This post is the second of a three-part series on the power of the past, future, and present. In the last post, we talked about the power of the past. If you missed it, you can read it here.
Thinking of the Future is Uniquely Human
Humans are the only animals that spend time thinking of the future. While some animals like squirrels instinctively store food for the winter, only humans spend time planning or worrying about future events.
We are often told to live in the moment. While there is value to this statement, we cannot live in the moment 100% of the time. If we only live in the moment without regard for the future, then we will ultimately lead unhappy, and unhealthy lives.
The Power of the Future
Humans have the ability to create future circumstances they desire. Consider this, almost everything around you was first an idea in someone’s mind. At some point in the past, it did not exist.
Someone had a vision and turned it into an intention. With that intention, they embarked on a plan that took action to create what you are experiencing today. Everything that man has created started as someone’s vision of the future.
You Have the Power of Vision
You have the power to create your own vision of the future. Knowingly or unknowingly, you have done it before. In fact, you are doing it right now.
You are either consciously or unconsciously creating your future. If you are not consciously creating a vision of the future, your non-conscious mind takes over and creates it for you. That is why you are where you are today.
So, if you want your future to look different than your past, you have the power to change it by consciously creating your future.
Creating a Clear Vision
Perhaps the most important aspect of creating a desirable future is clarity of vision. There is a saying in business that “fuzzy goals lead to fuzzy outcomes” meaning that if you are not clear on what you want or where you want to go, you will likely not get there.
Consider these three statements:
1) “I want to go to California.” 2) “I want to go to Los Angeles, California.” 3) “I want to go to the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Blvd in Los Angeles, California.”
Which statement is more likely to get you where you want to go? Certainly, the last statement because it is the most specific. It is the clearest vision.
It is hard to visualize in your mind what the whole state of California looks like. It is even hard to visualize what the whole city of Los Angeles looks like. However, each of us can visualize walking down Hollywood Blvd and looking at the names of our favorite actors and their stars built into the sidewalk.
The future becomes powerful when you create a clear vision of what you desire. A clear vision also illuminates a path to get there.
Setting an Intention
After creating a vision of what you desire in the future, you need to set an intention. Setting an intention grounds your vision into something tangible. It provides a path.
Your intention is not your ultimate destination. It is your next logical stop on the road to your vision. Intentions and goals are similar except that intentions are not as rigid and prescriptive.
Some people are good at goal setting, but many are not. However, you don’t have to be a good goal setter to create the future you desire. You simply need to create a clear vision, set an intention for the next logical step, and take consistent action.
If you like creating detailed goals and action plans, go right ahead. However, if goal setting and action plans are intimidating or have failed you in the past, focus on this simpler approach. Set an intention that is the next logical step. Then take at least some action every day that moves you towards your intention.
Planning Your Action
Life only changes for the better when we take action. Taking consistent action towards an intention is the single biggest challenge to achieving anything.
Consistency of action is both the key to success and the most challenging obstacle. Plan time to take action towards your intention. Make that time sacred so that nothing will get in your way. Ideally, plan it early in your day so there is less chance of other priorities getting in the way.
If you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up. Just make absolutely sure you don’t miss two days in a row. Even spending 5 minutes doing the smallest thing towards your intention helps. It builds your action habit and creates momentum.
Remember, all big things are built with many small steps.
The Danger of the Future
Allowing Your Past to Determine Your Future
Your past does not determine your future. There is a myth that says, “people don’t change.”
The truth is that your brain and your body are constantly changing. Every new piece of information your brain processes creates a new neural connection. You create new blood cells every 7 days, and you replace every cell in your body every 7 years. You and your body are constantly changing.
However, we all develop habitual ways of thinking and acting. And, unless we become consciously aware of these patterns, we will continue to use them automatically. While we are constantly changing and evolving, we often follow the same patterns.
Therefore, if you want to create a future that looks different from the past, you must consciously choose to think and act differently. If you do not, you are allowing your past to determine your future.
Worrying About the Future
Worry is anxiety about what might happen in the future. Worry is a survival mechanism developed by our ancestors to keep us safe from possible dangerous situations. However, the dangers of physical survival rarely apply to our daily living. And yet, we continue to worry about all kinds of things.
Worry is a form of regret called future regret. It comes from past experiences that haven’t gone well. Therefore, we expect that things won’t go well in the future. This creates anxiety in the present. However, expecting that things won’t go well in the future creates a negative expectation. Therefore, worrying about potential negative outcomes only serves to increase their likelihood of occurring.
The simple fact is that there is no value in worrying. It is only wasted emotional energy. The majority of the time, the things we worry about never happen. Even if they do happen, the consequences are often not as bad as we imagine.
The answer to worry is acceptance. Accept what is. Accept the current situation. Accept the consequences of what might happen. Then, move on. Instead, spend the time taking action towards creating a better outcome.
Here’s the Midlife Lesson:
There is power in the future to create the life you desire. It requires developing a clear vision, setting an intention of the next logical step, and taking consistent action towards your intention.
Ignoring your future or allowing your past to dictate your future will only create more of the same circumstances. Worry is anxiety about what might happen in the future and is a waste of time and energy. Overcome worry by accepting what is and focusing on taking action towards your intention.
Here’s the Mighty Challenge of the Day:
- Think about an area of your life that you want to improve.
- Create a clear vision of what you desire. See your vision in detail including sights, smells, and sounds.
- How does your vision make you feel? What emotions are you feeling?
- What would be the first logical step towards your vision?
- Write down this logical next step as an intention.
- Make a plan of how you are going to take action towards your intention every day.
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