We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
When I was a kid, every Saturday lunchtime I’d sit myself down on the denim beanbag in front of our top o’ the line Rank Arena Colour TV and watch Star Trek. I loved it. I was particularly taken with the communications technology of Stardate 1312.4. I seriously wanted a flip communicator and one of their talkie badges.
These were things that were so far out in 1979 that I didn’t think they would exist in my lifetime.
And yet, here we are.
Our phones have rocketed past the Star-Trek-influenced flip model and, with the new Apple watch, the communicator badge doesn’t seem far off.
It reminds me of the Einstein quote, that how we imagine the future is limited by our current thinking. In my own life, I’ve often been humbled by the outcomes of my efforts being so unexpected and random, and yet so much better than imagined.
There have been a few great thinkers who have shown exceptional creativity by imagining the unimaginable – Jules Verne, William Gibson and Buckminster Fuller come to mind – but the rest of us seem to get by on imagining futures that are more of the same, variations on what we have now, or the complete opposite of our current zeitgeist.
The limitations of my own “future imagining” have been on my mind lately.
While I may gripe about the details of my existence, I’m the first to acknowledge I have a very sweet life.
I have a roof over my head. Food in the cupboard. Money in my pocket. Friends who love and care about me. Beer in the fridge.
But I’ve recently been wrestling with purpose.
A friend asked me on the weekend, “So why do you write?” and my honest answer is “To write”. At the moment it’s about building positive habits, momentum, reflective practice.
But the question does make me wonder, for what purpose do I do all these things I do? The books, the coaching, the music, the films, the TV, the photos, the social stuff? All the things that make up my world – what is the point?
I’ve always thought that my life purpose was about sharing the love – to use my unique talents, my knowledge and skills to demonstrate that it is possible to live a meaningful, thoughtful, peaceful, dynamic, loving and fulfilling life.
But, I’m not so sure.
Today, I did a life purpose exercise where you just keep writing the answer to the question “What is my true purpose in life?” until you cry. Apparently it’s supposed to take 20 minutes. I feel asleep after 40 minutes of writing. Seriously, I fell asleep. For two hours.
I’m not sure what this says about my life purpose. Perhaps I’m just not meant to cry about it. Perhaps I’m here to share the joys of napping. Perhaps I have no purpose. I don’t know.
But I’m wondering if I need to know. Can I just get on with life, doing the things that make me happy and bringing a little happiness (and peace and love and more) into the lives of others? Can I just continue living my ideals, my values, my hopes and my dreams?
Can anything that I imagine now, with my limited understanding of what the future holds, come close to what could be?
If I am allowed the good grace to catch my breath for another 50 years on this earth, I’m glad I can’t imagine what it may be like. While my hopes may be for a more accepting, sustainable, loving world, there’s a part of me that suspects it may be even better – that, perhaps, we will boldly go where no man* has gone before.