Future Game Part II
Ready to play the FUTURE GAME? Ready for the NEW?
Let’s look first at how the NEW is created and comes by into our lives.
New idea generation is the human species evolution engine. It takes place in the human ‘proprietary’ neocortex. People generate an average of 50,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day. However, only some ideas stick, get noticed and considered worthy of refining. Even fewer become reality. Only very few make it to be adopted by others. In recent times, the scale-able new ideas became mostly the privilege of a very small group of people, 1 – 4% of the population. Sociologists call these people the Innovators. (see Picture 1: ‘Diffusion of Innovation Theory’)
Does this mean that the rest of 96 – 99% of the population should forever let go of coming up with own new ideas? Should the vast majority outsource new idea generation to the Innovators and live happily ever after just by adopting other people’s ideas, whenever they get ready for them or have no choice but adopting them out of fear of missing out? The choice is personal, of course.
In case you opt for getting out your own new ideas and make them come true and through, read away!
It is a well-accepted scientific fact that at birth, children are generously gifted with everything they need to lead a happy and fulfilling life for themselves and the planet. Equipped with curiosity, imagination, playfulness and plan-fullness, one has everything not only to come up with own ideas but also to pursue them (see Dr. Peter Gray’s book “Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life”).
However, as most of us would know, even the brightest and potentially beneficial for entire humanity ideas get lost along the way. How does this happen?
There are a few possible explanations. I am sure many of us have reached their own, science or experience based, or using a combination of both. And no, it is not only the ‘excuse-itis’ that everyone may develop at some point, acutely or chronically.
It seems that innovation and its adoption (aka change) barriers are more, and more complex than finding excuses not to engage in and/ or adopt it. So, relax, it’s not (just) you!
New idea generation and adoption are possibly hindered by one or a combination of two out of three drives of all life forms on Earth, as well as by the environment itself.
In “The Pleasure Trap: Mastering the Hidden Force that Undermines Health and Happiness”, the authors Dr. Douglas Lisle and Dr. Alan Goldhamer present the ‘motivational triad’ – the three drives that govern all life on Earth, in any environment – comprised of pleasure seeking, pain avoidance and energy conservation.
For any status quo change (in our context, new idea generation and behavior change) to take place, some conditions must be met. If either the 1) promise and hope of pleasure or 2) fear of pain are high enough, then 3) the energy required to either obtain pleasure or prevent pain respectively, would be perceived as ‘worth it’.
When two of the above three conditions are met simultaneously, the adaptation to the changed environmental conditions stands a chance to take place.
In other words, when contemplating a new idea and/ or behavior, an evaluation of its pros and cons (pleasures versus pains) takes place. Everything seems to be pretty straight forward until here. Only it isn’t. A few reasons why it is not:
1) Firstly, the evaluation of the pros and cons is often not entirely conscious, or rather conscious enough.
Let’s take the ‘big ticket’ decisions, for example. When there is a high stake people make a more conscious effort to be rational and analytical. Some may also run the ‘mind-derived’ evaluation by their intuition, to align mind and heart. Some listen to their intuition first and then do a rational pros and cons analysis. In either case, it is still easy to fall into the trap of letting the automatic thinking patterns and behaviors take charge without even being aware of it.
Neuroscience tells us that only 5% of people’s decisions and actions are conscious, the rest being run by the subconscious. Moreover, by the age of 35, the human mind has already borrowed and adapted thinking patterns and behaviors from parents, friends, teachers and society at large. Hence there is a very small window left for own, fresh and original thinking, feelings and behaviors. The good news is that once we become aware of and accept this scientific truth, we can actively reprogram ourselves to become more conscious of our own thinking and behavior patterns (see Dr. Bruce Lipton “Biology of Belief”, to name just one out of many books on this topic.)
2) Secondly, environments receive and support new ideas and behaviors differently. Some societies encourage and support innovation, at least in some specific areas (see the Scandinavian countries, The Nederlands, Japan, South Korea, etc.). Others perceive new ideas as a threat to the established structures, norms, customs and way of life, and therefore regard and welcome them with caution.
What can one do about a novelty-adverse and sabotaging environment? As the environment starts with you at the center, re-create it to support your new ideas and behaviors. One day at the time. ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’, as Mahadma Ghandi said.
3) Thirdly and perhaps not exhaustively, even if the environment welcomes novelty, what happens when the new idea or behavior adoption is not instantaneous (When is it, really?) and requires successive trials and errors, failure, sustained effort, sweat, swearing and disappointment? Only a few can sustain the effort long enough, until the idea takes shape and becomes successful and/or the new behavior is internalized.
Too few people know and understand the process of sustained effort. Those become the Innovators eventually.
Most resort to carrots and sticks – the extrinsic motivators to get them going. In the past century, carrots and sticks have been the rewards and punishments we’ve lived with and been trained in since early childhood. Does any of you relate to ‘motivational’ stickers and other ‘motivational’ schemes kids brought home since nursery until graduation? Do monetary or psychological ‘incentives’ for making kids take care of their things, do homework and help in the house, as well as limit screen time sound familiar? Or New Year’s Resolutions abandoned at the end of January as no results were visible yet?… The examples of extrinsic motivators are abundant at any human life stage, in any occupation, socio-economic class, education level, and throughout the planet. But they don’t work! If for some it was not intuitive and/ or evident by now, please know that it has been already established not only by the social sciences but also by the business community that they do not work!
Remember your favorite teacher in school, if you were lucky enough to have had one? How did she or he motivate you to make the effort for their taught subject even if that subject wasn’t playing on your natural abilities? By threatening or bribing you? Or merely by taking the time to know you and appealing to your dreams for the future, encouraging you to continue making the effort and helping you to find your own way to achieve progress?
Did you ever wonder why Google, Amazon, and other innovative companies started evolving their policies about employees’ autonomy, decision making process, attendance/ work from any location, etc. as early as 2004? Is it because of their altruistic benevolence towards their employees, and/ or high risk appetite? Or maybe because they have been applying the latest research into human motivation?
The bottom line is that some extrinsic motivators may work for only routine tasks and only for limited periods of time. The moment the carrots and sticks are removed, the ‘motivation’ vanishes. Plus, in time, carrots’ juiciness dries out while sticks’ scare dulls away. And then you may be dealing with a never-ending inflationary carrots and sticks cycle.
Getting out of the ‘carrots and sticks’ vicious ‘rewarding’ cycle is challenging but not impossible. Luckily humans are not dogs! They can listen to and follow their innate intuition as well as reason.
If the innate intuition about motivation doesn’t tell us anything or not enough to go by it, perhaps we can trust science. According to science, big creative ideas and any significant behavior change that would take sustained effort to make them happen, require Intrinsic Motivation. The three intrinsic motivators revolve about: Being part of something bigger than yourself, Autonomy and Mastery. (Check “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, by Daniel H. Pink)
So if you can answer yourself these three questions you are set to imagine and create your own new future!
- What is the cause or ideal bigger than yourself that you are drawn to? What is your purpose in life and on this planet that is not only about you? Why it must be bigger than oneself? So each of us contributes also to the greater good and not only fulfills his own needs by using the planet’s resources. It is a very small gesture of gratitude for the gift of life we enjoy and owe to the Earth and all other life forms.
- How would you like to fulfill your purpose? By being told what, when and how to move on a conveyor belt created by others? Or by finding your own way, even if that would not be straight forward?
- What skills do you need to master in order to equip yourself with what it takes to achieve your dream?
Ready? Fire up your neocortex, activate your imagination and let the new ideas flow! Remember that it is advisable to play the FUTURE GAME first on your own (see the FUTURE GAME Part I article).
In the next articles we will explore how to pursue and succeed in making them happen.
THE FUTURE GAME
What do you need?
A living/ family room, a garden or a quiet and cozy place where you/ all family members feel comfortable. Post-It notes, pencils, writing paper, notebooks, a flip chart if you have, scotch tape, etc. Some water to drink. No foods, as digestion will hijack the energy from the brain and slow down your thinking.
When would be the best time to play?
On the weekend, when there are no pressing things, and when you/ everyone is relaxed, yet alert. Allow at least two hours but prepare to allow for as long (or short) as you/ everyone would feel like or can play it. If you need to stop and plan it in more than one session, resume it at another convenient time. Involve children from 5 years old onward selectively.
– No phones, TVs, computers, etc. NONE
– Choose a moderator or master of ceremony (MC) to introduce the game.
State its importance for the family. You can take turns as MC in each section of the game to allow everyone’s participation and moderation. If you have a grand-parent, another relative or stranded visitor on site, they could be the MC.
– Set the happy tone!
Begin by putting yourselves in a good mood for about 10 – 15 minutes before you start. Music, jokes, funny anecdotes. Do a breathing or mindfulness exercise and a short meditation.
– Then the MC should introduce the rules:
- The aim of the game is for everyone to imagine and create the ideal future for themselves and entire family. There are no right or wrong ideas. Everyone can express their ideas, as long as they articulate them in a POSITIVE manner, and are respectful and considerate to the others. For example, ‘I would like to live in a house by the sea.’, is a positive formulation, and not ‘I don’t want to live in the city any longer.’ ‘I would like to buy mom a yellow Lamborghini.’, and not ‘I would like to own a big mean dog that will bite my older brother.’
- The first question should be along these lines: How do we imagine our future? What components, areas should we include in the definition of the future? Examples: house, profession, education, transportation means, possessions, friends, pets, hobbies/ interests, foods, drinks, travels, financials, inventions/ innovations, everything that is important to you. List all these areas at this stage. Make a big (Flip Chart) paper for each section.
- For each area/ section there will a set of similar questions. At the end of the section each family member has to have his own answers written down for himself. The moderator will collect and write the answers for the family section. If opinions differ in the family section, it is OK. If needed, at a second round of the game, you can negotiate and settle all the conflicting ideas.
- Questions for each section: What does ‘future’ look like? What images come to mind when I say ‘future’? What symbols do you associate with those images that best describe ‘future’? How does ‘future’ feel? What sensations does ‘future’ evoke – fresh, energetic, warm, lightness, floating, balanced, etc? How does ‘future’ sound? Is there music in the ‘future’? What kind? What sounds can we hear in the ‘future’? What type – birds chirping, grass growing, children laughing, etc? How does the future smell? What scents can you sense – flowers, rain, grass, dogs and cats, children’s skin, etc? What emotions do you experience when I say ‘future’? Joy, gratitude, happiness, love, warmth, generosity, harmony, etc?
- Same set of questions should be asked for each of the sections that defines ‘future’ (residence, education, profession, etc.).
- At the end of each sections allow a few minutes for each member to write down their own section, while the moderator writes it for the family.
- Once everyone has finished their own description of their future with all its components, and the designated moderator finalized the FAMILY FUTURE portrait, every family member presents his/ her creation of the future. The moderator will present the FAMILY FUTURE at the end. If there are conflicting ideas, another round of ‘negotiation’ could take place then or later, if there are major disagreements.
Well done! You, (and your family), have taken the first big step in coming up with new ideas and creating your OWN future! There should be many more steps to follow, forward, sideways, backward and forward again, in succeeding to create it but, for now, let it sink in. Feel it! Enjoy dreaming it over and over again! In the next few days fine-tune it. Then detail the plan and look for relevant help in each area of your FUTURE PLAN.
And if one of the areas of your Family Future Plan is ‘Education’, we will discuss it in the next article. Why not now, some may ask. The answer is very simple. We could only educate ourselves and our children for the future we want to create. If there is no future blueprint or only a very blurry one, how one may know what he needs to learn? Switching from car driving to piloting a helicopter requires different academic and practical skills than preparing for space travel. Driving a newer model of a Toyota or even Lexus would not stretch anyone’s established driving skills or imagination. As for reinventing transportation altogether, we will all agree that some serious imagination must take place!
Until the EDUCATION GAME, imagine away!
On ‘In-Born Curiosity, Imagination, Playfulness and Planfulness’ and Self-Directed Education with Dr. Peter Gray, the author of “Free to Learn”
On ‘The Pleasure Trap’ with Dr. Doug Lisle
ON The Power Of the Subconscious with Dr. Bruce Lipton
On Motivation, with Daniel H Pink, the author of “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”
On Diffusion of Innovations
On Self-Directed Education
ON Self Change Management