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Article: Where Are You Thinking Today? Related Resources

Where Are You Thinking Today?
by Jim M. Allen

"Every man's life lies within the present; for the past is spent and done with, and the future is uncertain."
--Marcus Aurelius

Let me ask you a question. Where do you spend most of your thinking? --Not your time, but your thinking

As a coach, I find that, when I work with people on creating their ideal lives, we generally start with an assessment of where they want to be in the future as compared to where they are now, which almost always means spending some time taking a look at where they've been in the past.

It's a useful way for me to get a sense of an individual's progress -- not to mention a terrific indicator of where to start working with a client. In many cases, the starting point is helping the client change WHERE they are thinking.

Some people spend the majority of their time thinking about the PAST. They analyze each and every step they've taken in their lives. They pick apart every single action and decision they've made. --They tell themselves that if they can just figure out where everything went wrong before, they'll be able to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

It's an approach that can be useful... if it's applied properly. As Herb Brody said, "Telling the future by looking at the past assumes that conditions remain constant. This is like driving a car by looking in the rearview mirror." That's what a lot of us do, though. Instead of looking to the past to learn from it, we dwell in the past and pick, pick, pick at what we've done.

Past thinkers are the ones who frequently start every conversation with "You know what I used to do...." and "Well, I tried the same thing once, but..." Past thinkers are very willing to share what they they've learned from their mistakes. They just don't seem particularly interested in actually doing anything with this new information.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are the people who spend their thinking in the FUTURE. These are the big dream people. The " of these days..." folk who never run out of ideas about all the stuff they are "going to do." Just look closely, though, and you'll notice that all of their ideas hinge on something that has yet to take place, or just can't be done until tomorrow.

Both of these extremes are problematic and wasteful. If you spend your time thinking only in the past or only in the future, all you are really doing is avoiding the real work that must be done TODAY, in the present.

As Michael Cibenko observed, "One problem with gazing too frequently into the past is that we may turn around to find the future has run out on us." Don't get stuck in the past! Don't let your future run out on you! Take some time to determine just where it is that you spend YOUR thinking time.

It's fine to dream about the exciting possibilities of the future, and it's useful to take lessons from past mistakes. But if you are ever to benefit from either, you must take action -- right now, this moment -- right where you are.... in the present.

Jim Allen is a professional life coach, speaker, and writer. Get more great ideas in you email every week by subscribing to Jim's weekly newsletter, THE BIG IDEA, by sending a blank email to: (©2001 Jim Allen & ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)


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