Blueprint for Imagining (Y)our Futures

How much can you learn from the future by seeing how accurately you can predict it? Spoiler: a lot.

By Sergey Zolkin on Unsplash

For the last five years, we (Lawrence and Ambrose) have been participating in this practice to literally imagine our future lives. Over time we’ve gotten a few questions about it so here’s a little writeup describing the practice itself as well as its aim and some of its benefits.


Part 1: Instructions

The instructions for this are pretty straightforward.

Prep

Set aside at least 60 minutes. Ideally, the exercise is done in person, but a video chat is also just fine. A phone call also works, but much less is communicated only with voice.

While the one person imagines their future, their friend/partner/co-imaginer takes notes. For each of the following time horizons, the imaginer should cover (at least) three categories:

  • Location — city as well as specific place of residence (apartment with roommate, home in the woods, boat house, etc.)
  • Work — activities you engage in to meet your resource needs (including school), and
  • Love — (desired) state of romantic partnership(s)
  1. The Present
  2. Six months
  3. One year
  4. Five years
  5. Ten years

When acting as the scribe, feel free to push the imaginer for ask for more depth or specificity or information that feels missing.

After you’ve each taken a turn to imagine, it can be really fun go back to the previous entry (six months prior) and see how on or off target you are! At times, this can be the most rewarding/challenging/exciting part of the whole exercise.

We strongly suggest only reviewing your previous entry(ies) after creating the new/present one. We suspect that looking back will impact the entry you’re about to make.

Part 2: Philosophy

Our original intention for this practice came during the final parts of our graduate studies. As we ended our formal educations, we wanted to be intentional about the transitions into the next stage of our lives.

Following that original intention, we’ve found several benefits to this exercise. you may find these are true for you (or not) or you may find others that are totally different.

The first is to clarify to yourself what is happening in your life at the present time. Unlike a journal, to express and share your thoughts and feelings about the state of your life with a friend or loved-one in such a structured way can offer a different approach to self-understanding.

The second benefit is to better realise your hopes for your future(s). The different time-scales indicate different deadlines to meet. In so doing, you can move forward in life empowered that you are taking the necessary steps to meet your life goals. This deliberate approach avoids the far more common path of stumbling into one’s future, having one’s life wishes unconscious or poorly expressed to oneself, and diminishing the richness and fulfillment of this one-and-only fleeting life.

The third benefit can strengthen the first since these dreams about the future say a lot about the state of your life today. Whether it be by extrapolation, which is a form of magnification, or by imagination, imagining your future says far more about where you are today then where you will be in the future.

The fourth benefit to Imagining Our Future is to get to know better and share more deeply your life path with a friend or loved-one. This exercise can easily become very intimate. In fact it is of little value if it is done without feeling comfortable to share one’s deepest wishes.

The fifth benefit is to create a trace of your past. Over time, as you match your imaginings with what has come to pass, you can better reflect your past and how you has evolved.

Other notes:

  • When we began the practice in Feb 2013, we only forecasted into the future. We added the “present” category in Aug 2014 because we wanted to be able to better track our predictions and that’s hard to do if you don’t note what’s happening at the time of the imagining.
  • Initially, the only things we wrote were directly related to the different time horizons. At some point a few years in, we started writing down our little side comments and reflections that seemed relevant. When looking back, these asides can add significant texture to an entry.
  • In Aug 2017, we began started recording our voices because we realized two things. First, that there’s much more information in our voices than what we were able to type for each other. Second, it just seemed like a cool idea to be able to go back and listen to our voices at the time of each imagining.
  • We keep our imaginings in a shared Google Doc. Occasionally, one of us downloads the file and sends it by email to the other so that we have another point of access to it. Once or twice we’ve made a printed copy as an additional backup.

In the near future, we’ll publish a follow-up piece with other reflections (some of which may be spoilers!) and additions/suggestions people have made to us since we put this out into the world.