Landmark Education (LE) is a school for personal development that evolved out of the Erhard Seminar Training (EST) camps, designed and taught by Werner Erhard in the 1970s. The Landmark bootcamps have been adjusted to suit cultural and social changes but many of the philosophies and training components have remained the same.
One common idea that occurs in LE, EST and some other New Age systems like them, involves the alignment of the practitioner with their desired future in the present. I will elaborate on what this means and how it’s done in a moment, but first, let’s put this concept in context with other bodies of literature.
In EST and LE the idea is strictly a psychological one. In the writing and practices of Joe Dispenza (a student of Hermeticism), the idea positively influences us on a biological levels, putting us genetically in the best possible state for peak performance.
For Marianne Williamson, a minister of the psychological manual — A Course in Miracles, there is some spiritual alchemy at work that wills the manifestation of the miraculous, so it is not simply psychology at play, but also some kind of ethereal, creative energy.
Th mystical spin on this concept has been the domain of numerous mystical traditions that originated with Vedic mysticism and Hermeticism, including Kabbalah where we are a vessel in search of the light of the Creator, and the conjuring Magick developed in medieval Europe.
However the technique might (or might not) work, it is nevertheless truly noteworthy and an excellent tool to have on the journey toward self-mastery and personal excellence.
Aligning with the Future
So what does it mean exactly for the practitioner to align themselves with the future?
By default, we make assumptions, decisions and predictions about people, events and what’s going to happen based on what has already happened. This is actually a perfectly reasonable and sophisticated mental mechanism that took eons of evolution to develop, but it can be limiting. Instead, we can learn to circumvent our habitual tendency to make decisions based on previous experience (and preconceived notions), to explore options we wouldn’t normally consider possible.
Naturally, we all let our past experiences color how we think and feel in the present. How we think and feel in the present determines what we think is possible for the future. What we presently think is possible in the future will impact our actions and behaviors in the present. And our actions and behaviors in the present will then result in our futures. This is what it means to live from the past. In other words: how we are in the present is determined by what has already happened to us. Aligning ourselves with the future, however, means that we reverse this process psychologically and place the future we want in our past.
This means I make a declarative statement about the future. I choose possibility X for my future (this is something I did in the past, therefore the future is in the past), and then I proceed to take actions toward making that future happen.
Instead of continually responding to the recent past, I am continually responding to the future I declared for myself in the past. I choose a possible future, and I am not even sure if that possible future will happen, but I commit to aligning myself psychologically in the present with it and continually move in its direction. I may very well end up somewhere else entirely, but I now live with a focus on what is yet to come, rather than perpetually reacting to what has just happened.
For example, I might have left a secure job to pursue my dream of becoming a professional athlete. On my journey toward this dream, I might have encountered some serious set backs: injury, poor performance or lack of funds, for example. I’d naturally be tempted to react to the events of my life by pursuing actions that are trying to prevent a future I am afraid of from happening (for example, I might undertake vigorous physical therapy, train harder and go back to full time work). Or, I might even fall into a pit of despair, decide that I have failed, and give up on my dream entirely. Instead, when I am aligned with the future, my focus and commitment is on the destination, not on what has happened in the past. I actually don’t know for sure that any or all of these things that I am thinking of as setbacks aren’t actually crucial stepping stones on the path to fulfilling my goal.
How many athletes have made epic comebacks after injuries, and how many business people have sworn that the greatest failures of their lives set them up for the success that was yet to come? We, very simply, just don’t know how a seemingly negative event could play out to our advantage in the future. But we do have an automatic tendency to catastrophize and this very tendency debilitates us and potentially leads to a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. But if we live from the future, then at the point of crisis we can take a moment to acknowledge the disconnection we’ve just had from the future possibility we invented for ourselves, and then re-align ourselves with it.
How to Re-Align with the Future
To re-align ourselves with the future possibility in times of crisis we begin by first recognizing that we’re experiencing a crisis in belief. We declare that we are having a crisis in belief and also recognize that to experience this crisis is not the same as our belief being true. So, we say “yes” to our crisis in belief, we say “it’s ok that at this moment I don’t believe my future goal is possible,” and we say “yes” to that future goal still being possible at the same time.
“It’s true I believe this goal to be impossible at this time, and it is also true that this goal is still possible nonetheless.” We also say “yes” to any people or events that are part of our crisis. If our trainer or coach decided not to work with us any more, or turned out to be a drug cheat, or if potential investors in our business decided not to invest, we also say “yes,” to them. There’s nothing wrong with me for feeling the way I feel in this moment of crisis, there’s nothing wrong with this future possibility that I have created for myself (even if I don’t believe it’s possible right now), and there’s also nothing wrong with the people involved in my crisis. This gives us the space to reconnect with the future possibility and to take actions toward making it happen, rather than react to the details of the crisis.
Deciding to invent a future possibility that is not limited by our past experiences and committing to that future possibility is what it means to be Future-Focused. And in times of crisis, deciding that everything is as it should be and that none of it means the future I am moving myself toward is no longer possible, is also what it means to be Future-Focused. Not being attached to the future possibility I have invented for myself is also integral to using this strategy effectively. We don’t know what will actually happen in the future, but at least we’re thinking and acting based on an idea of a future we invented, rather than a random future, or worse yet, a future we fear and are constantly trying to prevent.