Composing Your Future

Living Into The Future

Last week’s blog post was all about completing the past. This week, it’s time to talk about composing the future.

“It’s the future we’re living into that gives us being in the present.” – Introduction to the Landmark Forum.

I remember either reading that quote or hearing it back in roughly 2002-2003, and it was just another one of those moments where my brain had to make a new brain cell just to store it. It was such a novel concept to me at the time.

See, I thought it was my past that determined who I was being in the present. I thought it was the decisions I had made, and the events I had lived through that informed ‘who I was’ moment to moment. This seemed reasonable to me at the time, and it still seems reasonable when I see it.

Then, I looked closely at a weekly ritual that used to haunt me in my youth… Sunday afternoons.

I grew up in Connecticut, and in the fall, college football was Saturdays, and pro football was Sundays for me. I didn’t play, but I was a big fan of the NY Giants, so every Sunday, I’d watch the Jets lose the early game, and the Giants play the late game… games were at like 1:00 and 4:00.

Then, at 6 pm 60 Minutes would come on, and it was time for dinner.

Here’s how I know Landmark’s statement is TRUE TRUE TRUE.

I was a professional procrastinator when it came to homework. Had I done whatever was due Monday morning come football time? Nope. So, I’d eat my entire bag of pretzels and 3 diet pepsis KNOWING there was a cloud of work looking on the horizon.

It gets better.

In the second half of the late game, 60 minutes would run ads with teasers about the articles they were running that evening… and you better believe that they used that video footage of the stopwatch and the incessant TICK TICK TICK TICK TICK either at the beginning or the end of the commercial.

Like Pavlov’s dog, every time I’d here that TICK TICK TICK, my mood would TANK, because it would remind me of all the work I had waiting for me… in my near future. It was the future of too-much-homework-in-too-little-time that drive my mood into the tank. I found that even if the Giants were winning, by the 4th quarter, I was depressed. There I am, eating my favorite snack, drinking my favorite soda (at the time), watching my favorite team WINNING… and I was losing. My present was great, but it was my future that was weighing me down.

Why share all this?

I’ve slowly learned that this distinction has massive implications for anyone personally involved in life through any of the following three lenses:

  1. Personal development
  2. Mental health
  3. Addiction recovery

In all three scenarios, if we don’t consciously create a future to look forward to, it’s all too easy to react to life in the present or recreate the past out of sheer repetition or habit. What we must do instead is to create, compose, or invent a future that is so exciting that it literally pulls us towards it. To ‘begin with the end in mind’ creates what I think all human beings need: a sense or feeling of purpose or meaning. I can’t speculate on why we feel the need to have purpose or meaning, but it definitely seems like it’s a transformational game-changer.  After reading Victor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning,” I saw how a powerful enough future could propel a person through a living hell in the present.

I know from my own experience that the times in my life where I’ve had a clear future that I had consciously created for myself are the times where I’ve felt ‘on purpose.’ I’ve experienced massive amounts of empowerment, inspiration, and satisfaction in the pursuit of the future I had created, which really turned on my jets when things were going well, but also gave me that extra gear I needed to get through some monumental challenges and adversity along the way.

Similarly, in the times where I’ve gotten lazy or tired of continuing to create a compelling future, I feel adrift. I take for granted things that are going well, as if I fail to notice them in the same way as I do when I’m moving consciously toward something. I also slip back into old habits, behaviors, or moods because, well, it’s just easy to.

Where are you headed?

I’ll close with this. It’s a lot easier to drive down the road of life looking ahead through your giant windshield than by looking back through your rear view mirror. So, as we close out 2020, where are YOU headed in 2021? Do you know? Have you composed, created, envisioned, invented something tangible, a place to move toward? Because I can predict a whole lot of people are going to be running FROM 2020 and not TOWARD 2021. Those who take the time to create 2021 from a place of sheer potential and possibility will find a whole lot more freedom in their self expression than those who just stay in reaction mode. 

Which direction will YOU be facing?

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