The Power of Future Thinking

In the journey of personal and professional growth, the future offers a blank canvas brimming with potential. Just as children, like my 8-year-old daughter, naturally look forward with curiosity and hope, we too can embrace a future-oriented mindset to unlock our potential, by intentionally training our mindset. And to truly seize this potential, we must learn to think in ways we have never thought before.

As a life coach specialising in positive psychology, I emphasise that the process of creating new thoughts is crucial for breaking away from past limitations and embracing future possibilities. This practice is not merely an intellectual exercise but a transformative habit that requires consistent effort and guidance.

The Psychological Foundation: Positive Psychology and Future Thinking

Positive psychology, a scientific approach to studying human strengths and potential, underscores the importance of a future-oriented mindset. According to Seligman (2002), envisioning a positive future can enhance well-being and foster resilience. This approach aligns with Zimbardo’s time perspective theory, which posits that future-oriented individuals are more likely to achieve long-term success and fulfilment (see also my previous blog post).

Generating Future-Oriented Thoughts

To harness the power of the future, we need to actively generate future-oriented thoughts. Here’s how you can start:

  1. Challenge Existing Beliefs: Begin by questioning the validity of your current beliefs. Ask yourself if these beliefs serve your future goals. For example, if you believe “I’m not good at public speaking,” challenge this thought by considering past successes and areas for growth.
  2. Imagine New Possibilities: Envision a future unencumbered by past definitions of what is possible. Allow yourself to dream and imagine scenarios where you achieve your goals.
  3. Craft New Thoughts: Develop affirmations or statements that reflect your new beliefs about what you can achieve. These thoughts should be positive, present tense, and easily repeatable.

The Power of Thought in Shaping Our Future

Thinking new thoughts is more than an exercise in creativity—it’s a transformative practice that reshapes our brain’s wiring. Neuroscience shows that repetitive thinking patterns can form neural pathways that influence our habits and behaviours (Siegel, 2012). By consciously thinking new thoughts, we lay the groundwork for new habits and behaviours, ultimately leading to a life that reflects our true aspirations and potentials.

Example: Changing a Thought with More Future Orientation

If you find yourself bogged down by a belief that you are not adept at public speaking, challenge this by affirming, “I am improving my public speaking skills every day.” This new thought encourages growth and learning, aligning your mindset with your future goals. This process is known as cognitive restructuring, a fundamental technique in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) that has been shown to effectively alter negative thought patterns (Beck, 2011).

The Simple Process of Believing New Things

Pam Howard’s work in the Self Coaching Scholars Workbook (2024) outlines a straightforward method for cultivating new beliefs:

  1. Decide What You Want to Believe: Clearly define the new belief you want to adopt. This belief should align with your future goals and the version of yourself you aspire to become.
  2. Create a Supporting Statement: Formulate a concise statement that encapsulates this new belief. This statement should be positive, present tense, and easily repeatable.
  3. Accept It as True: Start accepting this new belief as a current reality. This step involves a mental commitment to the belief, treating it as an established fact about yourself.
  4. Practice and Repeat: Regularly reinforce this belief through repetition. The more you focus on this belief, the more it will become ingrained in your thinking and behaviour.

Example of Implementing a New Belief

Suppose you want to believe that you are an excellent leader. Your supporting statement might be, “I am a skilled and confident leader who inspires my team.” You would repeat this statement daily, visualise yourself acting as such a leader, and accept this narrative as your reality.

The Impact of New Beliefs

The process of believing new things isn’t just about positive thinking; it’s about creating a foundation for action and change. By firmly establishing new beliefs, we empower ourselves to take actions that reflect those beliefs, leading to significant life changes and fulfilment. Research in positive psychology supports this, indicating that positive affirmations and future-oriented thinking can enhance motivation and goal achievement (Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006).

Conclusion

In this post, we’ve journeyed through understanding the impact of time perspectives on our well-being, the natural resistance to change, rethinking our past, embracing new thoughts, and finally, the simple process of believing new things. Each step is designed to guide you from where you are now to where you want to be, using future-focused thinking to catalyse personal growth. Remember, change is a continuous and dynamic process. While it may seem daunting, the strategies discussed here provide a roadmap to not only cope with change but to thrive through it. And if you find yourself needing support along the way, consider partnering with a life coach who can help unlock new dimensions of your psychological landscape.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Sophie

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References

Beck, J. S. (2011). Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Basics and Beyond. Guilford Press.

Castillo, B. (Host). (2017, July 13). Past Focus Problems: Living in the Past [Audio podcast episode]. In The Life Coach School Podcast. The Life Coach School. https://thelifecoachschool.com/podcast/172/

Howard, P. (2024). Believing new things. In Self Coaching Scholars Workbook (March 2024). The Life Coach School.

Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. Free Press.

Sheldon, K. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2006). Achieving Sustainable Gains in Happiness: Change Your Actions, Not Your Circumstances. Journal of Happiness Studies.

Siegel, D. J. (2012). The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are. Guilford Press.

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