Monday, October 21, 2013

Past, Present and Future

“Every man gotta right to decide his own destiny.

Bob Marley

The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.

Malcolm X

The future is no more uncertain than the present.

Walt Whitman

While listening to Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy, I was given a new perspective, a perspective on the future.  Tracy calls this “long-time perspective” or “future orientation.” 
Tracy says, “Successful people have a clear future-orientation.  They think five, ten, and twenty years out into the future.  They analyze their choices in the present to make sure that what they are doing today is consistent with the long-term future that they desire.”
This is very different from the way I have been thinking.  Usually, though I often talk about setting goals, it hadn’t occurred to me to look at this way.  I have often said that the future doesn’t exist, that it is always imaginary and that even if what we imagine transpires, then it is no longer the future, but the present.  I’ve often talked about goals, as I said.  I’ve even set, and reached, many of my own goals, but I’ve also lived mostly in the present.  Part of the reason I have worked so hard to live in the present is because I have seen the danger of living wrongly in the past or the future.
 An incorrect orientation of the past is exemplified by those of us who constantly live in and fixate upon the past, upon the “good old days.”  I was guilty of this for years after leaving Monterey for San Diego and longing for years (almost ten) to return to Monterey and to the way things were.  This way of thinking, this obsession really, kept me from maturing emotionally.  I kept wishing I was 15 years old again and could be silly and free and largely irresponsible to anyone but myself. 
Of course, while I was longing for the return to a golden past, the gold was tarnishing.  Cherished friendships ended.  People changed.  Worst of all, my best friend, Rudy died.  Though I wished for years that I could have stayed, I’m pretty sure that if I had, my heart would have been broken by all the changes.  It was interesting also that, despite the number of times I returned to visit, I couldn’t see how everything had changed or worse, that it had stayed the same.  Except for my first visit a year after leaving, I never really had fun in any subsequent returns.  In addition, I later realized that I had missed a lot of good times I was having in San Diego.  My skewed orientation of the past caused me to miss the present.  Regret is the common emotion.
A skewed orientation of the future can be equally debilitating.  Usually this means worrying about things that haven’t happened or may never happen.  Where regret marks an incorrect past orientation, fear marks an incorrect future orientation.  There’s not much more that needs to be said about this. 
What I want is a correct orientation of both the past and the future.  The correct orientations of the past are gratitude and learning, for both the good and the bad, because everything, everything, was either a blessing or a lesson.  The correct orientations of the future are excitement and planning.    I have excitement because the future I am anticipating is a good one. 
Rather than imagining the worst, I visualize the best.  Instead of being homeless, I have a house on the beach.  Instead of being alone, I am surrounded with people I love and who love me.  Instead of being sick, I live many years in good health.  Instead of being broke, I have enough money to leave for my children and grandchildren. 
None of this, however, will happen by itself.  A correct future orientation requires planning. It also requires looking at every choice I make in the present to be sure that they will support my vision for the future.  This is not fear.  This is planning.  This is not just prevention, it is problem solving…before the problems occur. 
That is the correct future orientation, one I am trying to develop.  It’s a very proactive way of approaching life.  I think it will also help me make better decisions in the present.  Most of all, it will help me to Get Started and to Keep Going.