This is Part 27 of of a series on vision. It’s like a serialized book! You can read previous chapters here:
Part 1. Part 2. Part3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13. Part 14. Part 15. Part 16. Part 17. Part 18. Part 19. Part 20. Part 21. Part 22. Part 23. Part 24. Part 25. Part 26.
The Perils of Future-Focus
Many people walk around constantly thinking, planning, or worrying about their future.
What’s next? Where are you headed? How are you going to “get it all done”? What if this strategy doesn’t work? What’s coming up this week? Where do you want to be in 10 years? What’s your plan?
All important questions to ask. You’re going to end up somewhere; it helps to have some proactive say in your destination and your direction.
This is what cultivating vision is all about: vision is part of the compass that guides you through your life. You need a vision to avoid aimless wandering.
The problem with this future-focus is twofold:
(1) You’re not in the present.
First, when you’re constantly living in the future, you’re not fully in the present. We can get so caught up in what’s next that we lose connection with what’s now. The focus on where are you going can take you away from where you are. And if you don’t know where you are, how will you get to where you’re going?
(2) You repeat the same patterns from the past.
Second, we can get so caught up in the focus on where are you going that we lose sight of where have you been. If you step into the future without regard to the past, eventually you may start to notice that you are consistently ensnared by the same patterns.
Or, worse, maybe you don’t even notice. You keep getting stuck for what seem like new reasons without even realizing that underneath the surface of each situation lies the same pattern.
People who are too future-focused never look back. They lack hindsight.
The Dangers of Past-Focus
On the other hand, some people are so completely wrapped up in the past that they’re not thinking about the future at all. Most of these people fall into two general groups:
This group is always reminiscing about how things were in the “good old days.” Reminiscers are stuck in what was, attached to old ways of working, the old rules of their business, “the way we’ve always done it.” People who are focused on the past view every change as a threat to their way of life. They don’t embrace new systems or approaches. They want to go back to how things were.
This group is stuck in the past not because it was so great, but because they are filled with regret over something in the past. The Regretters are the classic Monday-morning quarterbacks, viewing everything through hindsight.
If only you had made a different decision. You could have or should have done something differently.
Regret can be as simple as a decision that led to an undesired outcome. Or it could be something more complex that fills the person with shame or guilt. Either way, the result is the same: stuck in the past.
Regardless of which group they fall into, the past-focused people don’t see the future coming. They miss their opportunity to make a different decision the next time, because the future sneaks up on them.
They spend so much time in the past that they lack foresight.
Mediate Past and Future Through Insight
We are the mediators between past and future, through the present. When we cultivate presence in the present moment, we can access hindsight to see what was, and also see into the future, with time to adapt to what’s coming.
One of the metaphors I love from the Katonah Yoga practice is that our past supports our potential. In the body, this is shows up in how your back body supports your front body.
In the physical body as well as in the energy body, stability (your lower body), supports ability/capacity (your torso), which supports your vision. Without stability, you cannot access your ability or potential, and then you can’t access your vision.
In nature, plants root into the ground before they rise. They find grounding in the soil (their past) to bloom upward to the sky (the future). We are part of nature, so the same principles apply.
Hindsight may not be perfect, but we need to root in something to move forward.
The point of looking to the past is not to live in regret or reminisce about the way things were, but to extract information that we can use to move forward to a compelling future. This information comes to us in the form insight.
As the word suggests, insight is about looking within. Simply looking at past circumstances or decisions you made isn’t enough. What helps us create our vision for a compelling future is looking beneath the decisions and actions to the underlying attitudes, beliefs, thoughts, and emotions that led to those actions.
Insight is the key to vision and growth and taking the right actions. With insight, we can avoid making the same mistakes over and over again.
Nothing is more terrible than activity without insight. — Thomas Carlyle (17951881)
When we use hindsight to create insight, we empower foresight, and get a clear and compelling vision for our future.