We’re entering that time of year when things get just a little janky. We find ourselves reflecting on the last eleven months and simultaneously thinking ahead to the goals we want to set in the coming year. ‘Tis the season. At the same time, we’re in a month that calls us to be present and “be” where our feet are. It feels a little like what Scrooge experiences in a Christmas Carol as the ghosts visit him in the night.
Even just writing that last paragraph, the whole thing seems like an overwhelming tangled mess of string. Let’s unravel the mess a bit. Here are some thoughts on blending past, future, and present…
Too often, the time spent reflecting on the past is consumed by regret, frustration, and disappointment. Should’ve, could’ve, and would’ve all live here… and as long as we allow them to rent space in our mental homes, they will keep us stuck inside. It’s when we kick them out and replace them with some new renters that we create results.
Let’s flip the script here. When you’re thinking back on the past year, ask yourself these three questions:
- What went well?
- What am I, or are we, most proud of?
- What would I/we do differently in the coming year?
That last question is key. Changing how you think and the activities you’re doing is the key to changing your results, and we can blend it into how we think about the future…
Goal setting requires us to envision our future. It should be a time when we let our imaginations run wild, like when we were kids. It should be fun, like making rocket ships out of cardboard boxes. Instead, it’s often polluted with feelings of anxiety, fear, and jitters. We ask ourselves, “What if?” and “How?” instead of “What’s possible?” When this happens, we are simultaneously putting the brakes on and putting our foot on the gas.
Take your foot off the brakes. When you’re looking ahead and setting your goals for the future, ask yourself these three questions:
- What do I/we really want?
- What does perfect look like?
- What’s possible?
All three of these questions are geared toward opening up your imagination. Tap into your six-year-old self, think like that six-year-old, and start making some cardboard rockets. And, while you’re doing that, remember to make time for the present…
“Be present.” This one should be the easiest of all to live out, but for many of us, it’s the most challenging. How in the world can I be present in the moment when I have all of this past regret and future anxiety? With all this weight and pressure pushing against us, presence can feel impossible to achieve.
Here’s one more question to ask yourself:
- Right here, right now, what’s the most impactful thing I can be doing where I am at?
Turn off all the other noise and focus on where your feet are. Think about what’s happening in real time. The past and future will always be there waiting for you. What’s happening right now, in front of you, will never happen again. Don’t waste the moment.
Blending Begins in Your Mind
Your past impacts how you envision your future, and how you envision your future impacts your ability to be present. They are intimately connected and blend together very quickly. The key is to control the blending.
Want to know the secret to all of this? It all begins in your head. The words “think” and “thoughts” appear in this writing thirteen times, and for good reason. Your thoughts fuel every action you take and every move you make. When you slow down and think about all the areas above, asking questions like the ones we shared rather than coasting through life on auto-pilot, everything changes.
Blending past, future, and present is like creating a painting. First, you prepare your canvas. That base layer is our past. Then you paint your picture. Those colors, brush strokes, and the movement of your hands are our present. Eventually, you’ll frame your painting and hang it on the wall. That’s our future. Together, they all create something beautiful, and each plays a key role.
Learn from the past. Tap into your imagination as you create the future. In the middle of those two, be present where your feet are. The past, future, and present all impact each other, and when we blend them by thinking the right thoughts, we can use them to make great things happen.