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  • Writer's pictureGraham

Overcoming the Gravitational Pull of the Present

We live in an era of unprecedented distraction and noise. Our attention is constantly being pulled in a million different directions by the bright shiny objects all around us - viral videos, social media notifications, breaking news alerts. These "hot stimuli" exert a powerful gravitational force, dragging our focus relentlessly back to the present moment.

But beyond just the noise and stimuli of modern life, we also face strong psychological forces that actively repel us from thinking too far into the future. Contemplating an uncertain tomorrow riddled with potential risks and existential threats can produce feelings of anxiety, discomfort and even existential dread. Our brains have evolved to avoid uncertainty and potential threats whenever possible. Let's call this the psychological allergy to uncertainty.

Between the incessant pull of present preoccupations and the psychological push away from an uncertain future, it's no wonder so many of us struggle to consistently think about and plan for the long-term. We get stuck in a short-term mindset, endlessly reacting to the urgent priorities of each passing day.

But transcending this reactionary myopia is essential, both for achieving our biggest goals and for safeguarding humanity's prosperous future on this planet. We must learn to overcome the gravitational pull of the present and overcome our fear of the unknown. Here are some strategies that can help:

  1. Schedule future-thinking time. Quite literally, block off chunks of distraction-free time in your calendar specifically devoted to pondering long-term goals, trends and scenarios. Treat this with the same importance as other meetings and priorities.

  2. Read and learn voraciously. Staying endlessly curious and exposing yourself to new ideas, emerging issues, and factual sources beyond the daily news cycle is key to building long-term foresight. Follow credible futures thinkers.

  3. Embrace uncertainty. Rather than avoid it, learn to get comfortable with uncertainty as an inescapable part of existence. Cultivate an attitude of curious engagement rather than fear.

  4. Imagine vividly. Exercising your prospection abilities by vividly envisioning and exploring multiple potential future scenarios can make the future feel more real and urgent.

  5. Start locally. If global-scale future-thinking feels too abstract, begin by projecting out trends and dynamics in your own community, company or personal life over the longterm.

The future is too important to be an afterthought. By understanding and counteracting the forces that blind us to it, we can look ahead with clarity and intention. It's up to us to create the future we want to live in.

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