Thinking Towards the Future

Oooh child
Things are gonna get easier
Oooh child
’ll get brighter

Some day, yeah
We’ll put it together and we’ll get it undone
Some day
When your head is much lighter
Some day, yeah
We’ll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun
Some day
When the world is much brighter

Those are the lyrics to a 1970 song by a group called the Five Stairsteps.  It was rated as the No. 21 song by Billboard.  The lyrics are especially appropriate today as the world remains in fear of the COVID-19 virus.

Thinking about the future is a phenomenon that scientists call prospection.  Thinking about the future is especially critical when the current reality is bleak.  Some may call this hopeful thinking, and it probably is.  But prospection is also a way to keep in focus what is really important in our lives.  It also gives us something to inspire our actions today.

Thinking about the future helps us avoid making decisions that may seem best in the short-term, but would be disastrous over a longer horizon.  It also makes sacrifices more acceptable when we are thinking of longer-term benefits.

When we spend less time dwelling on past and present challenges and more time imagining hopeful but realistic futures, our mental state is improved.  But the key to this is that the future must be realistic.  And we must have action steps to help us realize that future.

One way to start thinking about the future is to shorten the time horizon to tomorrow.  Develop a list of those good things you hope will occur tomorrow along with actions you will take to make those things happen.  Over time, these three good things lists help us appreciate what we need to do to realize the future we hope for.

Thinking about the future can also affect how we treat others.  When we think about the future, we develop a future view of how our support for others will help them.  This encourages our support for others as we imagine positive outcomes.

It’s unfortunate that we live in a time when present concerns dominate news coverage and our conversations.  How might our society change if every newscast featured a segment on what might be?  How might we make sacrificing for the future as living for the present?  And how might we develop mindsets that help people realize that they have the ability to chart their own future?

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“Your future depends on what you do today.”  – Mahatma Gandhi

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