“Meanings are not determined by situations, but we determine ourselves what meanings we give to situations” (Alfred Adler)
It is striking how quotes and citations by a person who died over 90 years ago can feel so up-to-date, if not moving, still today. Alfred Adler was a Neo-Freudian psychologist, whose work impacts a wide variety of fields where social interaction and its implications to individuals and their development is studied.
Owing to the studies I have pursued in the field of Applied Psychology I am currently deepdiving into the lives of several psychological forerunners which feels both meaningful and inspiring.
Adler was the father of Individual Psychology, where the emphasis is on the role of social motives in human behavior. Also, it regards the entire individual not just separate components of psyche. Adler also pinpointed the role of future in human development. Rather than being the victim of the past events, he suggested that experiences do not cause failures nor successes, but it is the meanings we give to these experiences that shape the quality of our lives.
Often times people who participate in coaching processes are standing in the crossing of past-present-future. They are exploring their identities from the angles of working persona, owning persona and family persona. I challenge them to think what kind of identity they want to create for themselves, instead of just taking the disguise imposed by the past, family or earlier experiences. I really like the identity framework of Marshall Goldsmith where our identity is determined in the continuums of past and future as well as others and self. The Future You– the future identity can be the programmed identity given by others or the created, courageous step into your own true identity- with no masks attached. In this sense Alfred’s quote really catches the core of coaching ideology, where the focus is on liberating the potential of the coachee and find the best future solution to be and act.
British Psychological Society (BPS) published an interesting blog recently on “When Does the Present Become the Future”. We tend to talk about future in general teams but the meanings we attach to the words are very subjective. For some, future starts within a minute, whereas some 15% (in the study) reported that present ended at some future event. The interesting part of the blog was the notion on how external factors influence the perceptions we give to time frames. When participants in another study were prompted to see the present as short, and the future as coming sooner, they tended to make more far-sighted, future-focused choices. This suggests that actionable next steps as part of the coaching process are paramount to ensure sustainable long-term results.
We are faced with multiple smaller and bigger decisions in our daily lives. It is understandable that at times it may feel easier to procrastinate actions to the future. What if you decided that the Future You starts within a minute? How would that change your decision-making and the identity you want to create for yourself?