My obsession with the future wasn’t always defined. Or perhaps even diagnosed. I did have that funny feeling when I was headed to a banner event like a concert, a footballing final or a big conference I’d been looking forward to all year that once it was over, it was over. I realised I liked the looking forward to something perhaps more than the actual thing itself. “It” felt anticlimactic.
I realised this most profoundly when I heard the phrase “the journey is the destination”. Yes, it was during my self-taught reading into Neuro Linguistic Programming, which has many of such soundbites. Yet please stick with me on this because the journey IS the destination. We are always on a journey. Where to could – and should – be part of our future obsession.
This phrase – the journey – is also one of the most cliched phrases about the world of work, corporate life, change programmes, HR-led initiatives and so on. “We’re on a journey”. It could be construed that such a “journey” was because:
- We’ve only just started but at least we have;
- We have no idea what the end point of this is so we’ll just leave you with the directions to who knows where;
- We actually got a lot of thinking wrong and so we’ve pivoted and now heading somewhere different; and / or
- We are more excited by doing something even if we don’t really understand what it will get us.
So this is why I think we all ought to be a lot more future obsessed. Because if you’re not then the journey will be to some indeterminate or poorly conceived place. And that journey might not be up to much; and I think even I won’t be too much into that journey. Or a journey to oblivion come to think of it.
When I say future obsessed what do I really mean? I mean that you have to stand for something and you have to believe that something you stand for will form a part of that future. If you don’t stand for anything then you’ve already lost at life. You could stand for the success of your football team for all I care, but please stand for something. Eradicating homelessness is what some people might stand for. A good start in your life for your children might be another. Helping rescued animals. Solving the gap between overpaid bosses and their workforce.
That to me is a future obsession. Having something to stand for and achieve in that future.
I have an obsession that work should be something we all love. So that it even stops being called work or feeling like work and becomes our pursuit in life. Our mission. Our daily purpose. Some might think me slightly eccentric, naive or daft to have such a future obsession but I believe it with all my heart and head as one of the main reasons I exist. To make work better for all of us.
I am also obsessed by learning. That’s a constant journey I am always on. I want to learn new things all the time. Why? Because in the future I don’t know what I’ll need to know, but I’ll know I’ll need something at some point from everything I’ve ever learned. Another future-based obsession of mine.
Yet, are we always thinking beyond the joy of now if we’re future obsessed?
Well take my opening examples: the excitement of something coming up. The realisation it’s actually happening. Brilliant. When it’s over and it’s in the past, then admittedly it’s memories and experiences sure, it was joy at that time, great. Yet we face and look forwards all the time. So it’s what next? What now? More or different compared to that? That can’t be it in life surely? I guess my future obsession avoids the sense that I’ve peaked. Or hit the ceiling.
So just because you’re future obsessed doesn’t mean – in my view – that you ignore, decry, or dislike the now. To have a future to obsess about is – to many people in awful situations like war-torn countries and under-privileged situations – something that either keeps them going or is helping them deal with trauma by having something to aspire to. Why else would people risk their lives and put up with treacherous situations? Because they’re obsessed about finding a better, warmer, safer future.
Therefore being obsessed about our future is, to me, one of our most natural instincts and most powerful sources of energy, endeavour and enterprise.
So how obsessed with the future are your leaders? Your peers? Your customers and partners? Find out. Share your obsessions and get going on that journey together.