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[Futures Thinking] 12 Mental Fitness exercises to stretch your Time Horizon!

Futurists like to say that “the human brain is the best time travel machine”. But this is a skill we need to develop. Global Futurist Sylvia Gallusser prepared a list of 12 mental stretching exercises that you can easily add to your everyday fitness routine, in order to help you enhance your futures thinking!

  1. Go outdoors: keep your brain oxygenated and invite creative flow in your thoughts by exercising outdoors, run, hike, swim, dance, bike in nature.
  2. Watch science-fiction: identify artifacts from the future that you would enjoy or dislike, objects, suits, food, expressions, body features, and imagine some you could add to fit this world.
  3. Play video games: immerse yourself in alternate reality, develop an avatar, change characters and perspectives, be aware of behaviors and rituals and how they mimic real-life, differ, or reinvent real-life traditions.
  4. Read a book… in a different language: read a book “in VO”, a language which is not your mother tongue, but that you have some basics in, enjoy new vocabulary, notice differences with your own language, cultural differences in the way the topic is addressed.
  5. Find 100 ways anything could change: imagine how a tradition, a ritual, a place, an habit, a behavior could be different in the future, for example birthday, wedding, workplace, breakfast, driving, having birth, etc.
  6. Predict the past (counterfactual memory): think about a decision you made in the past and wonder what would have happened if you had made a different decision? How would the past and present have been different as a result?
  7. Remember the future (counterfactual prospection): think about something that could possibly happen in the future, even though it has never happened before and imagine it as vividly as if it had already happened.
  8. Write poetry: play with words, describe the world in innovative ways, focus on all your senses, invent new vocabulary.
  9. Listen to the news and create mental scenarios: go beyond utopia and doomsday scenarios, envision not just one extreme scenario, but think FUTURES in plural, for example imagine four alternative futures — growth, collapse, constraint, and transform.
  10. Think in first-person: Imagine yourself in the future, with your own personality and specificities, preferences and skills, body features and tastes. How would all these be challenged and evolve? In which social environment would you live? Imagine your home, your immediate family, your neighborhood, and extend to your planet and beyond.
  11. Use your 5 senses: imagine through your five senses how it will be like in the same place in the future, how will all those components vary, colors, nature, structures, people, how will it sound, smell, will there be new tastes, will we sign to express ourselves, touch each other more or less, how will we have intercourse, how will we interact with technology, which will be our primary senses?
  12. Develop your empathy (counterfactual perspective): try to figure out how you personally would feel and do in someone else’s shoes, take a random portrait or pick a random stranger in a street and imagine their lives, what they are going to do, why they have these accessories, what their whole life looks like.

We hope you enjoy these mental fitness activities and add your own ideas to the list in the Comment section. What are your favorites? We would love to hear how you practice futures thinking and stretch your time horizon!

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Sylvia Gallusser

Sylvia Gallusser

Global Futurist - Strategic Foresight, Futures Thinking, Future Fiction, Sensemaking. Founder @Silicon Humanism. Board Member @Grey Swan Guild.

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