One-year-old me practicing for later.

It’s pretty much conventional knowledge that predicting the future is impossible.

Even if a completely legit, scientifically verified psychic could have a look into your future for you, that very ability would turn them into a fraud like all the others.

Because once they would tell you about your future, you would start anticipating to some of the events. You’d alter your behavior to prevent the biggest tragedies. Which would cause them not to happen, ruining the psychic’s predictions (even though they were originally true). The future ain’t what it used to be.

Just like in the movie “The Butterfly Effect”, our future is constantly changing because of little things that happen in the present (a butterfly flapping it’s wings).

But it doesn’t have to be butterflies all the time. Lots of those little changes are caused by you as well. Every time you flap your proverbial wings, you alter your future just a little. And while the butterfly theory was meant to illustrate the complexity of this giant web of causal relationships combined with a healthy dose of randomness, some parts of your future are actually quite predictable:

• Do you eat pizza and french fries all day, every day? It doesn’t take a psychic to predict you’ll be more fat and more unhealthy in the future.

• Do you consistently spend 30 minutes a day struggling through your piano recitals? You may suck right now, but it’s a fair prediction that one year from now, you’ll at least be a decent piano player. 

In these examples, the relationship between your present and future situation is almost too obvious. Most of us are very well aware of the consequences of specific, isolated actions and make wise decisions based on that awareness:

• You go to work because you can accurately predict it will bring you money at the end of the month.

• You use a condom even though you hate the way it feels, because you know it decreases the chances of dropping an army unwanted mini-you’s on this planet.

• You have a beer because based on your drinking skills you can accurately estimate that it will lead to you saying “I totally did not plan to get this drunk, I overestimated my drinking skills”.

Taken in isolation, it’s obvious to us what the above actions lead to, so individually we are able to take smart, informed decisions about our behavior.

But how often do we look at the complete picture of every action we take throughout the day?

 

Assessing Your Daily Behavior

Even though most of my days are spent very productive, it became clear this last month that I was not getting the results I would like to see compared to the time I invest in it.

So I did a little exercise at the start of last week to identify the culprit. Which parts of my past behavior led to this (present) future that is not as fulfilling as I had imagined it to be?

The results were downright shocking to me.

I immediately understood why we never take the time to evaluate all our actions and habits at once. It’s very confrontational. Even though I have lots of good habits, I had no clue how out of proportion my life was until I did it. I immediately sent this exercise to a few other people, and without exception, everyone was flabbergasted* by their own results. (*First time I used that word in a blog post, yay!)

We all have a lot more inner misalignment than we admit to ourselves, and our actions don’t lie to us nearly as well as our thoughts. Don’t believe me?

Take a blank sheet of paper and write down all the things that are most important to you in life. Things that make you feel good in the present or goals you find worthy of achieving. Between 5 and 10 is enough. Prioritize them in order of importance.

If you haven’t taken out that piece of paper yet, do it now. Seriously, don’t be one of those people who reads a blog post and nods in agreement (or disagreement) but doesn’t actually do the exercise first 😉

Done? Great!

Now take another piece of paper and write down the top 5 activities you spend most time on in your life. Place the most time-consuming at the top. Be brutally honest with yourself here. You don’t only have to count the big chunks.

Whip out your phone a lot while waiting? Then it’s probably up in the top 5.

Jerk off 5 times a day? Then that’s a major activity, don't lie to yourself.

Spend a lot of time sorting the vegetables in your fridge in alphabetical order? Then forget about the exercise, you have bigger problems to worry about 😉

If you are not unlike everyone else who does this exercise for the first time, you now have 2 sheets of paper that almost look as if they belong to 2 different people. It’s crazy how far out of alignment your behavior can be if you don’t take a moment to investigate this from time to time.

The first things you may notice are some of the time-wasters on your second list.  For example, something I discovered in my case was this:

Why do I run downstairs to get a new water battle so many times a day? I could easily just stack a couple of bottles when I start working.

But when you take a closer look, the real benefit of this exercise is that it shows you how (mis)aligned your behavior is.

When you look at the second list: How many of the activities that are in your top 5 list, lead directly to the top 5 things you find most important in life?

If most of them are not, this is a pretty big deal.

Because it means the way you are currently flapping your butterfly wings, is creating a future for you that is not the one you want.

It’s like traveling to the north pole by going south. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out you probably won’t get there.

 

Changing the Future

Now that you’ve somewhat predicted your future, what can you do to change course?

#1. Figure out what kind of activities that you already do that lead to the things on your first sheet of paper, and start spending more time on them.

#2. Remove all the activities that lead to nothing, unless they give you what you find important while you're doing them.

#3. Look at the list with things you find important in life, and come up with the actions you need to have more of that in your life.

#4. Now find a way to structure your days so that your actions in the present lead to what you find important in life both in the long-term and the short-term. Even if it means making a radical shift and changing almost everything you do. Invest your time proportionally relevant to the things you find most important. (It’s amazing how much positive results started pouring in for me in one week’s time, just from doing this.)

You owe it to yourself to make that chance right now, because it’s clearly what you want deep down.  Stop doing whatever you're doing that's not supportive of what you find important in life.  They may feel right because you've always done them and they've become a comfortable routine.  But beyond that, there is no logical reason not to abandon them in favor of something that does make it happen.

After all, if those are the things most important to you in life, why spend another day moving away from them?

 

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