Once upon a time, you imagined a future and guess what? It's here. What you call "today" was once an idea in your mind called "the future". If you want to know what your "future future" is likely to contain, take a good look around. You are already planting the seeds for what today looks like in a distant future, but when you get there, it will be your "today".
The idea of a future that's "out there" is a trick of the mind because, no matter where or when, we can only find ourselves in the present. What's happening in your present awareness is setting the stage for what will unfold from here going forward in time.
The question is: how will you engage in the process of creating your "future", consciously or unconsciously?
This is a critical inquiry, for if you are asleep at the wheel today with your life on auto-pilot, following the old road-maps and attempting to stay only on the well traveled paths, when life throws a curve ball, you'll be unprepared to make the adjustments necessary to avoid going off the road completely and end up in the ditch or worse. Perhaps you've already found that out the hard way. Join the club!
Living in the 21st century requires us to bring a new level of awareness to each moment. Life no longer follows the rules we've always lived by. All bets are off and today, we must become masterful at re-inventing ourselves in the moment, responding, not reacting, to what's right in front of us. If your idea of who you are is attached to the old roles you've always played and those roles are suddenly stripped away, who are you now?
Do you have the presence and awareness to be able to make conscious choices about how to negotiate the debris and wreckage in the road? Or are you stuck being angry about the debris itself? The time you spend today being angry or paralyzed because of what's already happened is setting you up for a future filled with more of the same.
There are two futures coming at you, simultaneously.
The Predictable, Foreseeable Future
This is the one that's already on its way. It's the natural outcome of the choices you've already made and the actions you've already taken. You know what this future looks like. If you look out in the days ahead to the coming week, you can see and know what that future holds. You know what your calendar looks like, what meetings you'll have, phone calls you need to make, bills you need to pay, people with whom you need to connect. You can predict what's going to happen in this future. Few surprises here.
If you continue doing what you're doing, just as you're doing it, this future is sure to come. And that may be a grand thing! You might already have planted the seeds for a totally spectacular, fulfilling future. You might have been nurturing those seeds, watering and fertilizing the soil and clearing out the weeds and you may now be harvesting the fruits of your intention and attention.
If your life is blessing you with exactly what you've always wanted, bravo! Keep going! Send postcards. We're listening.
If the future you're currently harvesting doesn't match your picture of how you wanted it to be, and if you keep on responding to life in exactly the same ways, you'll keep on creating and re-creating more of what you don't want.
The Unpredictable, Unforeseeable Future
If you go out far enough in time, there is a future that cannot be seen from here. The choices you make today help to shape that future as well. In fact, the future can only be of your own creation. But this is sometimes hard to reconcile because very often things happen that are out of our control and the results don't always turn out the way we thought or planned.
We need only look back to the economic crisis of 2008 and see how suddenly and dramatically life changed for everyone. No one predicted these events. You couldn't have foreseen them. So let's assume that you did your best, yet still your life might have been turned upside down by these events. As a nation, we're still living through the aftermath, still sorting through the rubble and trying to re-assemble the pieces of what's left.
Here's the tricky part: how you assemble those pieces is what will determine how your future unfolds from here.The stock market crash, collapse of the housing market, and loss of jobs was not your creation. But how you respond to it is.
If you're spending energy trying to re-assemble the pieces of your life so they reproduce what you had before, you're likely going to be frustrated and disappointed. Why? Because chances are, the pieces no longer fit together in the old ways. You've been altered by the experience and so has the world. Nothing remains the same. Whether you come through this experience more open to new possibilities or more cynical about the system itself is up to you.
If you want to be justified in your belief about how unfair life is and seek evidence to be right about it, you'll find plenty of evidence to back up your belief. And you'll also find plenty of others who agree with your point of view. But does anything change? Are you empowered to move on? Someone once said, "Being filled with resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die." It doesn't work! So what does?
If instead, you consider the remaining pieces of your life not as broken remainders of a life that no longer exists, but as the starting point for a future that is yet to be written, new possibilities become available. New doors open. From the rubble, a new future can emerge.
Here's a perfect example of approaching life this way from SShaw490 in response to last week's post, Are You Progressing or Staying Stuck?:
My family is weathering the storm pretty well on an economic basis because I'm fortunate to have a professional specialty that's in demand, and will probably stay that way. But we find ourselves living in a city (Houston) where we were born and have lived our lives, but is becoming unbearably intolerant, angry, negative and downright hostile. It has become an intolerable environment -- but you don't just up and move because your hometown is uncomfortable.
My son is going off to college in the fall of 2012, and we've always assumed he'd go to the University of Texas; but for various reasons, he's less enthusiastic about that idea as time goes on. He's looking into other colleges and he's thinking about one of the Oregon universities. So we've been thinking, "Hey, maybe we'll just move there - we'll save on tuition, I can keep my job and work from there, houses aren't too expensive, we love that kind of environment, and our son can come see us every weekend if he wants." Maybe things aren't really working out like we thought; but maybe they're working out better. The flow of life may take us someplace that we didn't expect, but maybe life knows our needs better than we do. I think that ability to stand in a redwood forest and let life ooze up from the earth and down from those trees sounds better all the time.
Chapters of our lives end for reasons that are not always obvious. While you're clinging to the old ways, seeking to hold on to what was, numerous new possibilities cannot be made known to you because your eyes are closed. What if life really does have something better in store?
If instead of predicting the future by looking at the past, what if you could invent the future by naming it, claiming it, declaring it, with no evidence of how to get there, but clearly seeing yourself as having already arrived at where you want to be? SShaw490 is already "standing in a redwood forest and letting life ooze up from the earth and down from those trees." Have any doubts about where he's going?
Ask yourself, who will you need to become to have this future manifest? Then go to work to become the person can create it. Which doesn't mean that life won't continue to throw curve balls. You'll need to keep shifting and adjusting to the changes that occur on the ground every step of the way.
Obviously, the future that unfolds out of this kind of process is much less predictable. The old road-maps have been updated. New routes have been downloaded. This new terrain is unfamiliar and filled with uncertainty. The path is not fully revealed and in order to find your way you're required to call forth new possibilities within yourself. When we're in the unknown, the tendency is to contract in fear, circle the wagons and double down on what's worked in the past. Yet what if what the doctor ordered is the exactly opposite?
What if a new level of courage is required of you? What if life is nudging you towards a new way of seeing, a new level of humility, or a willingness to admit you don't have all the answers? What if you must now reach out for support in ways you would have never done before? What if you must give up kneeling at the altar of self-deceit or self-deprecation and learn to accept and love yourself?
Life not turning out the way we want has a powerful way of getting our attention and pointing us in a different direction. Very often the thing that looks the most unreasonable, the action required to break the mold, ends up being the key to re-inventing yourself and launching a new future.
How can you use what you have, exactly as you have it, with all the good and bad news, to assemble a new future right now? What challenges have you faced and how have you grown as a result?
I welcome your thoughts and comments below and come pay a visit to my personal blog and website at Rx For The Soul.
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And as always, blessings on the path.