I couldn’t resist using this title! I know it is a soccer expression, but as I’ve said here before, I’m an avid hockey fan and I’m over the top that Canada won the Olympic gold medal for the 3rd time in four tries. This time, the game winning (golden) goal was scored by Jonathan Toews, who has made a habit of showing up big at the right time. I’m proud of the Canadian team. Sure they are an amazing array of high paid talent that were expected to contend. But they didn’t show up with any attitude that said I deserve to be here. They set goals as a team, they bought into the team’s plan and they did what they needed to do at the right time.
The subject of goals seemed to keep presenting itself to me over the past week or so. In one instance, a coaching client and I were discussing the role of goals in one’s life. It really got me thinking about the subject and more importantly, how goals fit into the three tenses of human time – past, present and future.
Then to top it off, I had the opportunity to meet with a coach and sport psychologist and was discussing the nature of the human mind with respect to how it relates to these tenses:
- Conscious mind – exists in the future. It holds our belief system.
- Subconscious mind – exists in the past. It holds our self-image.
- Unconscious mind – exists in the present. It is concerned solely about the state of our body and safety.
This concept of being in the present has long been on my mind. Last year I wrote a post called Present in the Present on the topic. What has me interested now is the role of each of the tenses of time in how we are present.
When we think about the idea that the unconscious mind exists in the present and is all about the state of our body we really understand why the act of simple meditation focused on breathing brings us to the present. It makes me want to commit further to that practice in order to be more present, more frequently.
Understanding that our self-image is rooted in our subconscious, which exists in our past helps us understand why we might react to something before we can rationally process it and respond in a way we feel good about. Similarly we understand why working with a therapist to understand past traumas can allow us to become more comfortable in the present, without fear or anxiety.
The part of this concept that intrigued me the most is the future, and how our goals for the future manifest in how we show up in the current moment. A big influence was the following passage from Frederic Hudson’s book “The Adult Years”:
The future is a projection of the present and the past, a mental activity that anticipates desired events and occasions. The imagination that yearns and hopes for new meaning and joy is inevitably anchored in who you are and have been. The future is also the emergence of novelty. It is hope promise and new possibilities. It is not mere repetition of the past and not mere projection of the present. When we imagine the future, we project our notions of past and present into the not-yet, but we add new features. We build into our visions our human yearnngs for completeness and fulfillment. We dream of a future that, for us, at this time in our lives, can be better than our past has been. Human dreams have a transcendent quality, and that is why all who dream have a positive sense of a future. They trust in the total time process, not merely the present moment. Visioning is a future act of creativity, invention and ecstasy. Without a future vision, we shut ourselves down and begin to die, individually and collectively. Those who do vision generate the energy and motivation to construct plans for making the future happen in the present – the center of all human time – and celebrate the awe and wonder of it all.
It made me think that we can get too hung up on the concept that being present is all that counts. Sometimes I think that this is rooted in avoiding the discomfort of dealing with the past. By staying present we avoid that discomfort, but might we also block our ability to focus on desired future visions in the form of goals that bring true joy to us.
What would happen if we fully created a desirable vision for ourselves in such detail that we longed for it frequently in the current moment? Then what if we spent time understanding what shifts we would have to make in our way of being/acting to bring that vision to life? And because all of our living happens in the now, how would we feel if we then brought this thinking into our presence and asked ourselves “what is the one thing I could do right now that would bring me closer to this vision?” How can I show up big each moment?
I’d like to hold that form of presence in my mind as a desired state. I know that isn’t possible to be there at all times. In many instances I will be with others, and unless we are working on a shared vision, it will often be important to simply be present in our relationship and hold a space for us to work/be in together. However, this goal based presence is something that I want to keep in focus every day.
The applications in leadership are quite interesting. Couldn’t we always use this same model to coach our team members to achieve their goals?
- How do I imagine success in what I am working on?
- What are the two or three things I need to do that will make this a reality?
- What is the first thing I want to do to set me on this path?
How can we apply this model of evocative leadership more consistently with our team members?