One of the things I love to do most at the end of a day is to sit back and enjoy an absorbing film on Netflix. Recently, after going through an 80s nostalgia fascination, I decided to watch Back to the Future part two.

I remember being mildly obsessed with the film as a kid. Michael. J. Fox, for me, was the epitome of ‘cool’. Doc was mental but irresistibly engaging. And Biff – let’s face it – was just an idiot.

If you’re one of the few who have never seen the films they’re about time travel: a crazy, mad-cap scientist and his guitar playing assistant invent a time machine and use it to correct the mistakes of the past and future.

Back to the future part one is set in the past, but the second part, is mostly based in the future – or, at least, one possible version of the future.

As the viewer, we’re whisked off all the way to the dizzy, futuristic heights of 2015 where the world has turned into some kind of high-tech, Technicolor dystopia.

We have skate hover boards, flying cars that run on garbage, a rich American Oligarch who lives in a huge tower hotel, ruling through fear, and virtual reality that’s so realistic it can be easily mistaken for the real thing.

It’s a pretty fantastical scene that’s beautifully created, and one I remember been mesmerised by as a kid.

As I watched the film as an adult though, I started feeling mildly disappointed.

I thought: sure, we have virtual reality, and America is doing its best on the rich Oligarch front, but no matter how hard I look in the cockpit of my 2018 Ford Focus I can’t see the button that makes it fly.

Annoying, but so often a true depiction.

Making predictions about the future like this is an interesting thing. It’s one of the prime purposes of most sci-fi films but it is also one of the fundamental gifts we possess as a human being: in order to create the kind of life we want, and to avoid as many unnecessary pitfalls as we possibly can, we project into imagined scenarios; we play things out in our head with a host of different possibilities. By doing so it allows us to narrow our focus, change our path if need be, and zero in on the elements of life we believe are important to us.

How often do you go off into your imagined future and ponder what it might be like?

When you do, what do you see?

And, does this vision often become a reality?

Or do you end up, as I did after watching Back to the Future part 2, feeling mildly disappointed when it doesn’t turn out exactly the way you’d like it to be?

The Common Self-help Narrative…

There’s a common narrative in the world of Personal Development that says you can use your imagination to create your own future vision and then set about creating an almost carbon copy of it in your outer world; that you can ‘design’ every aspect of your destiny in finite detail. All you need to do is to imagine it and then make it happen.

I think there’s certainly something in this, and, from my own experience, occasionally this can be the case: you imagine something, take action and then create something in the external world that ends up pretty damn close to it.

I remember setting the goal of breaking the 21-minute mark for a 5K. I planned out my training regime, stuck to an eating plan and, after a couple of months ran it in 20 minutes 54 seconds. That’s pretty close. Not bad at all.

But what isn’t in the narrative is that, more often than not, especially when it comes to the bigger, more complex goals of our life, the reality is we only ever end up with a close approximation of what we were after.

In much the same way that the writers of Back to the Future Part 2 got some elements right and some wrong, when we design larger aspects of our future, most of the time, a ‘win’ is getting something close to it.

And, personally, I think this is absolutely nothing to feel disappointed with.

In fact, I’d suggest that it’s in-line with how the world naturally works.

Life, by nature, is unpredictable, organic and, at times, chaotic. It’s completely unfair to suggest that we can tame it completely and make it – and the people in it – conform to our every design and demand.

So I really don’t think it matters if you don’t manage to create the future exactly the way you want it. The key thing is that you envisage a future that excites you, one that inspires you to take action.

At the end of the day when we create our own imagined vision, unless you are the most gifted clairvoyant on the planet, it will only ever be an approximation.

Sure, we might get it accurate some of the time, and that’s great, but, mostly, the main purpose of doing it is to set a powerful direction; an intention that can help us activate our resources and get us moving; one that makes us positively salivate when we look at it inspiring us to move forward.

When you really get down to it, is it really an issue if things don’t work out exactly as you planned?

I used to think so – and I am still a little bit disappointed we don’t have flying cars – but with the benefit of age and experience it’s something I like to think I’ve moved beyond, and I do believe that’s a positive thing.

Providing my vision is moving me forward in a profound and empowering way I know I’ll get lots of great stuff anyway. And maybe there will be a surprise or two thrown in for good measure that end up being even better than the initial predications.

So the next time you’re setting a goal and decide to sit back and imagine it becoming a reality in your future, bare this in mind, and cut yourself some slack if things don’t work out exactly the way you planned.

Maybe that’s the way it’s meant to be.

Maybe that’s a good thing for you.

Instead, factor it in and be at peace with it. Enjoy the journey and appreciate the unexpected pleasures that the organic nature of life often provides.

I do think you’ll be happier, more relaxed and more fulfilled as a result.

Maybe you’ll get flying cars, or maybe you won’t. Who knows? And often that’s the hidden beauty of it all.

Have a great week.

Steven