Notes From the Emerging Future

An exercise for connecting to what you most long for, finding your unique path, and building the capacity to live into future of your dreams.

The Background

Goal-setting, achievement, and productivity are hallmarks of today's day and age. But what we think we want is frequently at odds with the deeper longing of the soul. When we set goals intellectually without tapping into other sources of knowledge - emotions, sybmols, intuition - we miss a rich source of vital information that can guide us on our unique path. If you are feeling stuck or misaligned, like something is off or missing, this exercise can help you connect to and embody a future that is fully alive and fully yours.

Photo by Robert Lukeman on Unsplash

For those who are curious about the methodology, please see:

  • Dream Tending and Deep Imagination in the lineage of Carl Jung, James Hillman, and most recently Stephen Aizenstat
  • Intentional Change Theory developed by Richard Boyatzis
  • Gestalt psychology and the Paradoxical Theory of Change

The Setting

Find a place where you feel nourished and grounded, alert and supported. This could be somewhere in your home, your office, a park, a library, a coffeeshop, or third space. Make sure this is a place where you can have a stretch of uninterrupted time to engage in deep imagination.

Have a few of your favorite tools to capture thoughts and images: pen and paper, recording device, sketch pad, camera, phone are all great (just make sure notifications are off if you use your phone or computer).

Grab a cup of coffee or tea, your favorite playlist if music is your jam, and get ready to imagine.

Settling In

Take a few deep breaths and feel your body settling into the chair, floor, or whatever is supporting you. Allow your thoughts to rest as you let your inhale and exhale be the same length. Notice where you are holding any tension and see if you can relax that part of you just a bit more.

As you fully arrive in the present moment, connect to what matters most to you. Bring in your values, feel into your purpose, open to what you long for.

The Emerging Future

Think about a time in the future, whatever time frame feels right for you, and connect with the you that is living there. Imagine that everything has worked out and that any challenges you are currently facing have all be resolved. In this future you are living your fullest and most fulfilling life.

From this place, describe a single day in your life from the time you wake up to the time you go bed. Describe in as much detail the places, people, relationships, activities, moods, routines, and interactions that fill your day.

The key to this exercise is to be spefic. The more detail you include, the more clues you have to work with. For example, when you describe yourself waking up in the morning, describe the room you are waking up in (or the forest, treehouse, beachside shack, you get the picture), the time of the morning, and how you feel. Maybe an animal or a child comes running in to join you in bed. Paint the picture of your life with loving attention, and let yourself inhabit the future you are envisioning.

Imagine you are sharing this with your best friend or a trusted colleague. I like to use the Voice Memos app on the iPhone for this. I have heard Otter is great as well (especially since it transcribes).

Pay attention to what feels energizing, tender, uncomfortable, scary, or exciting to say. In this exercise it is common for people to say things out loud they've never said before. If it feels uncertain or wobbly the first time you say it, pause. Take a few deep breaths, feel your feet on the ground, and say it again with more power and clarity.

Tip: Use the present tense when going through this exercise. Avoid using qualifiers which include words like might, possibly, and maybe. Make the day as concrete and alive as you can.

Capture It

Sit with what came forward as you explored a day in your future. What felt most alive? What words and images had the most resonance? Capture this in a wordcloud, poem, mood board, essay, song, collage, or any other creative medium.

The intention here is to create an artifact that contains the seeds of inner knowing that you connected with in the exercise. You can come back to this artifact to remind you of what is calling and to help guide you on your path.

Reflection Questions

Answer the following questions once you've explored a full day in your Emerging Future:

1. What parts of my Emerging Future have special resonance? What words, images, situations, excited or scared me? These are important seeds, clues to pay special attention to in the days and weeks ahead.

2. Are there elements of my Emerging Future that do not have resonance? These might be things I know I am good at but just not excited about. They feel safe, or like things I should include.

3. What parts of my Emerging Future am I already living?

4. What can I begin doing tomorrow to live into this resonant future?

5. What current limiting beliefs do I need to let go of to make room for the future I long for?

6. What will I do with what I have learned in this exercise?

Next Steps

1. Keep your artifact and answers to reflection question #1 somewhere handy. These are the clues and breadcrumbs that will be important as you cultivate ways of being that call to your Emerging Future.

2. If there are aspects of your Emerging Future that you are already living today, look for ways to deepen that just a little more each day.

3. Create a learning plan: what can you do in the next week, month, and year to set the foundations for the future that is calling to you? The actions you take now will be the calling card for the people, companies, places, and interactions that you want to bring into your life.

Wrapping Up

You have explored your most alive and fulfilling future. From this exploration you have collected a list of clues and maybe even the beginnings of a map of the terrain. Allow the aliveness you feel and the clues you have to guide you. Pay attention to your dreams and waking life for signs that will lead you to the next step in your journey.

By imagining in great detail an entire day in your future, you have painted a picture of what holds deep meaning and value for you. It's not just about vocation, where you work, or where you live, but about what those things actually mean to you and the ways in which they manifest themselves specifically for you. The aliveness and the uniqueness is in the details.

Keep letting yourself dream and listen closely to what comes forward.