With the new decade well & truly underway, I’ve been thinking about the future, and wanted to share some helpful techniques with you. These techniques can enable us to extend the range of our thoughts, supporting us to take a longer-term perspective and imagine possible futures.
The future is itself an idea: we conjure it in our imaginations. We are better than other species at making this imaginative leap, and it is the reason we have civilisations, have landed on the moon, plant trees for future shade, and have built cathedrals across centuries, for posterity.
However, we’re also by nature impulsive and reactive... The short-term vs long-term tension is part of who we are, and balancing it appropriately is important. For example, this tension arises in the healthcare and financial services industries when encouraging people to look after their health. We’d mostly prefer to eat treats and relax on the couch, but doing this consistently is bad for us, so well-designed incentives (such as shared value models in an insurance context) can encourage us to make good choices now (like moderation and exercise) that lead to future health benefits.
This article is inspired by the work of Bina Venkatamaran, a former journalist and policy advisor who teaches at MIT, and Ari Wallach, a futurist. Both of them gave separate TED talks, and we also reference Bina’s book and Ari’s essay in Wired magazine where he calls for a “visionary yet goal-oriented” framework for long-term strategy that “can help leaders navigate the balance between short-term gain and long-term ruin. A CEO might say: ‘That may be good for the bottom line, but it poses significant risks to our longpath’.”
It’s also about how we choose to measure our success, and the meaning of our lives. In Bina’s words: “Do we measure ourselves by the moment, by what’s happening in this immediate moment, or do we measure ourselves by what we’re doing towards the longer endeavour of both what we’re doing in this life and how we’ll be remembered?”
Read more to explore Bina and Ari’s ideas, examine our preference for immediate gratification and the mistakes we naturally make, consider our unique capacity for mental time travel, contrast prediction and forecasting against judgement and foresight, discover different tools and techniques for thinking ahead, and watch Bina’s TED talk. It’s particularly fitting too that 2020 is synonymous with perfect vision – I hope that these tools will help us all to envisage our ultimate aims more clearly.
By the end of the year, many of us feel exhausted and look forward to change of pace, including celebrating the festive season with friends and family. One December, a psychologist sighed ‘It’s been a long year’, and told me how she was eagerly awaiting the opportunity to rest and recharge her batteries… More than that, some of us will feel this year ‘It’s been a long decade’, recognising that milestones (personal like birthdays, or collective like decades) prompt us to reflect and evaluate our accomplishments and state of mind.
There is too a growing awareness of the importance of looking after our mental health: the topic has increasingly entered our group consciousness in the United Kingdom and internationally. The stigma around mental health and wellbeing is abating, and we are not as stoic about it as we once were. We’re talking about it far more, which itself is a healthy activity. And, the World Health Organisation has recognised burnout as an occupational phenomenon in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), underscoring the increasing attention on mental wellbeing.
From a Protagion perspective, our members ask about or allude to burnout and its consequences perhaps more than average because of the types of achievers they often are or because a number of our coaches are experienced in helping proteges to manage stress. In a recent conversation with an international mentor, she shared her own challenges with juggling her career, her young family, her studies, and her responsibilities to her parents and parents-in-law. Please sign up as a protege if you’d like to speak with our coaches about your specific circumstances. As Dr Geri Puleo says, “star employees are the ones who tend to burn out fastest”.
Other Protagion articles which touch on the topics of stress and ambition include:
Read more to learn about the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI), dimensions and stages of burnout, the changing dynamics of work and the impact of job-person fit, and ten techniques for dealing with stress.
To the outside world, you’re accomplished and successful, yet internally you have nagging doubts that your ideas and skills aren’t worthy… Many of us have an inner voice telling us we’ve made it by sheer luck or that we’re a fraud – the issue is when we believe these feelings of fraudulence. Self-doubt is normal, and we need to remember that we’re not alone in doubting ourselves.
Even after writing eleven books and winning several prestigious awards, Maya Angelou couldn’t escape the nagging doubt that she hadn’t really earned her accomplishments. Albert Einstein experienced something similar: he described himself as an ‘involuntary swindler’ whose work didn’t deserve as much attention as it had received.”
There are two broad categories of this feeling: the first when we are skilled (sometimes referred to as Imposter Syndrome) and the second when we’re new to something or lack competence. Read more to explore these, based on ideas from Elizabeth Cox, Tania Katan and Mike Cannon-Brookes. We share some techniques to manage the feelings of inadequacy, and conclude with a video of a humorous talk by Mike sharing his experiences.