Are you "going to" have a great future?
The “future on wheels” pattern
A lot of people go through life with their “future on wheels”! (It's a term I coined many years ago to describe people who look forward to a great future - that's never going to happen!)
These people know what they want – very clearly and in great detail. They have great plans for their future. They can see exactly the quality of life they will have. And they can tell you about it in detail - in very great detail and almost ad nauseum – because they do talk about their dreams a lot.
That's part of the problem - they talk a great talk – but never seem to get any nearer to these dreams or goals. How come?
NLP Modelling: identifying the essence of a skill
In a couple of decades of working as a counsellor and psychotherapist I encountered this self-deluding Future on Wheels pattern a lot. And it got me curious.
So I 'modelled' it and identified a number of key skills shared by people who never seem to get around to doing what they want to do in life.
(Awkward question 1: is not following your dream a skill? Yes, in NLP we treat everything a person does as a skill. In some situations a certain skill will be useful and in other situations it will be decidedly un-useful. In this case not pursuing silly or unrealistic or destructive goals can be very useful. But not pursuing carefully evaluated life goals will be un-useful and a waster of good life-time!)
(Awkward question 2: what on earth is modelling - isn't it something to do with going down a catwalk while walking in a most unlikely style? No, not in NLP. NLP ‘modelling’ is figuring out, in a very precise and systematic manner, how someone does something. We do this by identifying the mental and physical steps that a person uses to get a particular result. It's an advanced application of NLP which we explore in detail in our Master Practitioner Programme)
Modelling people who are ‘going to be' happy
From what I modelled we can recognise some common traits shared by people who are good at ‘going to' be happy or successful - but never actually do it:
- Avoid adventure: stick to your nice, safe and predictable Comfort Zone.
- Be 'realistic': talk yourself out of every exciting plan or opportunity. Do this by emphasising how much bother it would be or how much risk might be involved
- Live in your fantasy: imagine the future as if it is happening right now – in other words ‘associate’ into it. This way you can have the nice feelings right now without having to do anything to make them happen. (People who make their dreams come true do the opposite – they have a dissociated idea of their great future which then, as a result of it being dissociated, draws them towards it.)
- Imagine you have unlimited time: so you're always 'going to' get working on that project, start that exercise programme, seek a better job, etc.
- Always put others first: sometimes it certainly can be appropriate to put others first and for a specific period of time. Sometimes. But you also need to be quite clear about when you will put yourself first.
- Be too busy: avoid prioritising things. So you're always doing urgent things – but not important ones!
- Be too tired: avoid getting enough exercise, eat lots of junk food, drink too much caffeine alcohol, worry a lot, etc
- Drink lots of alcohol: so you get to have good feelings right now - and get to dream about the future you’re "going to" have
- Watch lots of telly: TV is a great way of numbing the brain: while you're engrossed in the programmes you don't have to think about what you're not doing with your life
- Mix with like-minded friends: so you have a nice support network for the "future on wheels" approach
- Mix with pessimistic friends: this is similar to #10 but can be even more powerful. Mix with pessimists – i.e. the ‘what’s the point, you can’t win!’ brigade. Now instead of a support network you have an alibi!
- Blame others for the life you have: Your parents should have given you a better upbringing, your teachers should have taught you better, the government does nothing for people like you, people didn't give you opportunities, etc
- Resent people who are actively creating their future: Because we all know ‘They just got lucky breaks, etc.”
Fill in your own blanks here ...
(Well, you can't have a list of 13 items, can you?? It just doesn't seem right.)
Did this describe you?
Look back over the past 4 weeks. Have you have run some of the above patterns?
Now stop for a moment and think about the future you want for yourself. And assess truthfully what you have actually done to make this happen in the past 4 weeks. In other words, what practical steps have you taken?
And remember we're not talking about
- What you did a few months ago.
- Nor about what you're planning to do when you have time.
- Nor what you will definitely do when the time is right.
- We are only looking at what you have actually done in the past 4 weeks to make your future happen.
And it's time to be frank and honest with yourself. It's time to stop the wheels of the 'future on wheels' process - and look at the reality.
People who make their future happen
In modelling people who live particularly effective lives one trait that I have noticed again and again is that have a very clear present-to-future connection.
The recognise that what they are doing today is creating their future – not what they are going to do tomorrow or next week or when the time is right.
Interestingly enough they don’t usually do this in a highly focussed, almost obsessive manner. They simply have a clear sense of their objective and then do something about it most days. This can be a major contribution or a very small one. The main thing is their future objective is always simmering in their mind.
People who dream great dreams
Compare this with how the ‘future on wheels’ people think. They have great big, exciting dreams, too. The difference is that they remain dreamers. And they can fully rationalise this:
No, really, I am going to begin living my dream… one day soon…
…when the time is right…
…when I have a little more spare time…
… when the children have started school
… when the children have finished school
….when the work pressure has eased
… when we've moved house
… when we've decorated the new house
… when we’ve built the new conservatory
…when we have more money
…when I’m financially secure
…when I retire
…when my health improves…
...if only I'd not waited till now!
It's so easy to talk oneself out of things, isn't it. It's so easy to rationalise staying in our Comfort Zone. There are always good reasons for not acting right now. We may call this being cautious or being in information-gathering mode or being realistic or taking a strategic approach. And sometimes these alibis are realistic and true. But often we are simply deluding ourselves.
How to create your dream
Many of us are living our lives in order to have things.
We want to have things because we believe that having these things will give us the feelings we want. Which, of course, is what the marketing and advertising people want us to believe.
But there is a short cut, and one that might not involve as much expense...
Think about how you want your life to be in, say, five years time.
Now, instead of thinking of what you want to be doing or owning or having, decide how you want to be feeling. And knowing how you want to be feeling indicates which values are important to you. In other words, think about which values you want to be fulfilling. Now use these feelings or values as your guide for building your dream or vision for your future.
(Incidentally this process is included in our NLP Practitioner Programme and there a series of articles, including with practical action steps, here.)
Replace the ‘Future on Wheels’ pattern
- Have attractive goals: Base these on your values (i.e. the feelings you want to be experiencing)
- Have written goals: Written goals are significantly better than goals which remain in your imagination.
- Work backwards: Live ‘in’ your ideal goal/vision and then work backwards from then to now. As you do this notice at each step what needs to be in place to achieve that step. (If you have done an NLP Practitioner Training you will recognise that this is the Backtrack Frame.) Write down these need-to-be-there steps.
- Action points: Take the need-to-be-there steps to be achieved in the next few months and write down action plans for these.
- Review daily: This keeps the plan from being swamped by the day-to-day concerns and pressures.
- Act daily: Aim to do something, however small a step, to move you forwards each day.
More articles on NLP and Goals or Outcomes
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