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Reimagine Your Future

Most people don't know it, but their future is already written. Not by God, the stars, or even their bosses, but by themselves. This "default future" is composed of your past--last year's hopes, dreams, disappointments, victories and defeats. And, the default future guides your actions, in the same way the default font determines what will appear on your screen when you type unless you go into settings and choose something different.

Because the past few years have been so trying, most people have a default future that is infused with pessimism. So they will work really hard, then succumb to the inevitability of joining the "left behind" group.

A friend who is a therapist and counsels couples often asks patients in troubled marriages to explain what they think the "default future" of therapy will be. Often one spouse will blurt out "divorce," which surprises the couple. "Ok," my friend will say. "If divorce is the default future, what actions will you automatically take, without thinking, to get to this end?"

The response is usually along lines of: "Disclose just enough to have tearful moments, and no more."

"And if you take those actions, what will happen?"

The couple will say, "Divorce, and then we'll be able to tell our friends and family that we did everything we could."

Then the question my friend asks the question that everyone needs to ask themselves: "Is this the default future that you really want?"

Want to figure out what your default future is? Take these two steps:

1. Ask yourself, "What's likely to happen in my career this year if nothing unexpected comes along?" Write it down-all of it-the good, the bad, and the ugly.

2. Then ask yourself, "If this future were pre-ordained, what actions would you find yourself taking, without even thinking?" Jot those down, too.

Only when you identify the default future that is driving your actions, can you decide you want something different-a new future that articulates your deepest aspirations. The source of the default future idea is The Three Laws of Performance that I wrote with Steve Zaffron.

Next: 3. Find People Who Want to Succeed As Much as You Do
Photo courtesy seanmcgrath, CC 2.0.

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