Change Management: We Aren’t Creating A Future – We’re Recreating A Past

Have you noticed that history repeats itself? Have you noticed that today’s news is exactly the same as the news from 100 years ago? The settings for the stories have changed, but the stories are the same: What’s happening in the latest war? What scandal is grabbing our attention? How’s the economy doing?

On a personal basis, are you in a relationship where you are in conflicts that never get resolved? Are you in a job that has grown boring because nothing ever changes? Or are you in a job where change is constant but you’re unhappy because you look into the future and can’t see how things will ever change? Have you noticed that life isn’t quite as exciting today as it was when you were 7 and hated to go to bed and couldn’t wait to wake up?

Why does our human history and our personal history keep repeating itself? It’s because we don’t really create a new future. We simply repeat the past and call that the future. Instead of creating a new future, we recreate a past that has already happened and call that the future.

Consider these decisions from the past that create our behavior in the future: We didn’t like spinach in the past, so we decide to never eat spinach again in the future. We didn’t like a ballet we went to, so we decide we’ll never go to another one in the future. We’ve been on diets, lost weight and put it on again, so we decide we’re never going to go through that frustration again in the future. We trusted someone in the past and got burned, so we decide we’ll never trust again in the future. We resisted change in the past so we resist change in the future as well.

Change, by definition, occurs in the future. But what evidence do we tend to use to decide what to do in the future? Don’t we, in fact, tend to look for evidence from the past and then make decisions about how we’ll behave in the future?

We look to our past experience, project that experience out into the future and imagine that the future will be just like the past. And, guess what? It usually is. In fact, the future can’t be anything other than some variation of the past. We’ve created that future by predicting it from our past. Case closed!

Now you know why history keeps repeating itself. Organizations often create futures (called “strategies”) based on the past and then live into that past…not the future. Individuals create futures (called “visions” or “dreams”) based on the past and then live into that past…not the future.

It’s a self fulfilling prophecy: We create a future based on our past and then wonder why the past is just like the future.

But to create a truly new future we have to let go of the past. It no longer exists. But we also have to recognize that the future doesn’t yet exist either. We can look back and see that we’ve created our past. What’s not as obvious to us is that we’ve already created our future by filling it up with so much of our past.

You know why the saying, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life” is a cliché? Because it’s so obviously accurate. But today won’t be the first day of the rest of your life is it’s already filled up with what you did yesterday.

Today, when you create your to do list, really create it. Not from your past, but from what you choose for your future.

I have been an author, speaker and consultant since 1984. I help organizations, teams and individuals produce breakthroughs in results and relationships. Visit my websites to learn about the resources I offer.

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