The Truth About the Future

A couple of months back, I checked in with one of my former students who was setting off on a new venture in the world. He eagerly shared some recent successes and his detailed plans for the year ahead. Without question, the future looked bright. Then a couple of weeks ago, he reached out to me in a bit of a panic. The job he had lined up to pay the rent while he went off to change the world was less of a sure thing than he had thought, his girlfriend was talking about their uncertain future together, and he wasn’t really sure if he was going to be able to pull off his new venture.

After listening to his story, I made this observation:

“It sounds to me like all that’s happening is that you made up one future and it looked great, and now you’re making up another future and it looks scary.”

He actually recognized the truth in that, and after a few moments silence asked how he could go back to making up a more positive future. My answer surprised him:

“Why would you want to do that?”

I then went on to share one of my favorite stories from the Reverend Fred Craddock, who was apparently visiting family when he struck up an unlikely conversation with an old greyhound his niece had recently adopted:

I said to the dog “Are you still racing?”

“No,” the dog replied.

“Well, what was the matter?  Did you get too old to race?”

“No, I still had some race in me.”

“Well, what then?  Did you not win?”

“I won over a million dollars for my owner.”

“Well, what was it?  Bad treatment?”

“Oh, no,” the dog said.  “They treated us royally when we were racing.”

“Did you get crippled?”

“No.”

“Then why?” I pressed.  “Why?”

The dog answered, “I quit.”

“You quit?”

“Yes,” he said.  “I quit.”

“Why did you quit?”

“I just quit because after all that running and running and running, I found out that the rabbit I was chasing wasn’t even real.”

The truth about the future is simply this:

There’s no such thing as “the future”. It’s all made up – always has been, always will be.

Sometimes my thoughts make up a version of a possible future that I like and I dwell on it; other times they make one up that freaks me out and I do my best to move on. But our scary thoughts about the future don’t predict failure anymore than our positive thoughts about the future guarantee a positive outcome. What they do do is distract us from the rich resources we have within us to respond and create to what’s happening now.

When you lose your taste for the future, you develop a palate for the offerings of the present moment. You discover that previously undreamed of possibilities and unimagined opportunities “present” themselves with astonishing regularity. Peace of mind becomes your steady companion, and you step out into the world armed with openness, curiosity, and confidence in the fact that the wisdom within you will reveal what you need to know in the very moment you need to know it.

If that seems like something which you could only ever experience at some point “in the future”, know this:

Even now, your life and the creative potential before thought stand ready, blissfully unaware of the ever changing movies in your mind.

With all my love,
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