Taking a Lesson from The Future

New York City was quiet near Washington Square Park during the weekend of September 11, 2011.

The weekend marked the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that caused so many Americans to take stock of their lives, figure out what really matters, and start doing more of it. Indeed, many people dramatically changed the course of their lives and careers as a result of the attacks. As Annie McKee writes about in her book, Resonant Leadership, many of us faced a “wake up call” on that terrible day.

Ten years later, on September 11, 2011, The Future Project launched. It is a national education reform movement to inspire America—starting in our nation’s public schools. It unites students in urban public high schools with volunteers from their community—young professionals and students at nearby colleges and graduate schools—in partnerships and teams and challenges each pair to spend one year building a passion-inspired project that makes a powerful difference in their school or community.

The Future Project is a wonderful example of a young adults compassionately working with high school kids to help them find their true passion in life. Countless research studies have proven that people who love what they do are more engaged, more productive, have better relationships, and are healthier and happier. It’s a great gift the Future Project is giving the world. Imagine when The Future Project is successful: we will end up with thousands of young people out in the world who love what they do. We all will benefit from their inspired stories of success and positive outlook on the world.

Many of us did not have a mentor, coach, or guide helping us find our inspiration. It took an event like 9/11 to shake so many of us into consciousness and face tough questions about the very purpose of our own existence. Of course, not all wake-up calls are that big. In fact, most of us experience wake-up calls on a much more personal scale: chest pain, a close call while driving, getting fired, failing on a project, not being included in groups anymore. But I’m convinced that most of us really want to be like one of the passion-inspired members of Future Project! We all want that feeling – that energy – that comes with doing something we love.

If you don’t have that feeling, and instead have a nagging sense that you need to take better care of your health, your relationships, your career path, etc., you might do well to take a page from The Future Project’s playbook. Find out what really matters to you and what you really want and get some help to bring it to fruition.

But, how would you really do that? You do it the same way The Future Project inspires its students:

1) Start with yourself.  “Know Thyself.” The ancient Greek aphorism is just as true today as it was then. Self-awareness is critical in setting a course for your future. Discovering your Ideal Self (who you truly want to be) and putting that side-by-side with your Real Self (who you are now) will help you come up with a plan to move in the direction you want to go. You could try this on your own, with the help of a book like Becoming a Resonant Leader, or with a certified coach.

2) Experiment. Change is hard, and people tend to fail at it often. Try small, safe experiments that move you in the direction of your ideal self. Be selective and deliberate about where you experiment. For example, if you are experimenting with voicing your opinions at meetings, try it out with your family around the dinner table first. Use the same pre-planning process you’d imagine using at work, and be an active observer of the process you’re also involved with. Think about how you approached the topic, what people’s reactions were, your emotions during the process, and how you might do it differently under different circumstances.

3) Integrate change. The most important part of experimenting is taking the time to extract the learning from them. So, after the experiment, reflect on it to see if it worked and if you’d be willing to try it again in a slightly higher stakes environment. For instance, voice your opinion at a neighborhood association or church meeting. Use safe environments to calibrate your skills. These incremental changes and small wins up front will help you build momentum to try bolder change later.

What future will you write for yourself? What is YOUR future project?

For more on discovering what you love and loving what you do:

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2 Responses to Taking a Lesson from The Future

  1. Pingback: Good Work: Future Project Pushes Passion-Driven Learning | Getting Smart

  2. Commune says:

    When I was a very young boy, I read a very interesting paehlpmt published by the Catholic Truth Society. It dealt with the subject of humility. Prior to reading it, in the culture of the time, ( a long time ago), young boys were to be seen and not heard and it was never encouraged to exhibit pomposity, pride, vanity nor act in a manner that suggested that one was qualitatively better than anyone else. Interestingly, one was never encouraged to believe that one was in anyway less than any other either. The paehlpmt on Humility , opened my eyes and my mind. It clearly suggested that it was false humility not to acknowledge the gifts that were bestowed on us; it positively encouraged the use and optimisation of the gifts and it accepted that when praise or appreciation was extended it should be graciously accepted. It should be accepted in the knowledge and understanding that the gifts that enabled us to deserve praise and appreciation were from God. We had not created them ousselves but there was an obligation on each of us to use them to their maximum potential and in the service of others. I was a very young person when I read that booklet. I never forgot it. It served to allow me to have a justified confidence in my own ability and in the course of the leadership roles and responsibility that I shared during my life, it inspired me to enable others to find that confidence in themselves and use whatever gifts and talents they possessed to maximum benefit to themselves and others.

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