Provision #121: Present Tense the Future

LifeTrek Provision

Many people have goals • often vaguely stated, but goals all the same. Not many people reach their goals. That can lead to real confidence and integrity problems. Hold on to a goal long enough, without much progress, and it becomes a crippling reminder of who and what we are not. Goals can be the best of things and the worst of things. They can fill us with passion and purpose; they can also fill us with depression and despair.

It’s no wonder many people live without any conscious awareness of their goals. It’s not only easier, it’s less risky. There’s no way to fail if there’s no goal to reach. Or, as the scarecrow said inThe Wizard of Oz, if you don’t know where you’re going then it doesn’t much matter which road you take.

But there’s another adage of equal importance: if you don’t watch out, you’re going to end up where you’re headed. By design or default, everyone is headed somewhere. Couch potatoes and elite athletes both have a trajectory to their lives, whether they know it or control it or not. Going through the motions, without much thought, has as many predictable consequences as following an Olympic-training schedule. It’s your choice as to the course your life will take and the destiny your life will follow. It’s really up to you.

Many people who get tired of their old comfortable ruts retain a coach in order to get the ball rolling. Inertia is hard to overcome. Momentum, once it starts, is hard to stop. Setting a goal and making progress towards that goal builds upon itself. Like a ball rolling down hill, it gains speed and grows in size. It takes on a life of its own. That’s the experience coaches want for their clients: not spinning wheels but moving forward. Some call it evolving.

One way to break the inertia and start the movement is to “present tense the future.” Don’t state your goals in distant, future-tense, and far-off terms. I will be at my ideal body weight by next Christmas. I will find a new job by Labor Day. I will run a marathon in 3 hours, 20 minutes. I will finish my dissertation by the end of the year. I will become an electrician after my apprenticeship. I will take a personal interest in the people I meet. I will lead my team with a collaborative and empowering leadership style.

All these are good and worthy goals. But stating them in the future tense serves to remind us of who we are not rather than of who we are becoming. How much more powerful and affirming it is to state these same goals in the present tense. I eat and live properly for my ideal body weight. I am well positioned for a career change. I am a strong marathon runner who can maintain a 3:20 pace. I am an emerging expert in my field, sharing that knowledge with others. I am an electrician who knows how to wire things right. I take a personal interest in the people I meet. I am a skilled leader who enables and celebrates the accomplishments of others.

Can you feel the difference in these statements? They become the kind of thing you can remember and say to yourself in the morning when you rise, in the evening before you sleep, and in various moments throughout the day. They become mantras of our true identity. We do not become who we want to be by arriving at our final destination. We are already who we are becoming. It starts within, and works its way out.

New Testament scholars speak about this in terms of tension between “the already” and “the not yet.” The reign of God has already come among us. But the reign of God is not yet all that it will be. So how do we speak of God’s reign? Is it here or is it not? We believe it’s both.

We also believe it’s not helpful to speak primarily in terms of what will be • of what is not yet. It’s more helpful to speak primarily in terms of what is • of what’s already good, wonderful, and true. Once you have a clear idea of who and what you want to become, infuse that idea with power by speaking of it in the present tense. It is already a part of your consciousness, commitment, and identity. Speaking of it in the present tense makes it easier and truer than the life you’re leaving behind.

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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of

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