gave space for me to acknowledge my own past, present and future MEs. First, that they exist and, second, that they play a role in each other’s perspectives. I will be sitting in this space, listening to these voices for a while. wow. Thanks.

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