Visualizing Time

January 26, 2008

Developing your visualization skills and sending a time capsule to yourself in the future are two of the most recent articles written over at LiteMind (the former as a guest article by Albert Foong of They are the inspirations for the article to follow.

Each has his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart and his friends can only read the title.  ~Virginia Woolf

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.  ~Lesley P. Hartley

When I look back on my life, I find there are very specific moments where I can tie something I experienced “back then” that clearly have significantly shaped the way I think about or approach aspect of my life today. I have written about many of them at my Follow Your Passions blog, and for context I’ll briefly refer to a couple of them and point out the lesson learned:

(from Feedback is a Gift) I worked for a company for five years once, and during that time I received one review from my manager. He never gave more because money was tight and people tended to associate reviews with monetary increases, but I genuinely just wanted to know if I was doing a good job or not, what I could work on to improve the company, etc. Nuthin’. I didn’t leave that job, I escaped. Psychologically, the lack of knowing whether the work I did made a bit of good was surprisingly important to me. At the next company I worked for, my manager was always there with answers to questions, and gave me constant praise and constructive criticism in the time I was there. Receiving the occasional pat on the back, or assistance in steering my work so it provided the most value, was as important to my job satisfaction as getting a paycheck every two weeks. – Lesson: Feedback is something I look upon as a gift, and something I cannot function optimally or passionately without

(from Survival of the Most Adaptable) It was about one year ago that I heard of a philosophy about change held by one of the leaders of the organization I work for. I can’t recall the precise quote, but at its essense was the idea that without change you cannot have growth. Literally! So if you want to grow personally, in any way, you must accept that change will be a part of it. – Lesson: Change is not only inevitable, it is persistent, it is growth, and it always holds the potential for great and wonderful things within it (you just have to be willing to look for and extract them)

(from Feed Yourself) One of my biggest challenges is that I have a less than stellar memory. If I need to drop a letter off in the mail the next morning, I’ll be halfway down the freeway to work before I remember about it unless I set myself up for success ahead of time. My system is to leave the letter on the floor right in front of the stairs leading down to my garage. I literally can’t get out of my condo in the morning without seeing the letter on the ground. Post-it notes tend to find their way to the same place, or if it’s especially urgent to handle before I think about heading to work, I’ll post-it the milk in the refrigerator or the monitor of my computer. – Lesson: There are things in life I am not good at, and I need to recognize them and learn not to excel at them, but rather how to manage them and work around them so I can spend my time focusing mostly on the things in life I am great at, things I feel I was born to do.

In his words on visualization, Albert Foong gives several tips on how to develop your visualization skills. He states that “the better we visualize the future we want, the better our chances to make it happen”, and I couldn’t agree more. The struggle many face, I think, is that in order to have a decent shot at visualizing what we want we have to have gone through the process of determining what, in at least a general sense, it is that we do want for our future selves. I believe that the process to get to the understanding of those things is different for each person, but also that there are likely common things many of us can use to work at determining our true desires, passions, and get down to the core of what we value and who we want to be – what the optimal version of “you” looks like.

One way we can perhaps understand where we want to be in the future is to reflect on how we’ve been shaped by people and events in the past. What are some things that immediately come to mind that you’ve experienced through the years which you believe have had a significant influence on who and where you are today, and on how you spend your time? By breaking those memories and inklings down into their components, perhaps there are things to be learned about what situations trigger positive growth, or what sort of people have led you down paths you’d rather not go down if offered the same choice today? Is there a certain point in time you can focus on, really try to clearly visualize by combining your memories with some of the previously mentioned visualization techniques to understand every detail you can about that moment, and as you study it deeper see if anything clicks as to what specifically it was about that experience that influences your life in a way that is clear today through hindsight?

Taking this line of thinking one step further, we can imagine what it might be like to be able to have a conversation with a version of yourself from the past. If the past version could somehow communicate with you, perhaps through a time capsule such as the one Luciano discusses in his blog, what sorts of things might you be able to put in it so as to provide some insight into what decisions you can make today that would align your life and energy better with the things at your core, the things that make you you, what you are truly meant to do and, when you actually experience them, are exhilarated from participating in? What did a day in your life look like back then, broken down hour by hour if not even more granularly? What were you aspiring to back then, what were your goals? If you had $20 million handed to you back then, what would you have done with it? Do any of those answers holds seeds from which you can grow your today self into the tomorrow self you dream of?

As the Woolf quote at the start of this post states, only you can deeply know the content of the pages held within your binding. You can reflect on them, seeking the answers to tomorrow by understanding the questions of yesterday and today. It is of course important to move forward, to accomplish your goals and dreams in life, but before you take that journey it may be wise to review your travel plans and make sure they are for the place you eventually want to arrive.