The Folly of Futurecasting
Any fellow futurecasters out there?
“Futurecasting” is when we imagine and dwell on scenarios of what may come to pass in any given situation. It’s the “what if” game that many of us play—often in the middle of the night!—but futurecasting can happen at any time. (The middle of the night is also primetime for “pastcasting” when we dwell on the “should haves” and “could haves” of past experiences and behaviors.)
Futurecasting seems helpful. By imagining all of the things that could happen, we (think we) can be prepared and keep ourselves safe. Considering all of the “what ifs” assures us that nothing will catch us by surprise.
It also seems logical. Based on past experiences, we have some ability to predict future events. That’s why we don’t pull hot pans out of the oven without a mitt. We can credit what is sometimes called our “predictive brain” that exists to keep us safe, and for that reason it is not something that we can (or should) entirely override.
Futurecasting also seems empowering. It is our attempt to have a semblance of control by plotting how we will respond to what may be coming down the pike.
Here’s the catch.
The stories we construct about the future are just that: stories. Fiction.
Your mind is not a crystal ball.
Sure, there may be elements that make it seem real, and sure, past experiences may help us to manage or even avoid future events. But often the things that we construct in our mind are just constructs.*
The best way to avoid pain and prevent suffering is not by dwelling on imagined futures. Rather, it is to become truly and authentically rooted in the present.
By spending time thinking about all of the permutations, we not only experience the stress of all of those scenarios as we imagine them but we are also depleting our resources for when we actually DO need to deal with whatever transpires.
Nip futurecasting in the bud by naming it—”I am futurecasting!”— and bringing yourself back to this moment.
As with all mindfulness, this practice becomes both more durable and nurturing when we approach it with self-compassion and (as much as possible) acceptance. And, of course, curiosity—stay curious!
*This is not intended to be a statement regarding the capacity for or belief in precognition or prognostication.
But I Want Some Control Over the Future
As established above, futurecasting does not provide control over the future. You know what does? The choices you make in the present moment!
The next time you catch yourself dwelling on what ifs, try to find one thing you can control right now. One small shift can break the spell and establish what you’re likely seeking through futurecasting: control, predictability, empowerment. Here are three things you can control:
*Your body (position, movement, temperature)
*Your breath (tempo, depth)
*Your environment (where you are sitting, who you are with)
(other) Smart People
“Dwelling on the past and worrying about the future will only rob you of the present’s joy.”
—Stacy A. Padula
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