4 ways to shape your future

4 Ways To Shape Your Future

“There’s No Going Back”

These were the stunning words of philosopher John Gray in a recent interview as he expressed his views of our post-pandemic world. He speaks of this time as a turning point in history. We agree.

This commentary, which can be viewed HERE, might for some be interpreted as though we are the victims of our changing world.  It can evoke a certain yearning for the strain to be over and a wish for our ‘old lives’ to come back.  You might be aware of a rising sentiment that longs for the ‘end of 2020’ and a chance to take a break from an incessant year of uncertainty.

Or this same commentary can be listened to as an invitation – a springboard for a different perspective of ‘living history’, a history we can shape, generate and participate in.

Despite the temptation to be resigned about the time we are in, a far more liberating orientation is to use this time to reflect on and reframe what this historical moment means.  What does it mean for you? What does it mean for your work? How might you choose to participate in the future as it emerges?

We are inviting you to shift to a more proactive engagement in your own life, the lives of others and to be a positive influence for the environments around you. We are encouraging you to listen to and appreciate different perspectives and engage in conversations that disclose new possibilities from a diversity of views.

These acts sound quite straight forward, however, they can require you to interrogate the quality of your own thinking and your preferences that emerge as bias. Cultivating the skills to resist old and unhelpful patterns of thinking and behaving, and developing new ways of responding in order to innovate, learn and experiment. These are the new skills our future calls for.

Here are 4 ways you can begin shaping your 2021 – you might even start today instead of waiting for the traditional January 1 timeline.

4 ways to shape your future

  1. Practice ‘Reflective Practice’

Reflective practice involves deliberately making time and space to think about yourself and your perspectives.  The quality of this thinking ideally involves you intending to gain new insights, or see things a different way, for the sake of making ‘sense’ of what has happened or is happening.  Reflective practice can help you navigate complex, challenging or difficult circumstances. Best of all, it need not be a solo act, and can be undertaken with a group of other people.

Reflective practice can blend reading, listening, speaking, sensing, observing and conversing. You have probably unconsciously been doing this during 2020 – and we invite you to make your practice more frequent and more conscious. Perhaps this year, you have questioned the quality and pace of your life, the context of living and work arrangements and more deeply, how you wish to be of service in leadership and life?

TIPS for Reflective Practice:

  1. Make time for this every week – choose a morning or evening to set aside some time just for yourself.
  2. Try these three questions when thinking about ‘something that has happened’.
    • What did I learn through this experience?
    • What do I appreciate about myself?
    • What would I do differently next time?

            Coming from a space of appreciation can be really helpful!

  1. Consider sharing the experience with others – a conversation to share perspectives can be really helpful to gain new insights.

4 ways to shape your future

  1. Invent New Worlds Together

What makes a GREAT conversation for you?  Is it a meeting of the minds? Maybe learning about new perspectives?  Perhaps realising and seeing something in a way you had not previously? Or, the chance to explore your own thoughts? What about a pure appreciation for the others involved in your conversation?

In our work, we say that we invent new worlds through conversation. Through the practices of listening, shared understanding, exploring different views and deepening a sense of connectivity and possibility, we invent together. Conversation is a dwindling art sorely needed in our world and we may be waiting a long time for our political leaders to ‘show us how’.

4 ways to shape your future


Instead, consider those people you love to speak with, those topics you love to engage around and begin to ‘design’ conversations that serve to develop and advance your perspectives.  Exchanging and exploring views can be a rich development opportunity that can be designed into your ‘emerging’ life.

TIPS for Conversations:

  1. Consider finding some colleagues or contacts to engage in a new or regular conversation and use ZOOM or another platform to host a small and thoughtful discussion.
  2. Consider setting some ground rules that encourage appreciation, listening, respect and create a space where people feel encouraged to share different views.
  3. Find a cool article or share a book with a few friends as a ‘common discussion starter’ and use that to begin exploring and reflecting.

4 ways to shape your future

  1. Broaden Your Reading Horizon

Reading a diversity of texts will help you make better sense of our emerging world. It can help to blend reading from authors of different nationalities, different concerns, different lives. It can help to read provocative texts, listen to voices you would not otherwise ‘tune in to’ and to begin broadening your view of what it is to live in a global village.  This will likely bring up your biases and prejudice, offering you the chance to confront and address these as both limitations and possibilities. How would it be for you to develop your identity as someone who can ‘facilitate and listen to’ diverse views, embracing those views that challenge yours as equally valid.

Here are some of our favourite ‘provocative’ texts of 2020:

  • The Age of Surveillance Capitalism – Suzanna Zuboff –A provocative look at the Social World where the author claims that human experience has become free raw material for translation into behavioural data.
  • The Light that Failed – Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes – A stunning portrayal of the promise and limitations of democracy.
  • The Invention of Yesterday – Tamim Ansary – A 50,000 year history of human culture, conflict and connection.

TIPS to Broaden Your Horizon:

  1. Curate your news feeds (social and professional) to gather insightful, provocative, diverse and impactful voices.
  2. Don’t pressure yourself to read entire texts, but instead give yourself permission to skim, scan and read components to ‘get the idea’ and ‘make sense’ of the author’s view.
  3. Step beyond your industry or professional reading comfort zone to take on texts that challenge your sense of identity and use these to explore new conversations.

4 ways to shape your future

  1. Practices That Sustain Your Wellbeing

The single most common discussion we have been asked to lead this year has been Wellbeing. We discovered that just a handful of the leaders we worked with had a sense of what this meant for them – at the most personal level.  Without vigilance, work and the demands and pressures of work can override the investment you make in yourself. Instead we encourage you to be proactive in shaping your family, friendship and other communities to support mental and physical health.

What are the practices that sustain the brightest and best version of you? What investments do you make in your physical, social, emotional and mental wellbeing and how often do you make these investments? What would the ‘best version’ of you be like and what aspects of your life might you need to begin crafting and re-shaping to achieve this?

TIPS to Enhance Your Wellbeing:

  1. Tune in to what makes you feel ‘well’ and begin to evaluate whether you’d like to make more time for new wellbeing practices.
  2. Determine just one behaviour you want to focus on, and create a goal and a plan for yourself to pursue. Enlist the help of those around you to support your progress.
  3. Develop a Vision Board. Sometimes a visual reminder that we see every day can be a powerful anchor into the future self we are shaping.

In Conclusion…

We began this article suggesting that as actors living our own history, within a historical time, we can shape, generate and participate in our worlds as they unfold. It can be easy to forget that we are powerful actors in our own lives, and we can create new meaning from current events in a way that serves us and has us ‘in the game’.  This is a choice. This is your choice.

What new practices can you begin to develop? What new conversations can you lead or participate in? What new views might you begin to appreciate through a more divergent ‘scan’ of media, voices and texts? What new decisions will you make for yourself to be your most well, most vibrant and best self as you engage with others in the emerging future?

Finally, for the sake of what would you do all of this? Because, simply, there’s no going back. There IS however, an incredible opportunity to shape how it is that you move forward.

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