What would you expect, if you read a book written by a 95 year old lady? If you are like me, you would expect that she looks back at her life. What if you read her book and, apart from a few analyses on what she had learned from life, she is actually looking forward, inspiring you to engage with a future full of possibilities?
The book I am talking about is “The Next American Revolution”, by Grace Lee Boggs. A fascinating account of a person who has seen it all – born just after the World War I, a social activist deeply engaged in community work and political change at an age most of us expect ourselves to wind down. She always loved engaging with 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).”
Probably the most important indication of engaging with future possibilities as a way of life happens when we see our own leadership contribution as part of a larger movement towards sustainability in the world. We do need to serve our own growth in the sense that we need to enhance our own potential to contribute. But with a redefined leadership contribution the focus has shifted as our own maturation is embedded in what we aspire to serve.
Engaging with the future is not about denying the past, or ignoring the present. Both take us into the future when we are prepared to learn und inquire into meaning. This becomes the fertile ground for taking dreams into reality. For Grace Lee Boggs it is the paradigm shift to a solidarity economy that serves, individuals, communities and the planet.
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. This turns into story that is told by many more people. It then grows 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 that we can cultivate. It can become a habit to see the glass half full rather than half empty. 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, acquire new knowledge.
- We can also stop complaining, overcome the 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 and 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. This requires us to unearth our own potential to lead, no matter how small or big the task that lies ahead of us. When we begin to see our part in the evolutionary process we might realize more clearly that leading takes place collectively. This does not free us from taking a stand and knowing where we want to go – but it equips us to stay in dialogue with ourselves, with others and with life. If you need some inspiration from a powerful wise lade, read Grace Lee Boggs book. It makes you younger.