Ever since my Mom passed away in April, I’ve been thinking about a photo of her taken in the late 1940’s. She’s in her early 20’s, newly married, a teacher in a two room schoolhouse on the Canadian prairies. I think she’s looking a little bit movie star-ish.
As I’ve carried this image of Mom around with me, I’ve been wondering what Mom imagined back then about how her life would unfold.
Even though I’ll never know, I do know two things for sure: Many good things happened she could never have foreseen. Many misfortunes arrived she could never have guessed.
Thinking about the future distinguishes us humans from other species. We anticipate what might happen and run scenarios in our minds.
When I used to think about my future, I prided myself on being “realistic”. I planned my finances. I figured out how it was all going to happen ahead of time. I mapped out my career.
I hated uncertainty. I wanted to control my future.
What that meant in practice was that I reigned in my vision about what was possible for me:
A sensible career in a conservative field? Yep, I can plan that out. It’s possible. Check.
Academic achievement? Sure, if I work my buns off. It’s possible. Check.
Marriage and children? Seems achievable. It’s possible. Check.
Helping people work on their minds? Huh? How would I do that? It’s not possible. It’s a no.
Paint? Yeah, maybe in another world where I was endowed with a trust fund and was already wowing the world with my artistic skill by age 7. Impossible and nope.
What I didn’t fully grasp was that no future is “real”. No one story we tell ourselves about our future is truer than another story. In fact, any story about our future is always pure fiction.
We’re all just making it up.
But our stories about what will happen DO have an enormous impact. They affect us right now. And they affect what we create.
That’s because our stories cause us to feel one way or another. And how we feel affects how we navigate our journeys.
In my case, the stories I was telling myself about my future created these feelings: sensible, determined, committed, conscientious, accomplished, successful. And ALSO: constrained, closed, controlling, depleted, deprived, worried, stuck, empty and dissatisfied.
Those feelings drove the choices I made and the actions I didn’t take. And those decisions and behaviours were creating my future.
That’s how my reigned-in vision became my path to the future: Master’s degree. Economist. Law degree. Tax lawyer. Wife. Mother.
A few decades later, I became aware that I was making it all up. That things could be different. That I wasn’t stuck. No one and no circumstance were holding me back.
I was creating the “stuckness”.
I decided to become more deliberate about what I chose to imagine. I took a step back to see if I even liked my stories. I decided to reconsider everything I’d been telling myself.
I began asking myself, what story about my future do I want to tell? What future would I create if I could choose to do anything?
When I caught myself worrying from time to time, I’d remind myself that I’m just making up bad things for no reason. I started to imagine the future I could create without any limits.
I noticed that when I imagined a different future, I felt different emotions. I felt inspired, joyful, challenged, open, connected, appreciative, worthy, motivated and peaceful. Just from the simple act of imagining the future I wanted.
I could feel good ahead of time. I could allow these new feelings fuel my behaviour and actions now.
I could start building that new future by thinking differently.
And here’s the future I created: Creative Expansion Coach. Artist.
Working with people on their minds? Check.
What I’d love for you – what I’d love for everybody – is for you to allow yourself to imagine the future you want. Why not start now?
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