Shape the Future or be Shaped by it

How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.
“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”
The Sun Also Rises: Ernest Hemingway, 1926

We tend to think of change as arriving suddenly, largely fully formed. The iPhone in 2007, Donald Trump in 2016. But, in reality, all change — whether social, cultural, political or technological — emerges over years or even decades, slowly at first, then gathering momentum, then seemingly inevitable.

But, along the way, in large ways and small, we as individuals, and professions, and societies, make choices. We vote for political parties and their platforms. We work for particular companies and organisations on specific products or services.

Caught up in the whirlwind of the 24 hour news cycle, and the day to day of life, we let small changes add up to big, until the future arrives, perhaps not the future we were imagining.

We do what we do, personally and professionally, for the big, long term reasons. But the noise of the everyday, the professional and personal needs of things to just be done right now drowns out the music of the years and the decades.

And so our lives can easily end up the sum of countless short term, crisis driven decisions, a life of Brownian motion, not gravity waves.

So, where can you find the space and time to counterbalance the short term pressures, which are real and often genuinely can’t be ignored?

Some practice meditation and mindfulness. Some exercise. Some read a great deal. Some do all these things.

Often, we feel ironically we don’t have time for these things, there’s the fire to put out, the child to be put to bed, the thousand things we won’t likely give a shit about a day or a week and certainly not a year from now.

Find the time to get a sense of the long term, and where things might be a month or a year or a decade from now.

Because that time will pass, and we can either shape that future, or be shaped by it.

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