“The future is shaped by forces.” Here’s what the expert says

Step 1: your future self – creation the story of your future

No great work has been created by man that has not been imagined before. The first step in the process is to ask yourself a fundamental question: what future do I want? I know this sounds very simple, but for many of my clients this is the biggest hurdle to overcome. They just don’t know what that long-awaited future is supposed to be. And they don’t know it because they never gave themselves permission to think about it. For the reasons listed in the previous chapter: they think the future is fixed and inevitable once and for all, they are even afraid to think about it.

Even when people feel they have permission to imagine the future, they generally lack a platform to realize that imagined future. Forming the Future gives you both the permission and the platform.

So step 1… What future do you want? When thinking about this question, it is important that you answer as detailed and specific as possible.

I once worked with a guy named Tim who, at forty, realized he had never been in such bad shape before. Other aspects of his life were good – a happy marriage, good children, a steady job – but his deteriorating physical health made him very happy.

– What future do you want? – I asked him when we first met.

“I want to be good,” Tim replied. – I want a healthier life.

– Okay, what does it look like exactly? – I pressed.

“I’m not sure,” he replied.

So I told him he had to figure it out and asked him some leading questions. I’m not a personal trainer or nutritionist, but I didn’t need to be a personal trainer to get Tim to think more carefully about his future health. At our next meeting, he presented his plan.

– Alright, BDJ, this is what it looks like. Today I weigh 110 kg, I want to lose weight to 86 kg – that’s what I had when I played lacrosse in college. My cholesterol is 256, my goal is 195. Triglycerides are 217. It needs to be 150 or less. At the moment, I am unable to climb stairs without getting out of breath. My goal is to run 5 kilometers in twenty-five minutes in three months.

Tim’s roadmap had a lot of other stuff as well, but you can already see what it’s all about. To start building a new future, you have to be precise. As I said in Chapter 1, it’s important to write down all the details, preferably with a pen on paper or at least some sort of note-taking device. The process of physical writing will help you think things through, and being able to see your goals is a big step towards achieving them.

If you’re stuck and find yourself in front of a blank sheet of paper, try approaching the problem from a different angle, asking yourself what future you want to avoid. I often use this tactic when working with businesses and corporations whose leaders often fear being harmed by macroeconomic forces such as cyberattacks or a sudden currency crash. They don’t want these forces to negatively affect their business. I call this approach “threat training” and it is easily applied to people’s lives as well.

Maybe you want to avoid a future where you won’t have enough money to maintain your current standard of living. Or you’re worried that your marriage is falling apart (a lot of things are going to fall apart after all, aren’t they? And often, many problems could have been avoided with a little more anticipation). Considering the future you want to avoid is reverse engineering, leading to a future you don’t want. Whichever approach you choose, it’s important to be as specific as possible. Remember that you are telling a new story for your future, and any good story should be full of details.

And a final word on storytelling: the future has great power. I take my job very seriously. For decades, I have sat in the front row of the theater of tomorrow. I have seen people – from heads of large organizations to simple bread eaters – change their future. I saw it happen, and each time such a sight taught me humility. Everyone is capable of changing their future. You are capable of changing your future.

This kind of thinking gives you strength and changes your life. We all know that dreams – including dreams – are magical. They can inspire us or – in the case of nightmares – terrify us. Dreams enter and touch us in ways ordinary stories cannot.

This is my challenge to you: dare to dream another dream – a future you truly and sincerely desire. Because it is possible. If you are able to dream boldly and truly believe in those dreams…you will change your future.

Step 2: Forces of the future – what will drive you there

The future does not happen by chance. I will repeat it throughout this book. The future is shaped by the forces that push your life in a positive or negative direction. Now that you have created the story of the new future you want for yourself, you need to figure out exactly what strengths you will use to achieve it.

As mentioned earlier, these strengths fall into three categories: people, tools and experts. The time you spend exploring and identifying each is crucial. I will not beat around the bush. This leg of our journey requires a lot of effort. It is laborious and time consuming. When I work with a large client, like a Fortune 500 company or a military division, I spend three to six months on future forces.

You probably won’t have to go that far, but it’s not a weekend project. This requires careful research and careful thought. Plus, it’s not the kind of thinking you often indulge in, so it will take time for your brain to activate other synapses. Just like muscles take time to get used to a different set of exercises. It’s clear that we are different, but I generally advise clients to give themselves at least two weeks to do an initial analysis of the forces of the future. Also, you need to realize that this will always be a work in progress. You will need to revisit your plan from time to time as you begin to move towards the future you desire.

You should also understand that this step of the process will make you feel uncomfortable. Everything that matters – especially if it’s about your future – has to evoke these feelings sometimes. That pressure in your stomach, the palpitations or perhaps the sweating of the nerves that occur at unexpected times – all these indicate that you are doing the right thing.

This is how we perceive real change. I tell my clients: Yes, of course, it is difficult and uncomfortable. That’s why we call it real life work. That’s why it’s important and it works. If it didn’t take effort, it would be called watching TV.

Alright – here we go.

Excerpt from the book “You Came. How to Effectively Shape Your Life” by Brian David Johnson. You can read more about the book HERE


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