Throw away your Crystal Ball
Most of us would say we can't predict the future. So why do we act as if we could?
I was talking with a couple of different clients this week, in very different contexts. One was an HR leader, going through a restructure process, and another was a woman who’s been going through infertility treatment and riding some big emotional ups and downs along the way as she struggles to come to peace with her current situation and possible future.
So what has one got in common with the other?
That’s what’s so interesting about working with people at the level of how their experience is created - when it looks on the surface like they have nothing in common, you’re actually always dealing with the same thing - a misunderstanding about how Thought, and therefore our experience of life, works.
While these women did in fact have everything in common at that level, there’s one aspect of that I’d like to share with you, because it really leapt out at me in these two conversations.
Well, maybe we don’t actually think we have a crystal ball, but we sure act like we do.
There are two scenarios here (there are probably more but I’m going with these two for the moment):
Step 1. We imagine a future. We add pictures and sounds and feelings and other special effects, and think it’s really what will happen.
Step 2. We get to the point we envisaged, and it’s not like that (because how could it be? We made it up, and we don’t have a crystal ball).
Step 3. We get upset, or relieved, or surprised, or wrong-footed, depending on what thinking we had about the future we’d made up and expected to happen, and how we think that compares with what actually happened.
Step 1. We imagine two or more futures, again with pictures and sounds and special effects.
One is usually a blissful happy future that we think we will have when x happens, or as long as y doesn’t happen.
The other is the ‘future of doom’ that we are sure we will have if x doesn’t happen, or y happens.
Step 2. When we think future number one is no longer possible, we compare these two made up futures, and of course, future 2 comes up severely lacking. We distress ourselves (repeatedly) with thoughts of what our future will now be like, and mourn the loss of the other one we had made up.
Oh the irony of what we innocently do to ourselves because we forget:
We have no idea what the future holds, because we’re not there yet.
In each moment, we have access to all the resources we could need. New Thought is constantly coming down the line and making a fresh perspective available; our innate resilience and creativity is just waiting to be unleashed.
When we look to the future and assume that’s what it will really be like, we are overlaying what looks to us like the future, with our thinking as of this moment.
We cannot include the thinking we (or anyone else) will have when the future comes round, because we’re not there yet.
So in a restructure situation, we can be much more flexible and prepared when we realise we have no idea how a meeting will go or how a person react - no matter what evidence we think we have in our mental filing cabinet.
That's not to say we don't or shouldn't plan, but when we’re not second-guessing the outcome, we free up mental capacity to be more present and responsive to what actually occurs, rather than being blind-sided by something because ‘we didn’t expect it’.
If we’re struggling with the idea of a future that doesn’t match the one we thought we were going to have (like my client who’s going through fertility treatment) really seeing that we’re comparing two imagined futures can give huge emotional freedom, and relief from a world of distress. Why would we upset ourselves over something that’s made up?
Clearly, if we really see it for what it is, that wouldn’t make sense any more.
So throw away your crystal ball folks, you have more resources and creativity available to you in this moment (and this one, and this one) than you could ever include in your inherently limited snapshot of an imagined future.