Futurizing Y’our Health and Wellbeing
How to empower yourself to flourish and thrive in a fast-changing and challenging world
“All that was ‘normal’ has now evaporated; we have entered postnormal times, the in-between period where old orthodoxies are dying, new ones have not yet emerged, and nothing really makes sense. To have any notion of a viable future, we must grasp the significance of this period of transition which is characterised by three c’s: complexity, chaos and contradictions. These forces propel and sustain postnormal times leading to uncertainty and different types of ignorance that make decision-making problematic and increase risks to individuals, society and the planet. Postnormal times demands, that we abandon the ideas of ‘control and management’, and rethink the cherished notions of progress, modernisation and efficiency. The way forward must be based on virtues of humility, modesty and accountability, the indispensable requirement of living with uncertainty, complexity and ignorance. We will have to imagine ourselves out of postnormal times and into a new age of normalcy — with an ethical compass and a broad spectrum of imaginations from the rich diversity of human cultures.” — Ziauddin Sardar
The statement reproduced above was written after the financial crisis of 2008 by Ziauddin Sardar. It is the summary of his article “Welcome to postnormal times” published in the journal Futures in 2010.
Now, more than 10 years on, we are experiencing, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a crisis bigger and more abrupt than the one in 2008. A crisis that is deemed a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organisation (WHO). A crisis that is devastating lives and livelihoods and which has triggered a global economic crisis putting entire businesses out of action overnight.
“All that was ‘normal’ has now evaporated; we have entered postnormal times.”
It seems to me that last time we quickly went back to business-as-usual times, and not postnormal times, only to find ourselves in more dire straits today. The question is: will we continue to go forward like this, crisis after crisis, and fight only the fires that are right in front of us? Will we, whilst doing our best to get over the current crisis, keep singing the same old song: “Que Sera, Sera…” and turn a blind eye to the next crises that are already in plain sight?
Will we keep ignoring the anticipated challenges like the long-term psychological impact that COVID-19 will have on a large part of the population? Will we postpone tackling the economic and social disruption this pandemic is causing and which will devastate the lives of tens of millions of people and threaten millions of enterprises over the coming years?
These are just the immediate challenges following COVID-19. Beyond these, and sooner than we think, we will also be confronted with other global challenges.
For example: the impact that emerging technologies will have on employment. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a staggering 1 billion jobs are likely to be transformed by technology in the next decade.
New emerging technologies will also bring about new ways of working, new working conditions and new ways for us to go about and run our lives. Just as the introduction of the computer led to adverse health conditions, the influence and use of new technologies will bring along new challenges for body, mind and spirit.
There are also the numerous consequences of climate change for biodiversity and agriculture, some of which we are feeling already like milder winters and hotter summers. Others, like rising sea levels, are creeping up on us like a thief in the night. It is expected that the global average sea level will most likely rise about 20 to 30 cm by 2050. That doesn’t seem much, but it will mean no place to live for the inhabitants of paradises like Bora Bora, Tahiti, the Maldives, and the Seychelles.
It doesn’t stop there, as waters will continue to rise. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects a global mean sea level rise during the 21st century of 0.61–1.10 m to 1.5–2.5 m. So bye bye Venice, Miami, Jakarta, Rotterdam, Alexandria, …
“We have entered the in-between period where old orthodoxies are dying, new ones have not yet emerged, and nothing really makes sense.”
We are living in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) time. A time with many unknowns — leading to a feeling of insecurity, and hence indecision out of fear of making the wrong choices.
Change itself is changing, and it is doing so very rapidly. But how will we cope with all these changes while staying healthy in body, mind and spirit? How will we live a meaningful life full of hope and wonder, the foundations for experiencing a good future?
“To have any notion of a viable future, we must grasp the significance of this period of transition which is characterised by three c’s: complexity, chaos and contradictions.”
It is normal for people, organisations and policymakers alike to concentrate on the immediate threat(s) we are facing. It is normal to react, in the present, to the changes which have already occurred and which are affecting us now. The fire in front is best tackled in order to safeguard oneself. However, to be reactive only is problematic, as it doesn’t prepare us for the future. The future that one day will become the present.
Just look at COVID-19: it might seem to have surfaced out of the blue, but that is far from true. Experts warned of a pandemic decades ago. Bill Gates did, too, in a very poignant TED talk in 2015 in which he predicted millions of deaths if we didn’t prepare. Why didn’t we heed the warning?
Global warming and many of our most significant problems today exist because we were and are stuck in the present. But we don’t have to be, as we all have the innate ability to anticipate.
“These forces propel and sustain postnormal times leading to uncertainty and different types of ignorance that make decision-making problematic and increase risks to individuals, society and the planet.”
We may not forget the lessons of the past, but let us go forward . Let’s step out of our comfort known-zone, use our faculty of preparing the future, and enter tomorrow with determination.
Complexity, uncertainty, volatility and ambiguity have become the norm. Going forward in ignorance and with the mindset of “business as usual” and waiting to others to solve the problems we face will have serious consequences for you, for us, for the economy, and for the planet.
With COVID-19 we have seen that, if we fail to prepare for the future, the stakes are personal and high — y’our life depends on it.
“Postnormal times demands, that we abandon the ideas of ‘control and management’ and rethink the cherished notions of progress, modernisation and efficiency.”
Looking to the future has always defined humanity; it is part of our DNA. The fact that we are still here is thanks to our ability to anticipate. In other words, to be able to guess or be aware of what will happen and take action in order to be prepared.
Consciously and subconsciously, we anticipate our environment all the time. It is essential for our survival.
Subconscious anticipation is, for example, when your mouth starts watering when you see your favourite food. So even before the food hits your tongue or ends up in your stomach, the body anticipates what is coming and prepares itself for how to deal with it.
Conscious anticipation is getting a fancy dress costume in advance when you are invited to a dress-up party and don’t want to be the odd one out. It is also researching to see whether or not your job is going to be automated in the near future and preparing a course of action to reskill and upskill yourself in time.
In design, and in the creation of most things, anticipation is also important. Just grab your mobile phone and look at it. One day, someone or a group of people imagined what you are now holding in your hands and then made it into reality.
To stay relevant, every business needs a plan with scenarios for the future. Sports people work towards the next game, the next championship, the next Olympics. What about that next holiday of yours…?
Our minds, based on millions of years of evolution, are not constructed to live solely in the present. To grow and evolve, there needs to be anticipation, a general direction, a sense, a purpose, a clear goal — whatever you want to call it — to which we align ourselves in the present. This has been so since conception. A fertilised human egg cell develops into a human and never a chicken because it has direction by which, as it were, a design is realised.
The unique human ability to visualise and to time-travel in our minds allows us to intentionally shape and control our future.
In a crisis like today’s where the immediate future is difficult to predict, we can turn to this innate ability by taking ownership of our long-term future. By envisioning what we truly want, and using that vision to steer our actions and gain control over the present.
The future has not yet happened — but you can create models of your preferred, plausible, probable and possible futures, to which you can intentionally align your decisions and choices. Futures in the plural… just like you look at many holiday destinations and weigh your various options, keeping in mind what you want to experience during your holiday.
A vision of your long-term goal(s) makes things more bearable when the present is challenging. For example, when you are studying for an exam, reminding yourself of the goal and the benefits this will bring into your life will give you courage to keep on going.
When struggling to get a grip on the short-term future, designing something concrete that you can live towards — something which is in concordance with the internal model of your best self — can help to draw you out of the current situation. With determined practice, you will grow into your best self as the future becomes the present, and flow into an ongoing reality.
This process of pulling the future into the present is at the centre of “Futurizing Y’ourself”. By futurizing y’ourself, you design and give shape to y’our future and align your decisions and choices to it on purpose. “Y’our” means yours and ours — the people around you, as you are not alone. Every decision and choice you make has an impact on others, and this must be taken into account when you design your future. As the future will become the present one day, it will become your reality and will influence others.
Just think back to the example of preparing for your next holiday. First you create scenarios of where you want to go to because of what you want to experience. Once you’ve decided where you want to go to, you start planning how to get there, where to stay, and what you would like to do. However, during the planning stage something happens — COVID-19, for example — and you need to change your destination. When you have thought about different scenarios you’ll have some alternatives ready, and you’ll be able to adapt your plans easily. Then, one day, you’ll be on that holiday — and your future will have become your present and an ongoing reality for the duration of your holiday.
Your plans will inevitably also influence others: your family, the dog sitter, the people in the hotel where you are staying, etc.
Yes, your behaviour has a global impact, even if it isn’t always as obvious as with COVID-19.
With Futurizing Y’ourself, the difference, compared to planning your holiday, is that it spans a longer period of time and is not temporary like a holiday.
When done well, Futurizing Y’ourself will become a timeless experience. It will become a constant guiding light along your life and a process that will enhance your ability to adapt and self-manage, no matter the circumstances, and help you flourish in the flow of evolution. In other words, it will help you navigate the changes ahead. It will also enhance your health and wellbeing, and give you a sense of fulfilment and inner peace.
“The way forward must be based on virtues of humility, modesty and accountability, the indispensable requirement of living with uncertainty, complexity and ignorance.”
It is taking control of your future self and of your future itself. It is deciding what you want and inviting experiences into being instead of leaving it to fate.
Life doesn’t have to be like a box of chocolates where you don’t know what you are going to get. Oh yes, there are still surprises, and many things might not be under your control. Life is life, and it will always be — and stay — full of surprises and mysteries.
But every step you take Futurizing Y’ourself will help you to adapt and become more resilient when facing change. It will give you hope and courage through a sense of knowing and by giving a purpose and meaning to your life.
Futurizing Y’ourself also gives you a means to do a feedforward analysis at any moment. Feedforward analysis is observing the moment and seeing it in the light of your preferred future self.
This is especially useful in moments of doubt or when the going gets tough. When you doubt what to do next, you can always think of the future you’ve been steering towards. In times when the going gets tough, you can ask yourself: will this challenge help me grow, or is it showing that I have deviated from my path? Feedforward analysis can only be done when you have thought about your future self and the purpose you’ve given your future.
We will always face challenges. When these are in line with the future you have designed for yourself, the challenge is there to learn from and grow. Just like your muscles need resistance to stay strong, so you need resistance on your journey in order to grow.
Your future best self doesn’t become that person while sitting in a chair. Nor does a best-selling book appear out of nowhere. To become your future best self requires effort and dedication, and a book needs to be written.
Change is inevitable, but it’s not out of your control. However, when you are waiting for change to happen, don’t be surprised by what you get. This change might not, and likely will not, be the one you were waiting for. When you don’t give your life a purpose, you will get what life drives you towards or what others impose on you.
I can tell you from personal experience that the benefits of Futurizing Y’ourself are innumerable.
I am the person I am today because, 21 years ago when I was 29, I was lucky enough to be instructed in these principles and was told that the only person who could change my life, and had the power to create the life I dreamed of, was me.
At the time, my life was a big shambles. I was running a gourmet deli which was failing and had led me into an existential crisis. What had seemed like a great opportunity had become, in no time, a prison from which I could see but one escape — stepping out of life.
But when I futurized myself, designed my life on purpose and pulled my future self into the present, I also pulled myself out of my dire situation.
You can read the full story in my book “Futurize Yourself: Design your life on purpose”.
When you keep drawing your future to you intentionally, your energy flows towards it and you start seeing synchronicities, coincidences, and serendipities in your life. You see opportunities when they happen — and sometimes even before they happen — because you have created the space for them. You also become more aware of the challenges and what you need to overcome them, thus enhancing your ability to adapt and navigate the changes ahead. The upshot is that you regenerate yourself, expand your options and become more authentic.
This is truly a remarkable journey and a magical experience. Then, one day, you become your imagined future self and develop it into an ongoing dynamic reality where you flourish in the flow of evolution.
“We will have to imagine ourselves out of postnormal times and into a new age of normalcy — with an ethical compass and a broad spectrum of imaginations from the rich diversity of human cultures.”
Futurizing Y’ourself was timely yesterday, but is essential in the fast-changing world of today.
A world where all that was ‘normal’ has evaporated and there is no way back; we have entered exponentially changing times.
A time where old orthodoxies have no place, new ones are emerging continuously, and we use our innate sense to create meaning.
To have any notion of a viable future, we must grasp the significance of this period characterised by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity on top of complexity, chaos and contradictions, which is also a period laden with opportunities for those who want to see them.
These forces demand new ways of thinking to navigate the VUCA-CCC-O world which makes decision-making a challenge but not impossible.
Exponentially changing times demand that we embrace futures management, and address the cherished notions of progress, modernisation and efficiency from a future-present perspective.
The way forward must be based on holistic virtues that enhance health and wellbeing for all, including Planet Earth, and a sense of personal responsibility and accountability for our actions or inaction.
Designing our future and pulling it into the present will give us a means to deal with these exponentially changing times. It will also give us the needed motivation, a way of monitoring our progress and the ability to adapt, which are all indispensable requirements for living in an exponentially changing world.
We will have to take ownership of our long-term future and empower our innate capacity to time-travel and imagine, think about, and purposefully pursue desirable and preferable futures with an ethical compass and a broad spectrum of imaginations from the rich diversity of human cultures, and become good ancestors.
Be Good to y’ourself and y’our future, always