Back to Work

By Jim Selman | Bio

Today is ‘back to work’ for most of us. We’ve eaten too much, survived another holiday season and are now preparing for what’s next. This year is different for many throughout the world. The economy, climate, war and poverty are continuing sources of suffering. I hear more and more people expressing their fears about the future and predictions that 2009 will be ‘very tough’. Unfortunately, if enough people have a pessimistic view of their future, then as I have said on this blog many times, we are creating a self-fulfilling reality. We will get what we resist and fear unless and until enough people create a critical mass to create a different, unpredictable future.

This isn’t just about being pessimistic or optimistic, which are mostly just positive or negative predictions for most people. This is about the capacity we all have to create (not predict) the future. Creating the future is the essence of leadership and the source of possibilities throughout human history. It should be obvious that we are creating our current ‘reality’ all the time anyway. Our actions today are causing tomorrow, just as our actions yesterday created today. The future is always a result of our individual and collective actions. The question is what is determining the action.

The most common answer is that our actions are the result of what we think will happen based on our experience. This means we normally take our past and project it into the future—that is what a prediction is—and then decide what we can or should do given our prediction. But this means we’re always reacting to the past. This is why we become trapped in self-fulfilling patterns and practices that produce more of the same. This doesn’t mean we should ignore the past or not learn from the past. We should.

But learning from the past and taking action ‘because’ of the past are two very different perspectives. Every breakthrough in history began when someone made a commitment to some possibility that seemed unreasonable or even “impossible” at the time. A possibility is by definition not reality. If it were, it would be an example or a provable ‘option’. Possibilities are created. If we are committed to them, they become a context for how we observe the future and our choices. One of the biggest qualities of leadership that I distinguish in my work is the willingness to commit to a possibility BEFORE there is evidence that it is possible. For example, a vision is the future as possibility. If the vision can be predicted, then it isn’t a possibility—it’s just an extension of what we already know.

So, as this New Year begins, I am committing myself to the possibility that this will be a very good year not just for me personally, but for the world. I am committed that all of the current breakdowns all around us can become the stepping stones for bringing people together, creating community, innovation and reconnecting with our deeper values. I am committed to the possibility that people of all ages are waking up to the obvious. We can’t make it alone and we can make it together.

The future is a choice. The only question is what future will we choose—the future that is predictable or the future that is not predictable (perhaps even improbable) but possible?


© 2009 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.


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