“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” – Albert Einstein
When you reflect on past decisions, events, relationships, employment, etc., what stands out in your mind as defining those periods in your life? Was it the day-to-day stress of surmounting obstacles, or was it the end result, such as, landing the job you wanted or finishing a marathon?
As individuals, it’s those pivotal moments of victory and defeat that stand out and not the day-to-day specifics that weighed us down along the journey.
Here’s the reason why:
In hindsight, the daily stressors weren’t that important. Sure, they may “feel” important when you’re in the thick of it, but in the long run, they’re often forgotten. This same principle should apply to our view of the future.
More often than not, when it comes to thinking about and planning for the future, we let the day-to-day stress rob us of our vision for our lives, our organizations, our communities, and our world. Stresses like:
Let me be clear. I’m not advocating that we ignore what’s right in front of us for the sake of “the future.” We live in the present so we have to deal with the day-to-day issues. However, we do not have to allow the stress, the short-term obstacles, and inconveniences it brings, to limit our vision of the future. The best way to remove those limitations is to reimagine your future through a different framework than the one you’re probably used to.
Simply put, standing in the future is so powerful because it allows you to discover the fullest expression of yourself without any limitations (real or imagined). Of course, there will be obstacles, but so many perceived obstacles are mere projections about a future that has yet to be determined. And focusing on these perceived obstacles can limit the imagination in ways that are harmful to your true potential.
Anytime we try to think about the future from our present standpoint, our view will always be obscured by these obstacles in some way. But, when we start in the future, we have the freedom to discover new potential that we never before imagined was possible. Once that potential has been discovered, you are more likely to see and take advantage of opportunities that exist in the present to make that future potential a reality.
Reimagining our future requires us to place ourselves in a future context in order to determine who it is that we ultimately aspire to be and whom we aspire to be that to.
I’ve worked through this process with individuals and teams from a wide variety of industries, and without fail, each of them has had a profound experience rediscovering what is truly important to them and the lasting impact they want to have.
STEP 1: Start by making a list of the different roles you play in your life. For example, you may be a mother, husband, entrepreneur, athlete, etc.
This is what it looks like for me:
STEP 2: Reflect for a moment on what you are most proud of in each of those roles over the past 10 years.
In each of those roles, use the following language:
"As a (mother / father / entrepreneur, etc) I am proud of the fact that …..”
STEP 3: Put yourself 10 years into the future and repeat this exercise.
The key is to REFLECT not project. In other words, write your answers in the past tense. At the time of this writing it’s the year 2020. So for this part of the process I will stand in 2030 and look back to the present day.
STEP 4: Answer the following questions:
The beauty of this process is that it always reveals new aspirations that you didn’t know you had and greater impacts you didn’t realize you could make. Ultimately, it will animate the actions you take going forward with new purpose and meaning. Knowing the “why” of what you do going forward will the make the “how” much easier to undertake.