Change Work September 2011

Que Sera, Sera?

Heard any good news lately?  If there's any around then it's drowned out by the endless stream of reports about disasters, wars and economic crisis. How can anyone have any confidence in the future? And what's meant by "confidence in the future" anyway?

I'd say it's different from self-confidence, which is the belief that what I'm doing will work.  Rather, it's the belief that what everyone else is doing will turn out well - for them, and especially for me.

But our greatest fear is usually of what others might do, not necessarily directly to you or to me, but indirectly - and no less seriously for that. The economy, the environment, the nature of our society; all of these seem to be in others' hands and beyond our influence. So, if it's all going to hell in a handcart, what are we to do about it?

Well, let me propose this: if you believe that things will turn out well then they are more likely to!

It may be easy to accept this in relation to things you're actively engaged in yourself.  I think most people would agree that to approach a challenge with a positive attitude is likely to be more successful than expecting to fail.  But how can it work in areas that you aren't directly involved in, the stuff that "they" do?

I suppose if you're alone in expecting the best then your influence may be insignificant.  But part of this idea is that you expect many others to share your optimism and then that large number will affect how things develop through their opinions, behaviours and votes.

If you believe in a good outcome then your attention will be on making progress and making things better and so you exert a positive influence.  And of course the other side of this argument is that if you expect the worst, and behave defensively, you make the worst more likely to happen.

So there is an argument for confidence in the future; it has a self-fulfilling character.  And there's another benefit, and that is that it's much more enjoyable for each of us to feel confidence every day than to feel apprehension or fear.

This isn't to ignore "reality".  Events playing out around you, and in the wider world, deserve your attention and often your intervention.  The point here is about the expectations that underlie your actions.

In previous articles I've talked about the importance of having a compelling vision, an "idea of the future that is able to draw you towards it whenever you think of it. It's about how things will be; what it will be like to be there. It's about success." And, recognising that we all develop and change:  "It's not fixed for ever.  When you've started the journey you may find more attractive visions and then it's OK to change course.  The important thing is always to have something to be moving towards."

So, confidence in the future comes from a sense of working towards something that you value. Fear of failure can prevent you from committing to a desirable vision of the future and so leave you with nothing to aim for.  Yes, "failure" is possible because nothing is ever guaranteed, but if you maintain your belief that you're moving towards your vision then you can't fail. At worst, you just haven't got there - yet.