November 2, 2014

Swinging between problematic present and desired future

Swinging back and forth between acknowledgement of current problems and visualizing a better future makes it possible to contain energy for change.

Progress usually -perhaps always- begins with a certain dissatisfaction with the current situation. This dissatisfaction with the current situation springs from the realization that things are worse than they could be. In other words, you can imagine a reality which is better than the current reality. Because people are aware of their dissatisfaction with certain aspects of their situation they can start to look for ways of improving those aspects. Their dissatisfaction with their current situation is a tension which can be seen as energy for change. To be able to work effectively on progress, it sounds a bit paradoxical, you need to be able to live with the awareness that you are now living in a reality that needs improvement.

Working on progress requires that you can keep to ways of viewing in your mind at the same time. One view is that of problem awareness or problem acknowledgement, the realization that certain things are not going right. The second view is the future-oriented view of the realization that things could be better and of how they could be better. My idea is that, in order to contribute to progress, you have keep bringing these two ways of thinking together as closely together as you can. If you emphasize either of them at the expense of the other, chances are that you will lose your energy for change.

If you focus your thinking problem awareness but not on the realization that progress is possible, you can fall prey to defeatism. You can get overwhelmed by the intensity of problems and become despondent, desperate, and furious. These emotions don't come in handy when you need to take well-measured and constructive steps forward. If your thinking is focused on imagining a better world while paying little attention to the problems that are currently happening, you can also, strange as it sounds, lose your energy for change. In this article I explain why that is so (briefly, by engaging in positive fantasies, without facing the current problematic reality, we fool our brains/ourselves into believing that progress has already been achieved).

Maybe it is not possible to think literally at the same time about the problematic present and the desired future.  But what we can do is swinging between these two perspectives. There are several techniques which support this process of swinging between current problems and desired future, such as mental contrasting, the circle technique and the NOAM-7-steps model (step 2 and 3).  These last two techniques even offer useful intermediate steps between problem and desired success which are to find within the problematic present an already existing basis of progress by looking at what is already working and what has already worked.

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