What would you expect from a book written by a 95 year old lady? If you are like me, you would expect her to look back at her life. But what if you read her book and, apart from a few analyses on what she had learned from life, you read about what she is looking forward to? How could this inspire you to engage with your own future possibilities?
The book I am talking about is “The Next American Revolution”, by Grace Lee Boggs. It is a fascinating account by a person who has seen it all – born just after the World War I, she was a social activist deeply engaged in community work and political change – at an age most of us expect ourselves to wind down. One of her key characteristics was the way she always loved engaging with the possibilities of a revolutionary future.
“We have the power within us to create the world anew” (p.78) is what she reminds us of. “We must have the courage to challenge ourselves to engage in activities that build a new and better world, by improving the physical, psychological, political and spiritual health of ourselves, our families, our communities, our cities, our world and our planet (p. 72).”
We become able to engage with future possibilities as a way of life when we perceive our own leadership contribution as part of a larger global sustainability movement. Although we still have to serve our own growth in order to enhance our own contribution potential, with a redefined leadership contribution our focus has shifts towards how our own maturation is also embedded in what we aspire to serve.
Engaging with the future is not about denying the past, or ignoring the present. When we are prepared to learn and inquire into meaning both are able to take us into the future . As a result, fertile ground is created where dreams can grow into realities. For Grace Lee Boggs a paradigm shift towards a solidarity economy – able to serve individuals, communities and the planet – was the dream that lead her forward.
Every change endeavour starts with people seeing future possibilities—sometimes it is an individual grasping the potential of an idea, sometimes it is a group of people who develop a vision for a future state. The vision can become a story that is told by many more people. It might then grow into a more structured change initiative or even a movement. Change starts small, but we all have the capacity to sense future possibilities—small or large.
Challenging the “impossible” and seeing new possibilities is a faculty we can cultivate. It can become a habit to see the glass half full rather than half empty. Subsequently, inspiring others to access their own creative potential follows naturally.
How can we enhance the dimension of future possibilities?
- We can develop our competence to inspire and empower (ourselves and) others, stay open-minded, observe trends or developments and acquire new knowledge.
- We can stop complaining, overcome a feeling of being a victim and shift into taking responsibility.
- We can go beyond problem diagnose to focus on what improvement a situation might need.
- We can find a cause that is larger than ourselves in order to take a stance for sustainability.
- We can connect with different minds, and combine complementary expertise and experience.
- We can grow into our own potential of self-efficacy and increase the empowerment of others.
The ability of each of us to make engaging with future possibilities is important for a sustainable future. We are required to unearth our own potential to lead, no matter how big or small the tasks ahead. When we start seeing our own unique part in the evolutionary process we might also realize more clearly that leading is a collective endeavor. Rather than prevent us from taking a stand and mapping our individual futures this realization equips us to stay in dialogue with ourselves, with each other and with life. If you need some inspiration from a powerful wise woman, read Grace Lee Boggs’ book. It makes you younger.
This blog post looks at the dimension of FUTURE POSSIBILITIES and zooms into FUTURE ORIENTATION and EMPOWERMENT in the Collective Leadership Compass at the level of individuals. For more information on the Art of Leading Collectively, checkout the inside the book and reviews on amazon.com, or get inspired by an onsite course that takes the compass into the daily challenges of navigating complex change.