They say that the second best time to plant an oak tree is today, but what if you could use time travel, to support you in making life's big decisions? And no, I'm not saying you need a Tardis or to stow away in the boot of Doc Brown's DeLorian. But there is a surprisingly simple self-mentoring question you can ask yourself, instead. Want to find out what it is?
The body and the primal part of the brain are wired to keep us safe, in the here and now. The unconscious mind (which runs that side of the show) is constantly on the look-out for threats and danger. And it doesn't matter whether these potential threats are physically there in the outside world, or coming from our inner world, with what I call our 'mind-story fears'.
The body fires off its fight-flight-freeze response whether that threat is real or just a what-if in our head.
The thinking brain, on the other hand, struggles to be present, here and now.
Think about the last set of thoughts you can consciously remember: when were they? About something now? Or the past or future?
The thinking brain loves what-iffing, catastrophising, worrying about the future, and replaying the past. It's constantly time travelling. It's very rarely in the present, even though that's where our only power lies.
All of this can lead to stress, anxiety, loss of confidence, Imposter Syndrome, burnout, toxic resilience and worse. And that's why the very first stage of pretty much any work I do with business leaders is about getting grounded, out of your 'stress head', and being able to be more present.
We can use this innate ability to shift through time to our advantage, when we want to create change in our life.
You've probably heard of mental rehearsal - where you deeply imagine doing something in the future, and it can improve your performance? It's used by athletes, musicians, and I even use it as a keynote speaker, when I'm rehearsing a new talk.
I also teach deep-acting ways to use mental rehearsal, with the element of intentional time travel, to create identity-level shifts on my Stepping Up To Lead programme, and on my Imposter Syndrome Master Coach certification training.
But there's something surprisingly simple that you can do, right now, to start using time travel to make those important decisions that could influence you becoming the leader you were born to be.
I phrase it that way, because most of us aren't really being the leader we were born to be. Over the years we pick up so many masks, bits of subconscious armours, and ways we've shut down, that most people aren't really showing up as all of who they really are. They're showing the world the 'sanitised' version - the one that feels safe.
The process of 'unchanging' takes courage - and knowing the right ways to do this, to make it safe and effective. But there is a source of wisdom that is open to us at any time that we need it; it can make big decisions easier - we just need to learn how to connect with it.
And that's where time travelling comes in. It takes us out of the drama we're currently stuck in and gives us a longer-term, less emotional perspective.
This self-mentoring process is great for if you're stuck on a decision and feel like you're going round in circles.
And it starts with one question:
What would the 80-year-old me say?
How can you figure that out? Let's go to:
Your 80th Birthday Party
This is a great way to get that long-term perspective on which decision to make.
Imagine it's your 80th birthday party
You've snuck out for a quiet moment. And you're reflecting over the intervening years, looking back to today and that decision you wanted to make. Get a sense for everything you have done and become since then.
Play out both options
Now imagine choice 1 and move forward through time to your 80th birthday. What has changed?
Repeat with choice 2.
Looking back from your 80th birthday, which choice feels right? (Your body, not your brain, knows the answer). And does it really make much difference?
Letter from the future you
Ask the 80-year-old you what advice they would give the you, today. Allow it to bubble up, without editing, writing a letter from the future you, to guide you on the next stages of life's journey.
When you're done, come back here now and reflect on what you discovered.
What did you learn? How did it feel? What action are you going to take?
I use this technique whenever I feel I've lost touch with my intuition, or I'm feeling stuck in the drama of a current event.
The exercise here is a simplified version, because you're guiding yourself through it, DIY, probably for the first time. But it is something we do in much more depth, with me guiding you through it, in my Stepping Up To Lead programme, and on my Imposter Syndrome Master Coach certification training, if you'd like to find out more.
I'm curious: what are your thoughts?
How did it feel to play with two time travelling process? What insights did you gain? Click the button to join in the discussion on LinkedIn.
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