Shape the future using the stories of the past

In the 2007 film ‘Next’, Cris Johnson (Nicholas Cage) can see two minutes into the future and because of this he could shape the future. He comments: “Here is the thing about the future. Every time you look at, it changes, because you looked at it, and that changes everything else.”

In the past, I would have viewed this sort of statement as sacrilegious having, as I did from my youth, a fairly fixed view about life and its purpose. I would have seen such a statement as ascribing to human beings a capacity for creation that I believed only God possessed.

However, I now see that I was mistaken.

People have always had the capacity to shape their futures – not in some metaphysical airy-fairy way, but in real and practical terms. I always had the capacity to shape my future, and I did shape it. I just didn’t realise what I was doing or the responsibility I had abrogated by saying that all things were totally up to God (or whatever name you want to give to the divine/universe/fate).

The past shapes the future

We only have to look at history – personal history, national history, the history of collective humanity – to realise that it is people who shape the future.

At a global level, national leaders like Adolph Hitler shaped the future, not only of their nation but of the world, by their ideologies. At a global level, world events like the attacks of September 11, 2001, shaped the future, not only for Americans but for everyone in the western world. At a global level, people like Mother Teresa changed the lives of so many and inspired others to change their small corners of the world.

At a national level, governments and their legislations have changed the face of society – indigenous people in Australia stopped being classified as flora and fauna in the 1960s  and became people in the eyes of the law. At a national level, Martin Luther King and those who followed him impacted and changed the way minority groups were treated and that impact and work continues today.

At a personal level, the choices and decisions I made around career and training, and around relationships, shaped my future and consequent decisions decades down the track.

As you look back at your life, what events have been significant in shaping the life you now lead? Can you see how even small decisions have drastically altered the path your life took?

Our stories shape the future

Not only do the decisions of the past shape the future, but so do the stories that we tell. So, what are these stories that shape our future?

They are the stories of our race and culture. They are the stories of our faith and worldview. They are the stories of our national heritage and identity. They are the stories of work, business and money. They are the stories of family and childhood, and of education.

Often, these stories are ones that we accept without question –  that is, until a life event makes us reassess the ongoing their validity. In my own journey, I expressed it like this:


There was another option, another possibility,

Another picture for her life that I really couldn’t see.

In the picture formed for me, a life stretched out in view

That took in all my talents, my loves and desires too.

But I couldn’t see this picture that was mature, complete and full

Because I had another dream with a strong and steady pull.

My family and upbringing had shaped what I could see;

I thought I’d follow in the steps of my happy family.

I’d want what they had wanted, I’d do what they had done,

I’d marry, have a family, a son, a son, a son.

But there was another picture, another option for my life

That I only discovered when I was no more a wife.

It was only through the shattering of a cherished long-held dream

That life could take another shape, be more than it would seem.

Like Alice down the rabbit-hole and Neo with his pill

There was a new reality, a new dream to fulfil.

One shaped not by family culture nor by what others may have done,

A very different kind of life, a new and different one.

So, with the precipice before me, the shattered picture left behind

I leapt into the future, sure that I would find

A new life and a better way of living in the world

That took in all of who I was, the woman and the girl.


Do you have stories in your life that need rewriting? What stories no longer work for you?

You can shape the future

The brilliant thing about life is that we can create the life we want. It is truly up to us. We just need to decide which stories we are going to hang onto, which stories we are going to leave behind and what shape the new stories of our lives will take.

How aware are you of how your past, your stories and your decisions have shaped and are shaping your life and your future? Would you like to gain some clarity so that you can make decisions that will bring you closer to the future you desire?

Leave your details below and I’ll be in touch to talk though ways you can develop the tools to shape your future in an authentic way.

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