What’s Your Best Possible Future?

By: Joe Burton
Woman in heels kicking dusty ground

Most of us tend to predict futures that are consistent with our past. We manifest what we expect to happen.

We all know people who get locked into a way of being based on their past. For some, that turns into the Debbie Downer syndrome in which they feel nothing ever goes their way, they never get a break, and everything is stacked against them. Over time, this becomes part of their subconscious. We get locked into negative thoughts without realizing it. (For you folks named Debbie, my apologies. If it helps any, my name is Joe. As in the “Average Joe.” I feel your pain.) Debbie Downer folks tend to expect the worst and then the worst happens. Conversely, we all know people who look at the sunny side of life. They believe that the universe conspires in their favor and they tend to work toward the good results that they expect. What approach do you feed?

When it comes to motivation, envisioning is a powerful tool to think about the future, commit to goals, and then make them happen. One of my favorite people is Chris Bertish. I met Chris a while back on the speaking circuit. He’s a high-energy speaker and shares the story of training for the 2010 Mavericks, the top surfing competition in the world. The Mavericks are announced based on weather patterns for the most favorable waves, giving the 24 athletes who qualify only 48 hours to get there. Chris shares a powerful story of envisioning the impossible. As an unranked surfer with no sponsors, he trained and committed himself to winning the event inside of 10 years.

When the call finally came, he was trained and mentally prepared (Chris learned attention training from his father as a young performance athlete). But he wasn’t ready. He was living in South Africa, had $40 to his name and 48 hours to get to the event in Half Moon Bay, California. He borrowed enough money to fly coach, got a total of six hours sleep in two days and landed with just four hours to make the event. But his equipment didn’t arrive. He had to compete on borrowed equipment. Imagine Andre Agassi without his racket! Sorry, my analogies are all from the 1980s. Chris competed to the final heat, nurs- ing a rib he feared had been broken on his first run. On the final wave of the final heat, having traveled across the world in 48 hours on six hours of sleep and on borrowed equipment, he won the Mavericks in front of 50,000 spectators. His adventure would later be showcased in Ocean Driven, an award-winning documentary, and a best-selling book, Stoked!.

What’s Next? In 2016, Chris set another goal for himself. He committed to raising funds for children in Africa by SUPing across the Atlantic. SUP stands for stand-up paddle boarding. His website described it as “paddling a marathon every day for 93 days, over 4,500 miles to show the world what’s possible, one stroke at a time.” Two months before his trip, Chris visited RethinkCare to share his plans with our team. We were inspired—and concerned for his life.

He had a special craft built. The trip started on the northwest coast of Africa, in Morocco. He battled the currents, storms, sharks, exhaustion, and the loneliness of being at sea without another soul for months. He started and ended each day with breathing and focus practices. By the fourth week, his craft had flipped dozens of times, electrical systems failed, the craft sprung a leak, two great whites threatened attacks, a safety harness got trapped on a giant squid, and a storm blew him 200 miles off track. But he never lost sight of his goal. After 93 days of paddling, he arrived in Florida. Chris credits his higher purpose and ability to remain alert and focused in getting him through. Beyond breaking multiple world records, he raised over six times his goal – enough to build a school, provide one million meals, and over 1,000 life-changing surgeries for children in Africa.

Chris’s story is not unlike my own (kidding). Most of us can’t relate to that kind of potential danger. However, as leaders, we can all relate to the constant challenge of feeling alone in the face of ongoing change, risk, and uncertainty.

Setting goals and envisioning the outcomes you want in your life are important tools for focus, drive, and achievement. In the absence of creating space to chase goals, we can end up chasing our own tales. The numbers and business results matter, but so do personal goals. Pick ones that make you want to jump out of bed in the morning.

Plan for the Future

Helen Keller once said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight and no vision.” I shared Chris’s story to inspire you. You don’t need to break world records, but envisioning helps you to set a plan and touchstones to make progress against. Here’s a 10-minute RethinkCare journaling exercise to explore this for yourself.

Your prompt is: If your dreams come true, describe all aspects of your life 10 years from now. How will others describe you? Is your life on track for this legacy to manifest itself? Where are you going and what will you create?

About the Author

Headshot of Joe Burton

Retired Founder and CEO of Whil and former President of Headspace

Joe is an entrepreneur in the digital wellness space, retired Founder and CEO of Whil and former President of Headspace, and spent fifteen years as a global COO in public companies. He’s an alumnus of Harvard Business School and a regular contributor to Forbes, Business Insider and The Huffington Post. He’s worked in over 50 countries and travels the world speaking on topics including disruption, culture, resiliency and mindfulness.

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