Let’s imagine the future together

I can hardly recognize my husband’s mom these days. In the last few months she lost over 40 pounds, practiced yoga daily without a single miss, started learning English and making kimchi, and just glows with positive energy every time I meet her. Any of these things alone would be quite an achievement, but with all of them combined together she is unstoppable.

Her secret? Every morning on the bus to work she imagines a perfect day in her future in bright and vivid detail.

The sights, the sounds, the tastes, the smells. The flowers in her garden. The way her body feels as she goes through her morning yoga sequence. The people she meets on that day. The conversations they have together. Every day, she feels into all of these sensations, celebrates how they feel, and lets them guide her as she goes about her life.

Making wise choices is easier when you know what’s at stake

Knowing how your perfect future looks like, you can bring it to mind as often as you need and think, will doing what I’m about to do bring me closer to where I want to be? If not, things that were tempting in the past can suddenly lose their appeal.

It doesn’t have to be a single day in life – my husband prefers to make a bucketlist of all the things he’d like to do and places he’d like to visit. For me it’s a mix of both, but these days I’m most interested in the future life and surroundings of my little baby girl.

You can’t help but think about the future when you have a kid

Suddenly you have very high stakes in what happens to your neighborhood, city, and even the whole country. Where is my baby girl going to grow up? How will she spend her days? With whom? What will they consider important? What will happen around her as she goes about her life? What will be her baseline of normal?

I know many parents who are terrified when asking themselves these questions. Global pandemic, climate change, ecosystems collapse, political upheaval – there’s plenty of reasons to believe our kids won’t have it easier than we do. But this is precisely why we need to ask ourselves these questions, and try to come up with better and better answers. If I don’t make the world around my daughter a place worth living in, who will?

To live in a better future we need better blueprints

Every time there’s some disturbing news, someone will inevitably comment “Black Mirror was supposed to be a warning, not a manual!”. But to be fair, what else–what book, what movie, what political speech or vision–depicts the kind of future that’s exciting, optimistic and inspiring, the kind of future you’d actually want for yourself and your kids?

Giving warnings like this without offering an alternative is like repeating “Don’t think about the pink elephant!” in your head. It just doesn’t work. In the end, what you pay attention to is what becomes your life, even if you’re calling yourself anti-X and fighting that thing with full force.

This is why I’m careful not to amplify opinions I don’t want to see more of, why I try to brainstorm solutions whenever I let people know about a problem, and why I spent my every free minute last October painting the dream city I’d like my daughter to grow up in. This is also why I encourage everyone to imagine their ideal future in bright and vivid detail, whether that’s a day in life, a bucketlist, a vision of how society works like, or a heroic story. We’re going to get it all wrong, as wrong as the whale-bus appears now to us, but what matters most is the process. Just thinking about where you’d like to go makes you orient yourself in that direction.

Whale-bus by Jean-Marc Côté, a vision of year 2000 imagined about a hundred years earlier

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