Anticipating a positive future is the key to well-being and mental health. Yet when many people think of the future, they experience anxiety, depression, fear, and self-doubt. Unaware of how to change the future, most people are trapped in a cycle of re-creating their past. But your past does not have to define who you are or where you are going — you can break free. Future Directed Therapy (FDT) is a new psychotherapy that helps people create their future with awareness and choice, with skills based on cutting-edge cognitive science. Think Forward to Thrive is filled with information and step-by-step exercises to help you:
* Overcome negative emotions
* Identify what you want in life
* Transform limiting beliefs
* Take action
* Live ready for success
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Think Forward to Thrive
How to Use the Mind's Power of Anticipation to Transcend Your Past and Transform Your Life
By Jennice Vilhauer
New World LibraryCopyright © 2014 Jennice Vilhauer, PhD
All rights reserved.
A New Beginning
* * *
Live out of your imagination, not your history.
— Stephen R. Covey
Imagine that you're traveling through life in a car and you are the driver. Many people are unclear about the direction they are heading in, and some get through life never even learning how to drive. They operate their car in a default mode that allows them to zigzag through life with very little control. Many people get stuck and stalled, while others hit dead ends or go in circles, feeling like they never get anywhere. The goals of Future Directed Therapy (FDT) are to teach you how to drive the car, give you a proper road map to help you reach your destination and, most important, help you stay on course.
The Road To Well-Being
What many people don't realize is that in the journey of life we can head in only two directions: toward well-being and away from it. Your thoughts and actions power your car. Your emotions indicate where you are going. If you are feeling bad, it means you're thinking thoughts that are taking you away from well-being and moving you toward distress. Because we don't control time, and our life keeps progressing, you never completely stand still. You are always moving, whether it be toward thriving or away from it. Allowing a negative stream of thoughts to flow through your mind does not just prevent you from moving toward what you want; it takes you further away from it. The longer you let your thoughts carry you in that direction, the further away you get from your goals and desires.
By the time you are feeling painful emotions, such as anxiety or depression, your thoughts have been flowing as though your car were going a hundred miles an hour — headed in the wrong direction. You can't just shift into reverse when you are going that fast. You need to slow the car down until you are ready to turn it around. The same thing is true of your thought process. By using FDT you will learn how to turn yourself around by redirecting your thinking and reaching for incremental improvements in thought rather than by trying to make fast accelerations that often lead to a crash and burn or, at the very least, get you no closer to your desired destination.
While all human beings are constantly creating their futures, many are not aware of how the process actually occurs, and as a result, they have limited control over what they experience. The process of learning to create your future by choice instead of by default starts with gaining awareness of your thought process and then developing the skills that will help you choose the life you want.
Re-Creating The Past
Most people create their future by re-creating the past. The ability to re-create the past stems from a valuable survival instinct. If we find a good source of food or a safe place to sleep, we want to be able to find it again. If we have a pleasant encounter with someone, we want to have a similar experience again. Our memory is what gives us the ability to store information about our past and present experiences. We use this stored information to formulate expectations about our environment and to make predictions about our future experiences. Being able to predict or anticipate the future enables us to prepare for it by taking the actions we think are necessary to meet future events with success.
For example, if you have been lucky enough to go through life having mostly positive experiences with other people, such as loving parents, lots of friends, great teachers, and nice bosses, you most likely enjoyed these experiences. Because you have had so many positive past experiences, you probably have developed the expectation that most people you meet in the future will treat you well. If you expect people to treat you well, you will likely act in a friendly, open way with them. Your friendly behavior will almost certainly bring out friendly behavior in others, recreating your past experiences and confirming your expectation that people treat you well.
This system works great if you have a past you want to re-create. However, if you would like to break free from the past and create a different future, this system can keep you trapped unknowingly. If you have had a lot of experiences in your past that you didn't like, chances are you are expecting the future to bring similar experiences, even if you don't want them. And you are acting in ways consistent with what you expect, thereby re-creating experiences similar to those past experiences you so disliked. The good news is that, once you are aware of it, you can stop this process and do something different. Your past does not have to define who you are or where you are going.
While we use our history to predict the future, it is not the only means by which we can create the future. We can become aware of this process as it is happening in the present moment. Once we are aware of it, we can intercept it and consciously choose to think new thoughts that have the potential to grow into new anticipatory beliefs. These new expectations will lead us to taking different actions that will create a different future. We can also use newly learned information about who we are today to help identify what we are capable of going forward.
Most people create their future by re-creating the past.
The other good news is that learning to create a future experience is a skill anyone can learn. Research has shown that people who successfully do things to create their future, such as setting goals, planning, and solving problems, consistently experience greater well-being, while people with fewer of these skills tend to experience more negative emotions, which can lead to serious conditions such as depression. If you keep reading, this book will teach you the skills you need to break out of old patterns and habits so that, with a little effort, you can stop recreating your past and improve your ability to make different choices and create more of the experiences you desire.
Creating a New Future Experience
Creating a new future experience is not difficult. There are four basic steps. First, you have to initiate a thought about something you want that doesn't yet exist. For example, I want a new job. Next, you need to imagine what that job would look like. I would like to be a manager at a retail company, not in sales. Then you must anticipate the tasks necessary to make it happen. I need to create a résumé that shows why I would be qualified to do this job; then I need to search the internet for open positions; then I need to mail my résumé, and so on. Finally, you will need to execute the tasks you have anticipated. While these four basic steps may sound relatively easy, many obstacles along the way can trip you up.
In many ways, creating your future is like trying to lose weight. Everyone knows how to lose weight — eat less and exercise more. But people struggle every day with this issue because of the many complex barriers that get in the way; that is why helping people to lose weight is a multibillion-dollar industry. Likewise, everyone knows, to some degree, how to create their future because they do it all day, every day. But very few people know how to direct this process in a way that regularly leads to successful outcomes or how to get around the many barriers in the way. In the upcoming chapters you will learn how to approach life from a place of awareness and successfully complete the steps to creating a desired future experience, as well as how to overcome the roadblocks you may encounter along the way.
What about the present moment?
The power to alter the course of your life lies in the present moment of awareness. However, we cannot hold on to the present moment. The present moment is what just passed. The future is always what is arriving. The now and the arrival of the future are one and the same, and you have tremendous power to influence the future that will arrive to become the now you experience.
A good deal of emphasis has been placed on "being in the present moment" by psychologists, popular-culture authors, and spiritual leaders, so much so that thinking about the future has gotten a bad rap. While being aware of thoughts and feelings in the present is an important skill, keeping your thoughts focused on the present moment by itself will not help you create a better future. If you want something different, you will need to think forward and plan for something different to arrive. While thinking about the future can cause fear and anxiety if you focus on the things you don't want, focusing on the negative is not an inherent component of future thinking; rather, learning how to think about the future in a positive, constructive way is essential to creating a life you desire. Being aware of the present moment gives you the opportunity to make conscious choices, but it isn't sufficient in itself to help you improve your future and what arrives in your experience. There is much more you need to know if you want to create true change in your life, so keep reading!
The Feeling of Thriving
The desire to thrive is a fundamental instinct that is always present. No one ever reaches a state where the desire to thrive ends. Even those whose profoundly difficult life circumstances have caused them to become frustrated, or to believe that thriving is not possible, continue to desire improvement in their experience. Each time we realize a desire that we believe will help us thrive, we gain a new vantage point from which another new want is born. For example, when you first started high school, you wanted to graduate; as time went on and you anticipated that achievement, you formulated other wants, such as getting a job or going to college. If you chose college, when you first showed up you probably just wanted to enjoy the experience; then, as time went by and you began to anticipate your college degree, you probably started to think about what other opportunities were now open to you, and you formulated new wants about what you planned to achieve next. Thriving is not a destination that we reach permanently fulfilled, but rather an ongoing experience of personal growth and evolution.
Thriving is subjective and relative. What you perceive as thriving and moving forward in life is completely defined by your set of circumstances, and it may be very different from someone else's idea of thriving. Someone who is starving wants to obtain a source of food; someone with an adequate food supply turns his or her wants in the direction of other increased means of thriving, such as safe and comfortable shelter. Thriving can include almost any human activity, such as building strong relationships with others or improving our psychological or spiritual insight. For someone like Bill Gates, who has all that money can buy, the desire to thrive can take the form of feeling gratification from humanitarian efforts.
While thriving is a subjective state, one premise of FDT is that what people seek in life is the process of growth, including psychological, mental, and physical expansion. When something is too easy and doesn't challenge us, the reward we get from achieving it is low. When we achieve something that we work toward, we appreciate and value it much more. For example, if you set a goal to improve your health by walking half a block a day, you may be able to achieve it with relative ease; however, your sense of personal gratification and accomplishment, as well as your body's physical improvement, will probably be significantly lower than if you had set the goal to run a 10K, trained for weeks, and then crossed the finish line in under your targeted time. Now you are on your way to reaching for your next target, which might be to run a marathon. Constantly reaching for increased states of thriving causes us to continue to grow and evolve as people.
When humans perceive that their survival or ability to thrive is being threatened in some way, they experience psychological distress and negative emotions. Your emotions act as an internal guidance system to let you know whether you are moving in the direction of thriving or away from it, as when the GPS tracking system in your car tells you that you are getting closer to or farther away from your intended destination. When we are in a state of thriving, we have a natural sense of psychological well-being. Here are a few examples:
Example 1. Social relationships are vital to the survival and thriving of human beings. When we have positive, strong relationships with the people in our lives, such as our parents, partners, children, or coworkers, we generally feel good about those relationships. When we are in conflict with others and our relationships with them are threatened in some way, we generally feel upset.
Example 2. Money buys us many things that promote survival and thriving. When people feel they don't have enough money, they generally start to feel anxious and distressed. How much is enough is a matter of individual perception, but when we believe there is not enough, we may feel great distress.
Example 3. Safety is essential to human survival and thriving. If we don't feel safe because we believe bad things will happen and we don't feel able to stop them, we are likely to experience distress and other negative emotions.
If you are experiencing psychological distress, that is an indicator that you are not thriving in some areas of your life. More important, you are most likely feeling uncertain or unhopeful about your ability to improve the situation in the future. As you continue reading this book, you will learn to identify thoughts and beliefs that you may be holding about your future that are keeping you from thriving, and, most important, you will learn how you can more effectively use your thoughts about the future to promote a sense of greater well-be
How Can You Thrive More And Feel Better?
Feeling better doesn't just happen because you want it to. It will require that you do some work that may at times seem quite difficult. There are, however, certain things that you can do as you read this book to set the stage for your success. Read the following concepts carefully and try to absorb their meaning before moving on, because they are preconditions for successfully making a lasting change in your life.
Be Willing to Change
Without a willingness to change, there can be no better future. Change is difficult; the thought alone can inspire fear and anxiety. Many experiences in the past may be causing you to doubt that your life can ever be different or that change is even possible. These past experiences may have caused you to close yourself off from the things you really want. You may fear failure. You may believe that it is other people who should change. However, you are the only one with the ability to change your life and create a different future.
Willingness to change is not the same as wanting to feel better. Everyone wants to feel better, but many people are not willing to do what it takes to make that happen. Willingness to change means you are open to doing something different and learning a new way of being in the world. If you are open and willing, then change and new opportunities are possible.
Past experiences do not define who you are, unless you allow them to. You are free to change at any time. Many concepts and ideas in this book may challenge your way of thinking or your way of doing things, but if you approach them with an attitude of willingness, you will open yourself to the possibility of changing your life. The only thing you should be unwilling to do is to make your choices from a place of fear. When you are willing, you are facing a situation from a position of courage and strength. Be willing to let go of the fear and say yes to new possibilities. Before reading any further, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:
Excerpted from Think Forward to Thrive by Jennice Vilhauer. Copyright © 2014 Jennice Vilhauer, PhD. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of ContentsContents
An Introduction to Future Directed Therapy
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
The Basics of FDT
How to Use This Book
A New Beginning
The Road to Well-Being
Re-creating the Past
Creating a New Future Experience
What about the Present Moment?
The Feeling of Thriving
How Can You Thrive More and Feel Better?
The Value of Your Thoughts
Conscious Thought Is a Limited Resource
We Spend Thought with Our Attention
Thinking about What You Do Want
Redirecting Your Thoughts
Redirecting Your Thoughts to Your Improved Future
Components of the Human Experience
Interpreting Our Environment with Anticipation
What Creates Our Experience?
How Do the Components Work Together?
Creating New Expectations
We Prepare for What We Expect
Beliefs Limit Future Experiences
Our Emotions Are the Present-Moment Guide to the Future
How Do You Identify Your Expectations about the Future?
Which Expectations about Your Future Should You Hold On To?
What If Your Negative Beliefs about the Future Are True?
How to Create New Expectations about the Future
Seven Steps to Future Success
Overcoming Resistance to New Beliefs
Softening the Resistance
Other Ways to Overcome Resistance
Have a Conversation with Your Future Self
Entrenched Resistance: Ineffective Thought Patterns
Mindfulness and Meditation
The Conscious Observer
How Mindfulness and Meditation Can Help Create Your Future
What Mindfulness and Meditation Are Not
Knowing What You Value
The Value of Feeling Good
What We Value
Identifying What You Value
Top Five List
Setting Your Goals
There Is No Final Destination
Building Goals Based on Your Values
How Do You Decide What You Want?
The Presence of What You Want
Why Do You Want It?
What If You Can’t Have What You Want?
Developing the Goal
Visualizing Your Future
The Brain Is a Problem-Solving Machine
Creating Simulations of the Future
Generating Solutions for Success
A Successful Mind-set
Feedback and Reevaluation
Other Barriers to Action
Six Steps to Action
Emotional Alignment for Positive Action
Don’t Wait to Feel Motivated
Consistency and Commitment
Allowing the Future to Arrive
Let Go of Resistance
Be Willing to Change
Fight for the Right to Live Well
Deal with Disappointment
Potholes in the Road
Creating Your Light at the End of the Tunnel
There Is Beauty in Bakersfield
You Are the Creator of Your Future Life
FDT Website and Worksheet Download Information
Letter to Professionals
About the Author