We have the power to decide and act only right now, at this point, at this time, standing here. We cannot act in the future. We can only do that when we get there. Likewise, we can’t act in the past; what has happened has happened – although we can view our past differently depending on our perspective and mood in the present.
It is the decisions we make and the actions we take right now that shape our future and position us to make decisions and act when we do get there. When we are developing a picture of our preferred future, we are sketching out what might be, not necessarily what will be.
So, what are the implications for us?
Our Strategic Choices are Directional – Our Chosen Actions are Conditional
If we’re not “deciding” our future, what are we doing? Well, the choices we make and the actions we take get us to point our feet in the desired direction and allow us to take the first conditional step. When we get to the end of that first step, we have to consciously confirm that we want to continue in the same direction and take the second step. In other words, we need to continue to refresh and reinforce our direction and our desired end state with each “present” moment.
Our Perspective and Feelings Shape Our View of the Past
The second implication has to do with how we feel about our past. While we cannot change what happened in the past, we can change our view about it and our feelings about it. If we think of ourselves as “successful” in the past, the picture we paint of our future will be a very different one from the one that reflects our view of the past as “unsuccessful.” The facts of the past are the same. We just have a different feeling about it, looking at it with glass-half-empty eyes rather than glass-half-full eyes.
Possibilities for the Future are Informed by How We Collectively Feel About Our Past and Present
It is often important for leader teams to go through “what have we achieved over the past 18 months?” prior to painting the preferred future. With the recognition that we’ve come a long way, or even survived through a rough time, the words expressed around the preferred future are much more positive, powerful and energizing then they would otherwise be.
We need to view the present like being part way up the mountain on a climb. We look back down and see how far we’ve come. Then we look ahead and up and can see the summit more clearly. Finally, we decide and act, making those strategic choices that will help to ensure a successful climb.
And we need to remember that it’s not a guarantee of success; it’s only improving our odds.