I just listened to Art of Manliness’s excellent podcast interviewing futurist Brian David Johnson talking about his new book The Future You. Johnson emphasizes that as a futurist he doesn’t predict the future; rather, he advises people on how they might build the future that they want for themselves.
One tactic that he uses to help people do this is to encourage them to inhabit the future they’re considering. They might do this physically—if part of the future they want is to live in a house with a big yard, they should rent such a house for a weekend or a week, and see how they like it. Less drastic, but still very useful, is simply to do this in your imagination: Take a few minutes and imagine what a typical day might look like if you were living in the future you want to build.
This caught my attention because I used to do this all the time. Especially during the years that I was working at a regular job, I would be constantly imagining a more ideal life, often in very fine detail.
I used to imagine that, once I didn’t have to work at a regular job, I could be location-independent, living someplace interesting for a while, and then moving on to another interesting location. (The desert southwest was one place in my imaginings, as were various cities in Europe—London, Berlin, Edinburgh, etc.)
I used to imagine getting up around dawn (one aspect of my imagined life that has carried through to my actual life), getting a cup of coffee and sipping it slowly on a porch, patio, veranda, or gazebo. I would go on to imagine how I might schedule my day’s writing and exercising, and then how I might spend the evening socializing or engaging in various entertainments.
There were, of course, infinite variations on this, depending on whether I imagined that I was on a Caribbean island, living in a garret on the left bank, or bondocking in an RV in whatever natural area struck my fancy.
I largely quit doing this once I no longer had a regular job. Once I could live exactly the life I wanted, I found it hard to fantasize about. I’m not sure why, exactly. Maybe any variation between what I was doing and what I was imagining felt like self-criticism.
After listening to the podcast, though, I’m thinking I should get back to it. The future will come in any case, so I might as well get to work creating the future I want—even if it is scarcely different from the future I’ve got. And who knows? Maybe I’ll come up with some key insight that lets me make my future even better than my (already excellent) present.