Today I was chatting with Andrew Rixon and he introduced me to a model of time (I’ll have to go back to him to find the reference). The essence of it was this:
The past gives you roots; the present gives you energy; and the future gives you wings.
It occurs to me that each of us has a preferred time in which we would willingly live. Some of us long for a time now gone, others of us are always looking forward, willing time forward. While all of us are actually in the present. Someone else said recently (I really should start taking notes!) that what makes us human is our ability to imagine a future. And our ability to imagine the future is based on our experiences in the past.
And given that the present is fleeting we are always dancing between the past and the future. Maybe this is what gives us the energy of the present. Our watches, clocks and calendars give the impression of linear time. And it’s easy to comprehend. Thinking of time as fluid or dynamic simply does my head in. Straight line thinking is easy, familiar and comfortable.
Is it any wonder then that the myth of predicting the future (aka strategic planning) persists? OK, I’m being a bit harsh. Often we can indeed predict the future. I know what I’ll be doing on any given day for the next few weeks – my diary sees to that. Yet if I try and look too far ahead the picture is fuzzy, generalised and non-specific. It also takes no account of the unexpected, the spontaneous, surprising and unimagined opportunities that may arise. We then ask people to describe this non-specific, partly predictable, partly unpredictable future with specific language aka a vision statement. Is it any wonder that the default is usually something that is over-generalised or more related to how they will work rather than what they will work towards. When in doubt, revert to the known and knowable.
Which brings me back to the past giving you your roots, the present giving you energy, and the future giving you wings. Instead of trying to encapsulate all of that in a single vision statement wouldn’t it be more productive to share with each other what grounds us, what energises us and what gives us wings – individually and collectively?