Anticipating what is possible and how we can fuel it, is the topic of this literacy: Finding the Future. It helps if we envision a better future; if we shift what's going on that isn't serving to that which is serving in any given situation.
Shape the Future with our Voice
This seventh and final literacy of Finding the Future brings together much of what we’ve discussed in Season Two. How we shape the future is reliant on our interconnections and interdependencies because all futures are shared futures. We shape the future through the images we hold and the conversations we participate in.
We have referred to the principles of Appreciative Inquiry in defining each literacy, and we can point to one of the foundational principles again to talk about approaching our futures: the Anticipatory Principle. Five powerful words describe it well.
Positive Image equals Positive Action.
What we think about, and the images we carry of the future, create our actions and direction. What neuroscientists have discovered is that the more positive the images, the more positive and powerful the actions. And we can all get better at it.
Everything we do is part of the great co-creation of the future world—our own immediate world and the bigger shared world and shared life. We can envision brighter and bolder futures and move into them. So, we do better if we remember that rather than picturing what we don’t want and working from there, it’s more effective to create an image of what we really want to have happen, the more detailed the better. That’s the first main point to make about finding the future.
We shape the future through the images we hold and the conversations we participate in.
Here’s something to reflect on:
Think of a time when you had a bold vision or image of the future and lived into it? Did that idea of a powerful positive image hold true?
When our image of the future is positive and based on our values, we are more likely to take positive action. This process, toward images of the most life-giving forces we know through continuing dialogue, can assure that the future will be built on those positive themes and images. There’s a term for this: in nature, it’s called heliotropism, turning toward the sun, like plants do…. turning to what gives us light and warmth.
Turning toward the light especially important when what’s ahead of us feels precarious. We might get caught up in that negativity and feel paralyzed.
There’s a great term for this process, too: dislodging certainty. To shape the future, we have to turn some of our stories and narratives on their heads. We have to ask questions about our frames and beliefs, the life we’re living, and even our values.
It can be uncomfortable, even fear-inducing. In a book on the times we are living in now called The Age of the Unthinkable, Joshua Cooper Ramo, says,
“Deep change… requires a psychological shift from being certain about our future to being uncertain, a transformation that is as stressful as it is productive.”
The Appreciative Voice Literacies Guide
Seven Literacies to living and leading in these times
A summary and infographics of all the literacies, offering a definition, a description and daily practices to amplify your appreciative voice, plus the articles and podcast episodes to explain each.
There’s a lot of future finding going on. Whole industries are devoted to personal and organizational future work. People get hired to help individuals create new personal visions. There are visioning retreats and mastermind groups. And, at the organizational levels, there are attempts to work with the enormous rate of change by visioning and crafting new strategies. We look at trends and the implications of market disruptions, attempting to understand what we should be looking at. Scenario planning, reinventing and re-engineering are terms that come in and out of vogue over the decades, yet they all point in the same direction: the need for shaping the future. Some of it is short-term planning and some is focused much farther forward.
We’ve been good at building the physical, but thinking about the future, we also think about who we want to become individually and who we as humans sharing this planet can and need to become.
Beautiful quotes from two Americans come to mind. The first is from Martin Luther King Jr.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
That chills me with positive anticipation.
The other is from Eleanor Roosevelt’s book, Tomorrow Is Now: It Is Today That We Must Create the World of the Future.
“One thing I believe profoundly: We make our own history. The course of history is directed by the choices we make and our choices grow out of the ideas, the beliefs, the values, the dreams of the people. It is not so much the powerful leaders that determine our destiny as the much more powerful influence of the combined voices of the people themselves. We most certainly have a range of adaptive capacity.”
All the literacies we’ve talked about this season come together in the seventh—Finding the Future. Perhaps our greatest shared human endeavor is mapping out possible futures, together. We shape the future all the time together, whether it’s around a dinner table or in a convention center. It’s wanted and needed, so let’s get as literate as we can in calling forth the future.
We’ve begun the habit in every episode of inviting our listeners to consider where they see themselves on a continuum for each literacy.
Think: How good am I at Finding the Future in the moment? Then place yourself from 1–10 along the line. We’d love to hear what you’re thinking.
In our next and final episode on Appreciative Voice and Choice, we’ll circle back with more stories of how people are living and leading with receiving and implementing the literacies. We’re off to do a little field work
Remember: It’s your choice to find and express your Appreciative Voice.
Books Mentioned in this Episode
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The New Leadership Literacies: Thriving in a Future of Extreme Disruption and Distributed Everything “
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The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us And What We Can Do About It”
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Tomorrow Is Now: It Is Today That We Must Create the World of the Future”
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