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Future Thinking

Dear readers and friends of my blog,

Today I want to talk about how future thinking might change...

Future Thinking refers to the process of decision-making.

Since this is my area of interest and the focus of my coaching work, I am always looking for new ways to find and make good decisions. Sometimes it means untangling existing threads. Sometimes it means bringing maximum structure to what at first glance looks like total chaos.

Usually, we think of decisions in terms of "yes" or "no" options, in a binary mode. Sure, we're conditioned that way, with a clear emphasis on "yes." It's a popular sport called "people pleasing."

But most of us have experienced, in one way or another, that behind obvious choices lie a host of more complex decisions that actually steer our lives.

Steering our lives, that's the keyword.

My coaching instructor, Martha Beck, teaches that when we are in tune with our North Star (as she calls it), we can live a life of peace. If we take a look at a much older source, say the I-Ching, we will find that this Book of Changes says something similar. It is the alignment between our earthly existence and a higher self that will make the (long-term) difference. Only if we know how to use our body compass (senses, will, language, imagery) will we be able to navigate through these uncertain times.

I just read an article on Episodic Future Thinking, EFT.

To my complete surprise, scientists have acknowledged a Higher Self. They speak (scientifically) of delay discounting when people prefer solutions with smaller but immediate rewards over a larger but longer-term reward. We obviously don't trust the future.

The article also talks about episodic future thinking (EFT). It is defined here as a form of future projection in which one projects one's own life into the future in order to emotionally experience upcoming events.

This is future thinking as defined by EFT.

We have the ability to project our lives into the future to create an image and a feeling of it. This is not clairvoyance but puzzle work as we will see in a moment.

There is a turning point in the timeline towards the future. We can easily project forward up to 5 years. Everything we imagine still has some relation to the NOW.

However, if we take a leap 10 years into the future, the brain does not find enough data to create an image of the future.

In this process, we change perspective. We are no longer 'me in ten years', but we are 'someone who I could be in ten years'. A shift from first-person dialogue into third-person dialogue. This, of course, creates a lot of room for dreams, change, and for course correction.

What can we do? Fill in the gaps with creativity. The interesting thing is that this allows for completely new visions. We construct possibilities we don't even know about.

Scientifically speaking:

"Because EFT projects the self into pre-experiencing future events, engaging in EFT can activate brain regions involved in prospective thinking (Schacter et al., 2007), thereby inducing future orientation."

That's where this topic grabbed me.

Because in times when decision-making is no longer linear, this is highly interesting. What do we know about the future? It is no longer predictable at the technological speed at which it is changing (and we along with it).

We don't know anything precise about any starting point A, from which we hope to reach destination B. The whole system is so shaky and so fast-moving, so unpredictable, that disorientation will force us to learn new ways of thinking, and making choices.

Future me.

I received an email just before Christmas that I wrote to myself in the past. A year or so ago. It was great fun, but in some ways disappointing. Because I had to realize that nothing really substantial has changed since then. And I can't say that my life doesn't contain centrifugal elements, oh yes, it does! Still, what my former self predicted for me was not earth-shattering.

I should have written to myself ten years ago.

Ten years ago, I knew nothing about the now. Just as I know nothing about my future 10 years from now. I know nothing about the future world or my future life. Nada.

But I can fill in the gaps. By creativity and free thinking.

I can even change what I imagined at the beginning of my 10-year period. Ongoing. I can create a synthesis between the known and the completely unknown. That's Future Thinking.

It takes a little practice and guidance, which is why I always start with a 5-year period, but once you let go and really rely on the puzzle pieces, exciting perceptions and insights will show up. The brain will create new connections that will ultimately allow us to get there.

For me as a coach, this tool is an incredible asset. It's a means to completely reorient yourself, especially when the future seems to be a downhill race.

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