The Art of Predicting the Past

History of Futurism 

David B. Barrett (1996, p. 1021) locates the origins of ╠│futurism‘ at around 47,000 BC. For him, futurism began with the emergence of divination by mediums, oracles or augurs. These were consulted in order to learn about future events.

More recent futurism dates back to the origins of astrology, around 3300 BCE in Mesopotamia (ibid.).  Astrology attempts to predict destinies of individuals, groups, or nations through interpreting the influence of planets and stars on earthly affairs (ibid.)

In academic circles futures thinking is associated with futures studies and describes it as an interdisciplinary “collection of methods, theories, and findings” (Miller, 2003, p.7) that helps people to ‘think constructively about the future’ (Bell, 1996 cited in Codd et al 2002, p.5.)  

Over the past seven years, I've researched and applied methodologies of future thinking for my own personal strategy to look and plan for the coming years. The deep practical knowledge and insight has inspired my tired mental reasoning. 

Since the stay at home order, I've earned several certificates from the Institute For The Future through online courses. This stuff just blows me away.

I invite you to practice a simple exercise that I learned in one of the courses. Enjoy! 

Unsticking Your Mind

This exercise will help you to "unstick" the mind, so you can think more creatively and spot opportunities faster, and know your brain better!

The goal is to envision something that could happen in life. For example, a person would imagine what it would be like to get a new job, or a new home, or to buy a new car. 

Where are you right now? Are you at home watching TV? Are you at work watching this post?

Take a second and look around where you are right now. I'm going to ask you to change this reality, in your imagination. Here's what I want you to do.

I want you to imagine that the first thing you did when you woke up this morning was pack a bag and to go somewhere -- out of town.

Where would you have gone if you had made that decision this morning?

Where would you have wanted to go?

Where could you have gone?

Where do you have the resources to go?

Take these questions seriously and allow yourself to roll back time and imagine you've given yourself permission this morning to pack a bag and go somewhere.

Where did this alternate version of you go?

You can close your eyes and picture, where are you now in this alternate version of reality? You went to that place with your bag packed. Where are you?  

When you can answer that question and picture it in your mind as if it had actually happened, then you have successfully completed this technique.

Predicting the Past

What you just did is to predict the past. You think about a real choice that you made and then imagine that you had made a different one. You think about what the consequences of what that different choice might be.

You can do this for little things like what if I had gotten dressed in something different this morning. Or how would I feel right now if I had taken a walk in nature this morning?

You can do it for big things like what if I hadn't moved away from my hometown, what if I were still living where I grew up or what if I had taken or I had turned down that work opportunity that seemed really important at the time?

This technique is focused on the past but it's incredibly useful for the future because it helps us see that the present didn't have to be exactly the way it is. That we made choices in the past that affected how the present turned out. If the present could be different because of choices we made, then the future can still be different because of choices that we will make.

It's not just futurists who use this technique, it's actually very popular in the treatment of depression. It turns out to be a really helpful intervention because one of the main symptoms of depression is believing that nothing you do matters. That you can't change your current circumstances, but when you practice thinking about how you could've made choices that would have changed your present, it helps you imagine how you could make choices in the present, that would change your future.

So this is predicting the past technique. Now you know how to use it. Try doing this several times a week and see how it affects decisions in the present moment. 

Whatever problem, challenge, or issue you encounter, always consider several sides of things before committing to a decision on it.

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